Pandemic takes the sheen off Etikoppaka toys

Government help has eluded our community, rue toymakers as they survive by taking loans

On August 30, 2020 evening, traditional toymakers from Etikoppaka village were in for a surprise as Prime Minister Narendra Modi showered praise on the Etikoppaka toys and gave a call for making India the world’s toy manufacturing hub as part of ‘vocal for local’ slogan.

Artisans from the tiny village located on the banks of the Varaha under Yelamanchali constituency felt that this would be a major boost to the craft community, especially at a time when the toymaking industry was struggling due to COVID-19.

Barely 10 months down the line, a number of families who are dependant on toymaking are in a financial crisis and are surviving on loans. The craftsmen allege that nothing has changed for them so far, with COVID further worsening things.

P. Sarath, a resident of Etikoppaka, whose family has been involved in toymaking for the last four generations, made a video thanking the Prime Minister for throwing light on the craft, and posted it on social media platforms.

“Neither the Centre nor the State government has extended any help. We have been recognised by the Ministry of Textiles and the toys were given a G.I tag, but so far nothing has changed for us,” he said. Mr. Sarath, who runs a toy shop on NH-16 near Pulaparthi Junction, says he is unable to pay rent for the shop due to the financial crisis.

There are about 150 families, who work on manufacturing Etikoppaka toys and about 100 families who procure raw materials, sell the toys in various markets, trains and public places. Around 250 families and close to 1,200 people are directly and indirectly affected due to tge COVID-19.

Most of the Etikoppaka toys are sold in bulk to corporate offices and to be given away as gifts and mementoes at seminars and weddings. Most of these events have been cancelled due to the pandemic situation.

Renowned Etikoppaka artist S. Chinnayachari said that they did not receive any help from the government either last year or this year, forcing many into a crisis. Mr. Chinnayachari, who employs 35 women artisans, said that he is unable to pay their salaries.

“The government is giving financial aid to auto-rickshaw drivers, weavers and farmers. They should give us some help too in order to enable us to continue the 400-year-old craft. If this situation continues, toymaking may be on the road to extinction,” he added.

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