Reproduced from the BCT annual souvenir 1986

Etikoppaka is a village 9 miles away from Yellamanchili. It is known for a particular type of lacquer-ware product, especially toys. The locally available softwood, Wrightea Tinctoria (Ankudu in Telugu) is cut, seasoned for a month and then worked on lathes. Lac from Madhya Pradesh forests is procured, mixed with different colours and tints and applied to the surfaces of the shaped articles. The colours are permanent and the toys are cheap.

Training Etikoppaka artisans (1981). Visitor Ms Jane Prosser ATI, Washington DC

However the industry was a picture of desolation at the time BCT entered the picture. Since the Forest Department was not supplying the wood, the Ankudu wood was being smuggled. All the artisans, except for a couple of master craftsmen, were in the clutches of four middle men who marketed their products. Whenever the artisan needed money, the middle men would provide a loan at an exorbitant rate of interest, with the result that the artisan was only able to pay back the interest. Until the loan was repaid the artisan was forced to sell the toys only to the middle men. Thus, in reality they were bonded labour. The artisan had to buy wood, lacquer and other inputs from the middle men at a higher rate and sell the products at a lower rate therefore losing both ways. Also, in an effort to make both ends meet, the artisans were neglecting the quality of their work and concentrating on quantity for a quicker turnover.

Etikoppaka – showing the finesse of toy making

What appropriate technology was needed to raise the morale of this long established industry and to bring it successfully in the 1980s? To cut a long story short, BCT directed its attention to the following:

  1. Procuring official supplies of wood
  2. Reviving the dying art through quality control and the introduction of new and modern designs.
  3. Training new blood
  4. Introducing motors and lathes instead of the traditional manual lathes
  5. Tapping new markets

The programme to train new blood made a start in March 1980 with 14 young boys (including 2 handicapped polio victims) receiving training from a professional toymaker from Etikoppaka. The programme was originally aided by EZE and later continued under TRYSEM for a period of six months. Soon after the first batch of training was completed, eight destitute women were trained on a scheme financed by the Department of Women and Child Welfare. Altogether 40 boys and destitute women have been trained in this craft and there are a further 6 boys and girls currently in training at BCTs School for Skills. During the 9 months training programme, trainees receive a stipend from BCT of Rs. 125/- monthly. In addition three men and two women were sent to BCT for a 4 month advanced training course in toy making skills at Bangalore Design Centre.

Variety of Etikoppaka toys

What has been the result of BCT intervention? Some of the trained youngsters have set up their own successful toy making unit in Yellamanchili. More recently, in April 1986, Chandaka Nukanaidu set up his own workshop in his village, Panchadarla. Already, he is able to earn up to Rs. 30 per day. Gradually, BCT has been able to build up a rapport with a number of artisans in Etikoppaka, some of whom have established their own workshop at School for Skills. BCT has introduced motorized lathes into the workshop, thus allowing the artisans working there, to have access to appropriate technological machinery. All the above are able to make use of BCTs support in acquiring raw materials and marketing of goods. BCT now has secured markets with the Victoria Technical Institute, Madras; Lepakshi Handicrafts, Tirumala; Central Cottage Industries Corporation, New Delhi and the Handicrafts Emporium, Madras. BCT is the Vice Chairman of South Indian Producers’ Association, promoted exclusively for marketing the handicrafs.

By the introduction of appropriate inputs and techniques such as motorized lathes, marketing and training programmes, a new life and pride has been brought into the toymaking industry. For BCT however, effective appropriate technology means that the technology should belong to the artisan. The final sage has yet to be reached when BCT can withdraw its intervention, leaving the artisan in direct control of his markets. Unfortunately it looks as though that day is far off.