Though demand for the famous Nirmal toys is high in the market, the raw material used in toys’ preparation, poniki (white sander wood), is in severe shortage, due to which artisans fear the art’s demise.
Twenty years ago, the government had imparted training to interested artisans, but now, there is no encouragement from their side.
On an average, the toy makers need 20 cubic meters (or 3 lorry loads) of the white sander wood, which they usually purchase from the timber depots. This quantity remains sufficient for them to make toys for one year.
But with rampant smuggling of the sander wood, forest department has restricted its usage. And though the wood has been in shortage for sometime now, the plantation of poniki saplings has not been taken up by the department. Even if they decided to plant poniki trees now, they would be useful for the artisans only after 20 years.
Speaking to Express, Nirmal Toys and Arts Industries Cooperative Society manager BR Shanker said, “Our society was formed in 1955 with 16 families. Currently, 51 families depend on this art to eke out their living. Though the government had trained new artisans 20 years back with the help of senior artisans, no interest is currently being shown.”
Due to non-encouragement from the government and severe shortage of poniki wood, the artisans’ children are looking at other professions.
Pallakonda Dharmapuri, an artisan whose family depended on the art for generations, said
“With the shortage of wood, the younger generations want to shift to more lucrative professions fearing survival of the art. Nirmal toy making art is slowly disappearing,” Dharmapuri lamented.
“Our family members used to prepare toys in the 1990s. But the shortage of wood has forced some of us to turn into migrant and agricultural labourers,” he added.
Another artisan S Pentaiah said, “The cost of materials has increased manifold and we are unable to make profits.”