Goldsmiths on their last legs
This city, despite being bandied about as the cultural capital of Andhra Pradesh, is no longer the hub of traditional goldsmiths (swarnakarulu). Most of them have lost their distinct identity, glory and importance. They are struggling to eke out their living.
Rajamahendravaram: This city, despite being bandied about as the cultural capital of Andhra Pradesh, is no longer the hub of traditional goldsmiths (swarnakarulu). Most of them have lost their distinct identity, glory and importance. They are struggling to eke out their living.
Their decline can be traced to the early nineties, when workers from West Bengal started arriving in the city and began making gold ornaments on orders. That apart, many of the shops selling branded gold and local jeweller shops started supporting these workers from West Bengal. This impacted traditional goldsmiths, with most of them being pushed into a debt trap due to insurmountable problems.
Speaking to The Hans India here on Tuesday, Rajamahendravaram Swarnakarula Sangham (RSS) general secretary Veerni Bhadra Rao pointed out that the government had failed to find any solution to their long-pending issues.
Five years ago, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) sent an IAS officer to assess the problems of traditional goldsmiths in the city on a complaint, he said. As many as 3,000 West Bengal workers and 2,000 goldsmiths have been working in the city.
Observers say West Bengal workers make an ornament on schedule; hence, many people prefer to get their work done on specific orders. In contrast, a traditional goldsmith takes two to three days of additional time to make a similar ornament with like details.
Many jewellery shops therefore encourage workers from West Bengal. The other main reason behind the plight of goldsmiths is the flood of readymade ornaments in latest designs coming from Mumbai, Coimbatore and Ahmedabad.
All told, the earnings of many of the traditional goldsmiths have come down drastically. Most of them are leading a pathetic life, though they once worked round-the-clock to make gold ornaments required for important occasions and festivals.
Today, except for a few people, many are purchasing readymade mangala sutralu (talibottu) for weddings. In good old days, people used to get talibottu done in a grand manner by goldsmiths and used to honour them, some say with nostalgic feelings.
Shankar, a goldsmith, says that it is a difficult task to survive as a goldsmith in the existing scenario as they have not been getting returns commensurate with their meticulous work.
Raju, another goldsmith, points out that they spend most of their time making ornaments. There is no scope for him to visit banks and approach leaders every day; hence, it is difficult for them to access loans.
By S S Chary