BENGALURU: In the heart of Benson Town, is the famous, century-old Pottery Town, home to members of the Kumbara community, who have been practising their age-old pottery trade till date. However, diminishing raw material, the younger generation wanting to move on to other trades and people moving on to melamine, plastic or ceramic ware, has affected their business in the last few years. Another big threat to their livelihood, is the expired lease of the 20k sq/ft land they were once allotted by the British in the 1920s.
Pottery Town was established in 1926, with forty families of artisans who had come in from Tamil Nadu and Andhra after the first railway line to Bengaluru had been constructed. Through the years, the numbers grew, and currently, around 100 families of potters occupy the small settlement.
‘Slums dwellers taken over land’
In 1973, slum dwellers took over a majority of the land, which reduced the space for the potters to carry on with their trade with ease. The Kumbara Karakushala Kaigarika Sahakara Sangha, which is the committee that handles the matters of the community, wrote to the government in 1973, requesting them to do something about the slum dweller problem, as they felt that their land had been taken by free, without officials doing anything about it.
Today, they still have the same problem, along with the expiry of their 30-year lease. “The lease for this land was Rs.500 per year, and it expired in 2004. Since then, we have been constantly approaching the corporation, trying to get them to extend our lease for another 50 years. It’s all in the corporation’s hands now,” says S Nanjudappa, a resident, adding that if the lease is not handed to them, Pottery Town will cease to exist.
Give us space, access to raw material: Potters
To ensure that this doesn’t happen, Nanjundappa says they have three requests from the government - space, easier access to clay, and easier access to firewood. If they lose their livelihood, Nanjudappa says these artisans might to take on jobs such as that of a coolie at the nearby Cantonement station.He adds that inspections have been made by Manjunath Prasad, commissioner, BBMP, and that their MLA, R Akhanda Srinivasa Murthy, and corporator, Jameel Ahmed, have also written to the corporation about the lease issue. Speaking to CE, MLA Murthy says that the lease has been applied for, but hasn’t been sanctioned yet. “Currently, it’s in hands of the town planning committee, we’re just waiting for it to be cleared. The community members came to me six months back, and inspections have been made. The papers will be sanctioned soon,” he says.