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Return of gold artisans to Bengal casts shadow over craft’s future



Nearly 350,000 Bengali gold jewellery karigars or artisans are returning from the jewellery hubs of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka to West Bengal, raising concern over whether they will go back to their workplaces when the trade resumes after the restrictions triggered by Covid-19 are eased.

Bengali gold artisans are known the world over for their craftsmanship and the pieces they churn out are popular in West Asia, the United States and Europe.

In the jewellery parlance, these pieces are called Kolkatti or Calcutta jewellery.

“The workers want to reunite with their families in this hour of crisis. So they are returning to their home towns in Bengal,” said Surendra Mehta, national secretary, India Bullion and Jewellers Association.

“If this pandemic continues for long, then they might not come back. They might get some other work in their own state. Also, it is not yet clear when normalcy will come back”

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had in March announced free foodgrains and ration under the public distribution system for the next six months. The state also asked the Centre to raise the number of man-days allotted to it this year under MGNREGA.

These measures will give some relief to the artisans and their families for at least six months and subsequently they might not return to the jewellery manufacturing hubs, said trade executives. “We will face shortage of labour once our trade opens up,” said Mehta.

Ashok Bengani, president of Calcutta Gem & Jewellers’ Welfare Association, said the artisans are trained over a period of six-seven years.

“An artisan, when fully trained, can earn Rs 18,000-20,000 per month or more. So it is difficult for them to forget the skill. They will go back to their workplaces after a certain period of time. Now they are all anxious to return home. Gold jewellery exports from India will suffer if they do not return to work.”


Courtesy: Economic Times



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