GUWAHATI, Aug 5 - Even as the State government has extended financial assistance to the bell metal industry at Sarthebari, a large number of similar artisans who are yet to get any government help, are struggling for survival at Asharikandi Kartimari village in Kokrajhar and at Sapatgram in neighbouring Dhubri district in lower Assam.
With the coronavirus-induced lockdown bringing their work to a complete halt since March, more than 300 residents belonging to 40 families in Kartimari and another 30 families at Sapatgram are now unable to meet their basic needs.
Most of these villagers are dependent on this decades-old industry but the pandemic has come as a huge blow. They have now urged the State government to provide urgent financial assistance as they have not even received ration supplies, which is being provided at other places during the lockdown.
�As most of the villagers are dependent on this bell metal industry, their source of earning has been hit badly. Many of their children had left for Kerala to do manual work but they too have lost work now due to the coronavirus pandemic. Education of their children has also been severely affected. So they all need some urgent financial assistance from the government as there is no hope of any early resumption of their work,� said Ramprasad Karmakar, president of Asharikandi Kartimari Bell Metal Co-Operative Society.
The co-operative society was registered in 1988-89 but has not been able to do much work due to lack of support. Kartimari is situated under Gossaigaon subdivision in Kokrajhar district.
The artisans held a meeting in June and submitted a memorandum to Deputy Commissioner, Kokrajhar on June 23 seeking financial assistance but they have not received any such assistance yet, Karmakar said.
Similar livelihood crisis prevails among the artisans at Sapatgram under Bilasipara subdivision in Dhubri district too.
Trust for Change and Development, a trust based at Kartimari village said the once vibrant village industry was struggling for survival for years now due to lack of support from the government. �They need some skill development programmes, help in arranging latest machinery and market linkages to keep the industry alive. As the situation is becoming worse, young boys in the villages are leaving the work and moving out to Kerala in search of jobs. So if a comprehensive project is initiated, youths will again join the work. After all their products are very attractive and a little help can save this industry and generate jobs for many,� said Nandita Sengupta, a trustee of Trust for Change and Development.
�We all know about Sarthebari bell metal industry, but there are several villages in Kokrajhar, Dhubri and Chirang districts in lower Assam, which are into production of bell metal utensils for decades. There should be a proper survey of these villages and urgent steps for revival of the village industry,� Sengupta said.