The livelihoods of artisans who work in Channapatna’s toy industry have been impacted as the Bengaluru-Mysuru expressway which opened two months ago does not connect to the toy factory that mostly depends on tourists for their business.
With polling for the Assembly elections set to take place in just three days, artisans who work at the toy factory are demanding basic facilities from the upcoming government, such as supply of raw materials, easy transportation of products and a way for artisans to sell their products along the highway.
The 118-km-long Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway project was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March, in a bid to reduce the travel time between the two cities from around three hours to about 75 minutes.
Sohail Parvez, who works as a manager at the Channapatna toy factory claimed that the lives of the artisans have been hit badly and that many of them are have crippling debt. ”We expect basic facilities like supply of raw materials, easy transportation of products and a platform for artisans to sell their products along the highway. There are 5,000 registered artisans here and they are completely dependent on this job. With the impact on business, they are struggling for survival. The loss has impacted their livelihood. Many of them are in debt and unable to repay their loans,” Parvez told PTI.
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Artisans in Channapatna use the wood of a special tree that grows in old Mysore called ‘Ivory Wood Tree’ for making dolls and toys. These handicrafts are also exported worldwide. Tourists in the area are the primary customers of the toy factory, other than the usual markets.
”The highway might have connected Bengaluru and Mysuru well but not the towns that come in between that have been prominent for something or the other. We were mostly dependent on the tourists who pass by this route. Now that the highway has been built, the toy factory got derailed from the route and 70 to 80 per cent of our business got impacted due to this,” Parvez said. Earlier, Prime Minister Modi had said that the expressway was an important project and it would ”contribute to Karnataka’s growth”. Opposition parties Congress and JD(S) had alleged that the “incomplete project” was launched to woo voters ahead of the Assembly elections.
Channapatna is also considered to be a stronghold of former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy of the JD(S).
The artisans who work at the toy factory claim that despite having a large stock of toys, there has been no sale after the expressway was built. ”Even if the expressway has been built with a purpose of development, something should have been done for the Channapatna toy factory. A separate space could have been dedicated to us that would link to the highway too, so somewhere artisans could sell toys directly. Many tourists used to stop by at our factories or emporiums and buy toys in bulks here (before the expressway was built),” Parvez said.
A few other artisans working at the Channapatna toy factory said that despite the Centre’s ban on import of toys from China, it did not make any difference due to the Bengaluru-Mysuru expressway bypassing their town. Santosh, an artisan working at the Channapatna toy factory for the past three years, claims that 70 per cent of their sales dropped after the expressway became operational. “The sales here completely dropped. We are not getting any benefit from the government. Earlier, they promised to improve everything but nothing has been done. After import of toys from China got banned, we expected that our business will get better but with the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway it’s the same thing,” Santosh told PTI.
Another artisan Syed Mujeed who has been working at the factory for the past 30 years said their business had been suffering and that there is insufficient supply of wood as well. ”There is insufficient supply of wood. Foreign buyers are also not visiting. We used to complain about China imports earlier but even after that stopped, the condition remains the same because of the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway.” he said