Bhubaneswar, June 5: The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on artisans and weavers of the state who have now accused both the Union and state governments of not caring a fig about their well-being.
According to sources, the state is home to as many as 5 lakh weavers and a few of them have succumbed to the deadly Covid-19 this year. In the month of May, the state lost eminent sculptor and Padma Shri awardee Raghunath Mohapatra, artisan Akash Maharana, sculptor Abhaya Kumar Mohanty, Pattachitra artist Pranab Narayan Das and tribal artist Udaya Murmu. While some of them lost the battle against the novel coronavirus, others died due to lack of proper treatment.
This apart, the pandemic has left many of them unemployed, but the state government is yet to pay heed to their plight.
Earlier, the Centre had launched Aam Admi Bima Yojana for artisans and Mahatma Gandhi Bunakar Bima Yojana for weavers. Both the schemes have become dysfunctional now.
Moreover, artisans and weavers have been deprived of health insurance for the past five-six years.
Ever since the lockdown has been imposed, there has been no orders and hence no production or sale. This has pushed them into financial misery. The artisans and weavers and are in utter penury even as they don’t have money to meet their healthcare expenses. They have urged the government to provide health and life insurance for artisans and sculptors without fail.
It is learnt that Raghurajpur Artist Village has witnessed no footfall of tourists in last few months. The lockdowns and shutdowns have literally forced many buyers, especially tourists to postpone their visits to the village. Similarly, exhibitions at Konark, Nimapada, Puri, Pipli Haat and Ekamra Haat are not being held.
What they say…
In 2018, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had launched the Odisha Handloom and Handicrafts Development and Promotion Council for all-round growth and welfare of the artisan and weaving communities of Odisha during the inauguration of Kala Bhoomi Odisha Crafts Museum and allotted Rs 20 crore for the purpose. However, the fund is yet to be utilised at a time when artisans and weavers are struggling hard to make a square of meal a day. Execution of life insurance for them is need of the hour.
Priya Ranjan Kar, Secretary of Odisha Artists’ Association
We don’t have yarn to weave cloths. Besides, Boyanika is not purchasing our products. Provision of providing spectacles to weavers is not being executed. To avert this crisis, the government should provide interest-free loans to weavers
Jambeswar Behera, weaver
Utkalika is assigned to ensure marketing of the products of artisans. Due to Covid-19, Utkalika has failed to organise exhibitions. We would conduct indoor exhibition as soon as the situation improves. There is no insurance scheme operational now for the artisan and weaver communities in the country and we have written to the Centre in this regard.
Sanatan Nayak, Director of Handloom and Textile department