By Kishor Kumar Kalita
Assam is rich in sylvan resources and most of its forests are richly stocked with bamboos and canes of various species. Bamboo is a precious raw material of great varsities and most of the indigenous community of north east India considers it as an integral part of their traditiol existence. Apart from the traditiol usages, bamboo has largely been used as a raw material for many industries that produces papers and a number of other items that are mostly used for packaging. If we have to assess the quantity of cane and bamboo production in this part of the country, then one would definitely get an astonishing fact that asserts the highest concentration of bamboo and reeds forest in Assam in comparison to the other parts of the country. As many as 51 species of bamboo grow in Assam and they are being used for diverse purposes, mainly for buildings, furniture and diverse apparatus. It is being used as a reinforcement to replace mild steel bars in light concrete structures. From the time immemorial bamboo has been used as a precious material to produce traditiol artifact, decorative items and various domestic and agricultural implements. All these articles can be produced on a cottage and small-scale basis with traditiol tools as well as small machineries. These traditiol practices are very much universal because of non-hierarchal pattern of production, where every member of a community gets immense opportunity to learn the practice through imitation and therefore the North East region is bestowed with a large number of artisans who practice the tradition not only to sustain their livelihood but also to endure their archaic heritage. Here we would like to mention an unprecedented success story of a cluster of villages that have made remarkable success by proliferating cane and bamboo industries in their own effort. .
Despite lack of important infrastructures, the Raipur, a village, situated southern part of the tiol highway, in-between Howly and Barpeta Road, is setting an example for the traditiol craft business of Assam. This is not a successful effort of some of the individuals, but the community as a whole of a particular area, who have came across different antipathies and has established an aspiring work culture. This cluster consists of four villages mely Raipur,Balabhita,Jashihatipara and Bhaluki, have small production unit in every household along with a number of Joint Liability Swabalambi Group (JLSG), and around two hundred families are now earning their livelihood by exporting their multifaceted cane and bamboo products to the different parts of the country as well as to abroad. This is a story of a backward area where a group of workers were trained up under the guidance of one Sushil Kumar Das, a man who dedicated whole of his life for the cause of boosting up of the cane and bamboo crafts and make it popular in and around the world. A pioneer of this noble cause,Sushil Kumar Das who after the completion of his post graduation in 1965 undertook an inclusive task to popularize the bamboo and cane handicraft with a noble idea to make this traditiol practice as a sustaible avenue for livelihood. With that motive he traveled many places like Japan, Philippines etc. under the fincial support of government of India in the early 1983-84. Then after he started a production unit nearby the Raipur village where he started to train people from the surrounding villages. Literary this has changed the socio-economic structure of these villages and as the produced items of this unit warranted good appreciation both in domestic and intertiol market, more people started to took up this avenue as an altertive mean for sustence.
For a last couple of years the State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD), Assam has also been playing a major role in uplifting these rural based industry and offering fincial support under various government schemes.Anowar Hussain, a youth from Raipur, is now organizing the units of these localities so that the products manufactured by these groups can get proper price and appreciation in both tiol and intertiol market. Anowar says- “Bamboo provides subsistence and livelihood security to communities and it is a part of the cultural, social and economic traditions of the Assam. A community based development approach is very much important and that is exactly happens in our areas. This is becoming an industry and every year we sell around lakhs of different products ranging from home utensils to decorative items, amounting crores of rupees. For the last consecutive years we have been supplying items for Delhi Craft Mela and a few selective items are also exported to different countries. We the whole communities of these villages heartily recognize the greatness of Sushil Kumar Das, who made his avant-garde effort to popularize this traditiol craft practices in our locality for which hundreds of poor family, who once lived in below the poverty line, now can sustain their family only by this mean.”
Considering the huge prosperity and demand of these handicrafts the state government of Assam should frame a policy for the promotion and boosting up our traditiol artifacts industry. The government may also think about to establish a Cane and Bamboo Institution as a demand driven center of excellence for training and marketing traditiol handicrafts. An appropriate government policy could also ensure networking, transfer, adaptation and dissemition of technology as well as capacity building in related sub-segments of bamboo and cane development. The success brought out by the village community of Raipur and its surrounding areas can be promoted as a role model for the entire traditiol crafts industry. Such an institutiol approach may create a positive environment to attract the younger generation to adopt the traditiol handicraft practices as an altertive avenue for livelihood. We have no doubt that the said endeavor will definitely help to rejuvete many important cultural practices and norms that are now in the process of extinction.