Dinajpur, April 20, 2009
These are hard times for the potters of greater Dinajpur area. Today they have to deal with multifarious problems: a slump in sale, high prices of clay, lack of capital and wood along with inadequate technical support from the local authorities.
Traders say that earthenware and clay products are rapidly being replaced with aluminium, plastic, steel and other alternative materials. Even toys for children are being made with wood and cloth. Besides, many of the elites think it below their dignity to buy earthenware. However, those who know point out those clay utensils are far more hygienic than those made of silver or other metals.To observe the plight of potters first hand, this correspondent visited several places in the district: Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, Panchagarh, Jaipurhat and Nilphamari.
Mintu Paul, a hard-pressed potter, said that after the Liberation War (1971), many artisans left the country. Confronted with dipping sales, many in the potter communities are now considering alternative professions. Statistics bear out Paul's contention. Over the last 30 years, potter families have declined from 150 to 20. Many have migrated to India or taken to alternative professions such as shop-keeping, rickshaw pulling and rowing boats.
Or take the case of Phul Mohammad. Around 15 years ago Phul Mohammad migrated to Dinajpur town from the Khansama village for better prospects. However, his skills as a potter have not been appreciated; today his offspring are in search of more lucrative professions.
Even as demand for high quality earthenware registers an upswing, former potters such as Bhuttu Paul of Biral upazila, Dinajpur says that his community lacks the know how to fashion such products and market them to the urban buyers.