Khandpara: Kantilo, the ancient Jagannath cult in Nayagarh district has another identity. It is also an ancient hub of cottage industries engaged in moulding and crafting Bel and Brass metal products.
Given the prevailing situation of the cottage industries struggling for their survival, the title of ‘Bell and Brass metal artisans’ village’ is seen losing essence.
There are many metal-smithan families living at Rajsunakhala, Itamati, Sarankul, Khalisahi and Kantilo in Nayagarh district, Balkati and Bhuinchua in Puri district, Bhattimunda and Bindhanima in Cuttack district and Bhuban, Indupur and Oukhama in Dhenkanal district who are in the business of making home need articles of bell metal and brass for ages.
But this shining metal has lost its lustre in recent times and there are several reasons for the fall out.
First, the required raw material is not available as easily as it used to be.
Second, the bell and brass metal articles are no longer enjoying the same demand as it used to be after the advent of cheaper replacements.
Third, the present generation is averse to take up this family business.
Noticing that the business is in a sharp slump, many young artisans have already jumped into other markets even left for other cities seeking better opportunities and employment.
Even though the government is taking steps to salvage this drowning cottage industry, they seem to lack proper planning, cooperation and coordination.
As a part of the government’s plan, in its first phase 60 youths have been provided with modern training on how to add value to their products at Kantilo, with the money sanctioned by NABARD.
But what surprises many is that the training camp has completed more than a month but the raw materials are yet to reach the camp, making the classes meaningless without practical hand on experience.
The participants are in doubt. “Morning shows the day. If the camp has had problems since the start; what would be the end result can clearly be imagined,” one of the participant said wishing not to be named.
On the other hand, president of Nikhila Utkal Kansari Samaj, Akhila Kumar Maharana and president of Nayagarh district artisans’ association Dandapani Sahoo shared their opinion that the cottage industry of bell and brass metal would only survive if the youths are trained on how to add value to their products so that they can compete their counterparts in other states.
According to some local senior citizens, “The youths should try on their own to improve their knowledge by acquiring information on various modern innovations in this applied art. Internet will go a long way in making them more skillful. While this is the last and best way to keep the tradition alive, but for the state government’s grant and assistance the possibility of coming out of the present situation is murkier.
Nayagarh district industries officer Sitaram Sahu said, “The state government is chalking out various plans and schemes to bail out the bell and brass metal cottage industry. As a part of it, a raw material depot has already been set up at Kantilo. This apart, nodding the local MLA Anubhav Patnaik’s proposal, the MSME department of the state government has taken steps to accord the craft village status to Kantilo, on the line of Raghurajpur (famous for Pattachitra). The process has stopped midway though due to the code of conduct,” he informed adding that the status of Craft Village will be awarded to Kantilo and that this status will go a long way in improving the present condition of the business, along with this, other steps will also be taken to ensure an overall growth of this traditional cottage industry.