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Maker of mats pins hope on Modi

- Increased costs and meagre earnings force artisans to quit trade

Jorhat, May 20: Artisan Anjan Dutta’s hopes have soared with Narendra Modi’s victory in the polls.

Along with the rest of India, he also seeks change — a change in the government’s attitude towards craftsmen like him who eke out a living from weaving xitol patis (cool mats).

The maker of mats was thinking of calling it a day as others in his village have, when Modi’s win brought back hopes of revival of this indigenous craft in the state.

Dutta said he had heard that Modi had promoted indigenous crafts like kite-making and weaving of clothes in Gujarat and that artisans there were now self-reliant and earning well.

The art of mat making is waning for want of raw material, escalating costs and meagre returns.

Dutta, a resident of Rangdoi Jogoniya village near Bahona, 20km away from the town, said a scarcity of materials has made it difficult to make the various kinds of mats.

“The waterbodies around which this type of cane — known as pati doi in Assamese — was found in abundance, have dried up or been filled in to make way for development. Nowadays, I have to go further to collect the cane and it has to be brought back on mini trucks. This has increased costs,” he said.

Dutta, who has been making the mats for 27 years, said many of those who had begun the craft along with him, have left the profession and taken to more lucrative trades.

“The weaving of the mats no longer pays. Those alongside whom I had worked in this area have long left. I am the only one left here and there are a few more in Majuli. The young do not have the patience to earn so little after the painstaking work of making strips of cane and weaving them,” he said.

Making one full-sized sleeping mat requires a lot of effort. The canes have to be scraped, sized and then dipped in water for sometime and dried before being woven.

The whole process takes four to five days. One mat sells for nearly Rs 400 and the square sitting mats cost Rs 40.

“I hope that traditional crafts like making of xitol patis are promoted through training programmes and marketing and achieve small or cottage industry status. The mats can be dyed in different colours, embroidered or embellished to make them look attractive. I have seen some stuff made by craftsmen in Bangladesh at an international trade fair, but the government here has done nothing for us,” he rued.


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