PM Modi's toy talk fails to enthuse Kondapalli artisans
The Centre has recently announced stricter quality testing for imported toys and also considering imposing further curbs, making toys a part of the restricted list
Amaravati: The Centre has recently announced stricter quality testing for imported toys and also considering imposing further curbs, making toys a part of the restricted list. It is also looking to increase the import duty further by 60%, over the 100% that was already increased in the earlier budgets. These measures, however, are not meant for unbranded Indian toys.
Among these toys are Kondapalli toys referred to by the Prime Minister which are made near Vijayawada. These toys were once a rage in Telugu households but slowly these got reduced to 'Bommala Koluvu' - during Dasara and Diwali festivals.
In the latter times these became mere showpieces and got reduced to gift items (usually purchased from Lepakshi stores).
Neither the artisans' lives flourished nor has the art been so popular so as to be passed on to the other generations. Of course, Telugu culture itself took a beating with the influence of the western culture or non-Indian culture seeping into every aspect of life. Kondapalli toy makers were taken aback with the reference of Prime Minister Narendra Modi last Sunday to their art.
"Does he really mean it? He said toys like Etikoppaka and Kondapalli have to be promoted in a big way. Who is interested in these toys nowadays? Just as our traditional games died, our toys too are forgotten. We now encourage our children to play with gizmos and gadgets.
How do they go back to toys which is viewed as a 'very girlie affair'," a master craftsman of Kondapalli, Udayagiri Sesha Rao, quizzes. 'Atmanirbhar' is good to hear. But, it should start from our backyard. How does it matter to us, if we produce a Barbie here instead of buying an imported one? Does it promote our toys", he poses the valid question.
Craftsmen explain that as they could not see revenue in this work and hence, they had been encouraging their children to take other professions and employment, instead of passing down the art to the next generation. More seriously, the skilled artisans have been leaving this profession and trying to engage in other works like agriculture, civil construction, etc. They urge the government to extend support to the artisans to keep the age-old art form from perishing.
Decrease in the number of artisans in Kondapalli village is an indication to realise that the interest in the profession is waning. Though the artisans were able to earn around Rs 500, it is no more so.
"This is a world of branded toys, moreover. Who will buy an unbranded toy like ours which has an aesthetic appeal but no market anywhere? Secondly, if we cannot sell out toys in our own State, why would outsiders buy ours?," Sk Khaja, Master Craftsperson (50) asked, adding he entered the profession some 35 years ago. "There were more than 400 artisans actively making the toys but now only 60 to 70 families are into it. "Unless the governments get involved, even the wood is not available due to deforestation," he adds.
His suggestion: Preserve Poniki trees, market toys both nationally and internationally, arrange tours of dignitaries and businessmen, open up of stalls in airports and railway stations and in every State.
"We require the latest marketing facilities like e-Marketing too. Hope some start-up would look into it," P Shriram, who once thought of encouraging Kondapalli toys through his Art N weaves but dropped out due to lack of interest from the government says.
I V Lakshminadh, Managing Director of AP Handicrafts Development Corporation, stated that the government had been purchasing at least 60 percent of their produce in order to maintain sustainability. He acknowledged that availability of wood had become a major problem for them.