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Bid to revive shell button industry

Motihari, Feb. 10: East Champaran administration and the District Industries Centre are thinking of giving the shell button industry a facelift.

The shell industry was set up at Mehsi in the erstwhile Champaran district in 1905. It gradually reached the verge of extinction for want of government assistance.

Despite interest and instructions by chief minister Nitish Kumar for revival of the sick cottage industry of heritage importance, the department and district administration took nearly two years to take cognisance in the matter.

During his Seva Yatra in April 2012, Nitish had visited the sick shell units of Mehsi and had asked to initiate urgent steps for survival of the gasping cottage industry units of the state.

An affluent farmer of Mehsi, Rai Saheb Bhulawan Lal, had established the shell industry during the British Raj. The British used to call the industry the “Mother of Pearls” but in the race for modernisation, the natural pearls used in the industry, gradually lost its sheen and the artificial buttons gained popularity.

Till the 1980s, the shell products of Mehsi, including the buttons, ornaments and other articles were of international repute. Its demand was so high that the state government used to purchase the accessories from entrepreneurs to export them. An office of the Khadi Gramodyog Commission was also set up for the purpose at Mehsi but when things gradually turned from bad to worse the office was shutdown.

Some entrepreneurs from the village, including Lal Babu Gupta, Umashankar Jaiswal, Irshad Alam, Farooq Ali now feel that a change is in the offing.

The East Champaran district magistrate Shridhar C. and general manager of the District Industries Centre, Umesh Kumar, visited some of the units in the village a few days back.

Umesh told The Telegraph: “Now is the time to develop the sick shell button industries of East Champaran under the cluster development scheme of the chief minister. Two service centres, one at Mehsi and the other at Bathna, are being set up.”

A report on the present condition of the shell button industries and the difficulties faced by entrepreneurs will be sent shortly to the government, the DIC general manager added.