Tough times for traditional artisans | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 11, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:32 AM, September 11, 2020

Tough times for traditional artisans

Potters, musical instrument makers, idol artisans as well as folk singers across the country -- who rely on various Bengali festivals -- are living through hardship as their income fell down drastically due to coronavirus, which brought all social and traditional events nearly to an end.

The pandemic has thrown them out of their income since March when the government came up with various restrictive measures to contain the virus.

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Ratan Pal, president of Idol Artisan Samity of Chattogram, told The Daily Star that they never thought such trouble days would come when they would have to think about daily meal.

"During the pre-coronavirus period, we used to lead a decent life with our income. We started losing our income as there is no puja of cultural festivals. We are now surviving on loans. We've already spent all savings…," he said.

Bangladesh Institute of Theatre Arts (BITA) conducted a survey on the traditional artisans in 47 districts and revealed a dire scenario of those people living off folk culture.

The survey included greater Chattogram, Sylhet, Khulna, Barishal, Rajshahi, Mymensingh and Rangpur divisions.

Sisir Dutta, executive director of BITA, told The Daily Star that they surveyed the districts to learn about the condition of the people involved in various traditional art forms like folk singers, who sing roving through villages, potters, idol makers, traditional musical instrument makers like tabla, harmonium and dotara.

He said, in their survey, which took three months to finalise, they found the income of those groups nosedived slashing nearly 88 percent of their income on an average.

He said potters have lost 94.27 percent, folk singers 91.77 percent, musical instrument makers 84.66 percent and musical technicians 87.86 percent of their income since Covid-19 hit the country.

In such hardship, few of them were lucky enough to get financial assistance allocated by the government, the study found.

Sixty-four percent potters did not get any assistance while 50 percent folk singers were left out. Among musical instrument makers the percentage is 56.50 and musical technician 65.31 percent.

The study did not find any complete government database of such traditional artisans and urged the government to declare all non-academic singers as artists and include them in its scheme.

Sisir Dutta told The Daily Star that they urged the government to offer incentives to them after categorising as per their talent and qualifications, take necessary measures to rehabilitate them during the pandemic, organise post-Covid-19 cultural fair for them, reassess the existing payment scale at government radio and television for the artist.

The study also recommended taking steps so that marginalised artists can access government loan and create conducive environment for them to flourish.

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