The Medars are the bamboo and sugarcane handicraft artisans who fear that their art will fade away. They want government help to save their livelihood.
Neelamma, an 80-year-old woman who makes putti (bamboo baskets), informed The Observer: “Putti is a basket made out of bamboo or cane which is used to keep roti or dal (pulses). I make putti through the week. Once a week, I sell them in the Sandur market. The price varies from Rs 35 to Rs 100. The market is not widespread. Also, the panchayat doesn’t put any effort to promote our business.”
“I have been working with my husband Malairappa for the past 12 years. We sell putti starting from Rs. 100, depending on the size. My husband collects bamboo, wood, and sugarcane stems, with which I make putti and he makes thatti (bamboo shades),” said Gouramma, another putti maker.
The Medar community consists of craftspeople who make putti, mora (stools made from bamboo)and thatti for a living. They strive recognition and respect for their work. As their handicraft largely depends on trees, they fear their tradition will die due to rapid deforestation.
Lack of assistance from the government is another major factor for the decline of their craft.
Parshurama, a third-generation member of his family to be in the business, shared: “It’s been 50 years since my family is in this business. We make mora, thatti and putti. Though the price of a thatti is around Rs 500 per piece, it is not needed until it rains. We do not have a big marketplace to sell our products. Also, we can’t travel beyond Ballari because of the cost and poor transport facilities, we also don’t want to put our next generation in this occupation.”
Ramya Manjunath, sarpanch of the Yashwant Nagar gram panchayat, said: “We do not help them with the funding as we know that it’s their individual business. Also, we didn’t get any order from the upper level of officials for the same. But we do provide assistance relating to health and education.”
Mr Shashidhar, senior assistant director of handicrafts, Union government, said: “Nowadays the handicrafts culture is dying. The skill never gets the recognition it’s worthy of. People in this field are leaving the occupation due to huge losses. Art and culture used to be an identity of our nation.”