MYMENSINGH, Feb 18: Mat artisans in the district are passing hard days as they cannot compete with plastic products.
The families who depend of mat weaving for earning a day's breads are suffering a lot for falling market demand of their products.
Niranjan Chandra Das, who was busy preparing the cane with sharp knife, said, "My father, grandfather too, had been involved in making chilled mat for generations. We didn't learn any other work from a young age. But now the future of this industry is bleak. "
He said that the eldest son of his two children is studying in honours at a college in Tangail. The little girl is studying in the primary level. He does not want to put his children in this profession anymore.
Bidyut Rani Das, a housewife, busy in making mat, said the men processed the knitting tools. And women make different kinds of cool footwear. In this way, a chilled mat can be made of good quality in 3/4 days. Later, it is sold for Tk. 700 to Tk 2000 according to the quality. This is how their family lives on.
She said earlier, the wholesalers used to come from far flung areas and buy their footwear. Many times, buyers would order in advance. But now there is no such demand as before.
Adhir Chandra Das said, "Once everyone here was associated with the chilled mat. Now there are 47/48 families in the industry. Here the boiled chilled mat, the 'Awla' chilled mat and the 'Dala' chilled mat are made. Besides the local market, chilled mat made by them are sold in various areas of Mymensingh and in different places of the country including Dhaka, Tangail, Sirajganj.
However, the modern plastics industry is hitting very hard this artistic industry of footwear. The sale of the whole year is not same, so the poor artists fall under the poverty trap. In this situation they need government patronage, including bank loans.
Gopal Chandra Das, who sells mats at wholesale prices in the neighbourhood besides working for himself, said, "If you buy from wholesalers and sell in the market, there is a profit of Tk 50- Tk100. It also helps the poor people and their own families. "
College student Hridoy Das who helps his parents to make mats, besides studying, said, " I feel proud for this family profession. So, I am helping my parents to keep the family going. But in the future he wants to move to another profession. '
Maya Rani Das (52) and Dulal Das (60), both from Paita Para, said , Patials have to struggle too much for living. They have a family of five with a disabled child. In addition to making the mats, one has to do work as a labourer in the land of others.
Maya Rani reminisces the past. She said, "When the mats had demands, how glorious was the life of the Patils. But now there is only poverty in this Paita. No one is in good condition.'
Acknowledging the plight of the footwear industry, Shaheenur Mallick Jivan, chairman of the local union council, said, "We will try to assist them."
He demanded of the government to take measures to keep alive the footwear industry through specific projects.
Fulbaria Upazila Executive Officer Ashraful Siddique said, "I do not know about this industry in Fulbaria.. I will soon try to bring the industry stakeholders under a project. "