Odisha: Dokra Craftsmen Staring At Economic Uncertainty Due to Pandemic

Craftsmen engaged in creating ‘Dokra’ are staring at an uncertain future as economic prospects seem negligible in a world marred by the pandemic. In Odisha’s Kendrapada district, over 15,000 such tribal families are going through a rough patch – and find no takers for their Dokra creations.

After reeling from the effect of the first lockdown last year, the business had only begun to pick up when the government had to announce clampdowns again due to the rising tide of the second wave of COVID. Artisan Mitali Soy said, “Around 20 craftsmen of the tribal-dominated Dudhujari village in Jajpur district used to earn their livelihood by making Dokra items. But the lockdown hit whatever little sales they had managed to achieve.”

Yet another artisan, Mayadhar Jaraka from Kansa village in Jajpur, said, “This has been the only source of our livelihood since the time of our ancestors. We can’t do anything else but this for a living.”

The term Dokra has been named after the Dokra Damar tribes of West Bengal, who are the traditional metal smiths responsible to keep this art form alive. Gradually, the tribes migrated from Bengal and Odisha to other regions of India such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and even Kerala and Rajasthan. Although Dokra metal craft is made by a lot of tribal communities all over India now, the tribal belt of West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are the most renowned makers. Bastar region of Chattisgarh is also known to be the centre for Dokra crafts.

Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other social organisations have reached out to help those in distress. One such society, named ‘World Act’, is directly in touch with the artisans to market their products. “We had been helping these artisans, steeped in losses, market their products. We are waiting for the lockdown to be lifted,” Bipin Bihari Sahoo, its secretary said.

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