Ganjam: Stone artisans of this district who used to craft household items are now migrating to other states to work as bonded labourers, thanks to poor government support and unavailability of raw material, a report said.
Despite flooding of electronic grinders in the market, the grinding stones are one of the most sought after items during marriage seasons, said Balaram Das of Kushapali Harijan Sahi in this block.
“However, we have to return many customers empty handed due to shortage of raw material as the forest department has barred us from collecting stones from hills. The department let the mafia loot stones by taking bribe, but we are not allowed to touch a small piece of stone from the foothill,” Das added.
Many of the old-timers have left for other states to work as labourers discarding their age-old profession.
Earlier, the artisans used to eke out a living by making household items from stones. Appliances such as stone pestles, grinding stones and sandal rubbing stones are being gifted to the newly-wed women while going to their in-laws’ houses. However, there is a decline in the use of these stone appliances after introduction of electronic grinders.
Still many families look for stone items during wedding ceremonies in the present day. But the poor patronage from government and restrictions imposed by the forest department have forced the craftsmen to abandon the profession. There are 60 families in Harijan Sahi and all are stone artisans.
Shortage of stones has compelled them to look the other way for a living, said Nara Das, Musa Das and Prakash Das of the village.
Khallikote divisional forest officer Dilip Martha said leasing out the hill is the prerogative of the revenue department. The forest personnel inform the revenue department in case of smuggling of stones, he added.