GOLAKGANJ, July 28 - Terracotta and pottery craft of Asharikandi village in Dhubri district is famous in the world over. More than 200 families nowadays practice terracotta and pottery craft in the village. The craft village is now one of the largest clusters in India where terracotta and pottery is practiced together. Three decades ago, only a few families practiced terracotta and pottery craft as a part-time trade amid several challenges. In the year 1982, one of the female artisans of the village, Sarala Bala Devi, bagged the President�s Award in terracotta craft. Still at that time, the practice was confined among the traditional kumbakhars only.
NECARDO (North East Craft and Rural Development Organisation), an NGO comprising leading artisans and some experts along with the district administration has taken a gigantic task to preserve and promote the craft and develop the craftpersons as well as the village as a whole. Nowadays, the terracotta craft of Asharikandi village has taken the shape of an organised cottage industry. Depending on it, several shops and peripheral business have grown up in the village. Contribution of terracotta craft in the economy of Asharikandi has become an attraction for the rural researchers.
The NECARDO observed that there is no recent primary data on the present economy activity, that has grown up in the village, revolving around terracotta and pottery craft. So the organisation decided to conduct an economic survey on Terracotta, Tourism and Trade (TTT) voluntarily in all the four wards in Madaikhali village under Asharikandi Gaon Panchayat with its limited resources from July 12. The survey was completed on July 24. The NECARDO requested the Deputy Commissioner, Dhubri to depute officials from the DICC, Gauripur and Asharikandi Gaon Panchayat respectively as observers. The GP ward members of Madaikhali actively cooperated in the survey progress.
The survey was conducted among 345 households and shops in the craft village. The survey asked the persons to disclose their trade and yearly approximate sale and figures were authenticated by the signature of the persons. The survey was conducted by Bhakta Ram Sarkar, Chandan Paul, Balaram Barman and Uttam Kumar Paul under the supervision of Dhirendra Nath Paul, master craftsman and son of President�s Award winner Sarala Bala Devi along with Mahadev Paul, State award winner, Ramdulal Paul, Balaram Paul and Binoy Bhattacharjee, director, NECARDO.
The outcome of the survey was astonishing. More than Rs 120 million of annual business was recorded among the 345 households in the craft village amid several challenges. In the year 2007, a wooden bridge, the lone road connectivity to the craft village was washed away by flood waters. Terracotta, Tourism and Trade (TTT) suffered seriously till 2014. In 2015, a pucca bridge was constructed to connect the craft village by the State PWD. If the bridge had been completed earlier, the volume of the business would have been more than Rs 120 million. NECARDO thanked the State PWD minister, Ajanta Neog, for her support to the craft village.
The survey reveals the fact that nowadays fishermen of the SC community are actively involved in terracotta trade leaving their traditional fishing trade due to lack of fishing opportunities. Earlier, the fishing net that used to carry an iron ball as weight, has been replaced here in the craft village by terracotta weight which is locally known as jaler kathi. The new innovation has got a tremendous response due to its cost effectiveness in local areas as well as in neighboring country Bangladesh, where fishing is a recognised trade. Due to the heavy demands of jaler kathi in all the rural areas, the craft has spread its root to other places of the district.
The survey further revealed that there is need for toilet, market complex, waiting shed, parking place, kilns for baking the craft items, pension schemes for the artisans and traders and institutions like a rural bank with ATM facility, police station for providing safety to the tourists and the traders and field loud speaker (FLS) etc. Binoy Bhattacharjee, Director, NECARDO said that the genuine demands of the craft village would be transmitted to the Government of Assam and the Government of India through the district administration soon.