Condition of Artisans in India

By Udit Garg:

It’s been 65 years of India’s Independence but if someone gets chance to ask a question, “Are you Independent?” to an artisan of this nation, what will be his answer? “सर जी बस साहिब जी की कृपा से चूल्हा जल रहा है” meaning due to the grace of employer the artisan is able to eat three meals of his day; but did anyone keep an eye on the working conditions of the same artisan?

In May I happened to go to Jaipur, Rajasthan, with my family for a vacation. While shopping through their local markets like Bapu Road and all, my father saw some wooden and sandalwood gift items on a shop. By looking at them, he realized, the same gift items are also available at Cottage Emporium, Delhi. He was shocked to see the price difference between the two items, the one he bought from Delhi and the one we were looking at in Jaipur, the latter was nearly 30% cheaper. Just out of curiosity my father asked the seller, “Where they are made?” The shopkeeper replied, “In Jaipur only!” and also gave us the details of wholesaler cum manufacturer of those products.

We visited the manufacturer at his home; saw the things he had for display and even bought a lot of it at 50% discount from him. But my father wasn’t satisfied; he wanted to see the workshop where the artisans work as he was mesmerized by the quality and artisanship of the products. The manufacturer happily took us to the workshop which was few steps from his home. At first I thought the workshop will be a big warehouse with a lot of good machinery and good working conditions but I was completely wrong!

The workshop was a 7 feet by 5 feet basement room, completely closed with no ventilation, whatsoever. There were two artisans with set of tools and few machinery, and were working in deplorable conditions, I believe. There was wood dust all around the small room which had no ventilation route for escape. There was no natural light, but they had bulbs at their working stations.

The room was literally burning while outside there was great weather. I believe like the bangle industry, the firecracker industry, etc., wooden gifts industry is no less hazardous. But, if one sees those artisans craftsmanship, one will not be able to resist from buying the products made by them.

But putting all the ‘happy facts’ about the industry aside, I cannot resist myself, but to say that this industry should also come into the notice of people and the bureaucracy, and there should be work done to change the working conditions of these craftsmen who work very hard in deadly conditions to give people whom they don’t even know; a very beautiful product which people can gift, store or use every day at their homes as indigenous art.

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