Vijay C Roy
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, January 6
Soon, brass metal workers also called ‘Thatheras’ of Jandiala Guru, Amritsar, would reap the benefits of joining together. Over 200 rural artisans have joined hands to register a company under the Companies Act for taking up collective business activities, including capacity building, business planning and providing marketing linkages.
The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Nabard), the lead financial institution for rural development, plans to promote this Punjab’s lesser-known craft by creating Off Farm Producer Organisations (OFPOs) — a relatively new concept in Punjab and would assist them in incorporating a company. The bank will also help them in capacity building and marketing their products.
“The brass metal work is unique to Amritsar as the workers not only manufacture brass utensils and antiques but also engrave designs on it. We have decided to provide hand-holding to them and assist them in registering their company,” said JPS Bindra, Chief General Manager, Nabard.
This particular utensil-making technique got inscribed in the 2014 list of UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage — the first-ever by a traditional Indian craft form. According to experts, Jandiala Guru is home to ‘Thatheras’ or metal craftsmen who fashion utensils out of brass, copper and kansa — an alloy of copper and zinc — using traditional techniques.
The unique craft is said to date back to the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1883, who encouraged skilled metal crafters from Kashmir and other areas to settle in the heart of his kingdom in Punjab. The entire process is manual. The manufacturing process requires melting scrap metal and moulding it into nuggets, which are then rolled into plates. The plates are then shaped into vessels or antiques using welding and riveting techniques, which require heating and hammering.
They then engrave it with unique designs by hand, which is a unique characteristic of Punjab-made utensils and antiques.
Since Indian households have increased the use of steel and aluminum utensils over the years, the utensils manufactured by them are on the verge of extinction. However, the assistance by Nabard will go a long way in promoting them.
“Most of the workers engaged in this art are having low income due to less demand. It is observed that these artisans are not aware of changing patterns and designs, which is must to remain relevant in the market,” he said.
Already, the Phulkari cluster based at Sangrur in Punjab has registered a company with 400 artisans as its members and reaping benefits. Bindra said the bank would organise village artisans into an OFPO.
He said marketing is one of the biggest challenges faced by rural artisans. “Taking a step in this direction, we are organising ‘NABKRAFT Mela’ from January 9 to 13 in Chandigarh which will showcase products by self-help groups, artisans and farmer producer organisations.
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