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Reverse migration – our experiences

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What is reverse migration:

Let me define it as best as i can, since there does not seem to be a ready reckoner for this:

It’s the movement of the urban migrant from the cities and large towns to their hometowns – viz smaller towns and mostly villages. This happens due to one of the following ( credits to Swades )  

1] Enhanced rural economic development

2] Reverse migrants come with advanced skill and technical know-how

3] They become role models and agents of change for the rest of the villagers

4] Relocators feel an enhanced sense of pride due to improved societal recognition

5] Development of indigenous means of livelihood such as sustainable agriculture, local crafts and businesses, etc.

The last reason, not listed, which is the cause for the massive migration happening now , and which no one could ever imagine in their wildest fantasies:

6) loss of job opportunities due to governmental action, such as the lockdown at present 

I would like to share our own experiences with reverse migration at Tamaala:

Case 1 : Return of the Channapatna Artisan’s son

We have a senior citizen artisan whose son returned from Saudi owing to a job loss – he worked for a Pakistani Oil & Gas company & owing to a change in the labour rules, Non-Saudi’s started getting laid off. With a baby and wife, he had a family to feed, so the family was quite concerned about their future as the father did not make enough to support everyone. 

The family and the father immediately swung into action, they paid a travel agent an enormous sum (INR 1 lakh) to ensure that he would generate a job & a work visa for his son. Tragically, they were cheated after a year long wait, though they did manage to get a small portion of their money back after innumerous follow-ups. 

He tried getting jobs in Bangalore, I also made some introductions but to no avail as his experience was not suitable to the kind of mid career sales jobs he was seeking. Now the natural question in the reader’s mind would be – why would he not work with his father and help him in his craft work. That brings me to the next point – most of the artisans who educate their children, educate them away from their traditional art. This happens similarly unfailingly and in 90% of such artisan families. They feel that an artisan’s work is not for the educated child, they have a brighter future – jobs in the city, marriage into a good family and a house & car, maybe.

Back to the father- he works with our chief artist and makes co-created designer candles, toys and almost 50% of our channapatna collection. He started asking us for more work as he desperately needed to make up for his son’s unemployment. We ramped up our requirements from him. But it was certainly not enough to feed another family, the sales of these being seasonal – there was a limit to how much we could pre-make.

So we came up with another option of the son helping out his father sell more. Since he seemed to be potentially quite good at communication (could speak a couple of Indian languages etc.), I asked his father to get him to do more of that – the father also approached the Cauvery handicrafts director for stall options in the Mysore Palace campus and at Cauvery handicrafts emporium. This enabled the son to sell more and at higher margins hence supplementing the family’s income to a sustenance level.. 

Case 2: The Potter’s son returns 

We have a potter family of 5 (from near Jigni village ) who help us in the Eco friendly Ganesha project ( last year we made about 2000 Ganesha idols and it created livelihoods for about 32 potters overall) . Their elder son is married & has a small family unit wife + 1 child. He makes his living by running a transport vehicle. The younger sibling was pursuing a graduation in Bangalore and his aim was to get a post graduation and migrate abroad( read Gulf) for a job.

After seeing the engagement and opportunities created by us he changed his perspective about his future. He started helping his family in making the Ganesha idols which implied that he was fully engaged for a period of 3 months and helped the family make much more idols than was otherwise possible. We’ve noticed that the younger generation not only brings a higher energy level into the making process but their education enables them to do things more systematically improving productivity for the family – this was clearly demonstrated by his involvement. 

Today he wants to pursue KAS ( Karnataka Administrative Services) and he says he is inspired by people like us – he says he can do much more for his community & his family if he were to be part of policy making & implementation. Here’s to brighter days ahead for him & his family!

Case 3: The Gond artisan who feeds his family & educates his brother

We work with a few tribal artists from the Gond region and one particular family is filled with extremely high talent. This family of parents and 2 brothers and a sister are all celebrated artists( by us & our patrons at least) and the intricacy in their work as well as the depiction of folklores in their work is not only unique, it is also beautiful to the beholder. 

So we were taken aback when the younger brother got through an engineering degree – we felt we’re losing a high potential artist. When we understood that the college was reputed, he had enough facilities and hostel provided free of cost etc. of course we were happy for him. The elder brother wanted to move to the city to earn a living and support not only his parents but also enable his younger sister to be married. This really put us in a fix. Anyway we decided to pitch in for the sister’s marriage and sent in some money. In return, and much later and despite us not asking for it,  he sent us some paintings which were sold out fairly quickly. So while the sister’s marriage was taken care of, they still had an issue with the overall earning potential of the family as 5 artisans suddenly became 3. And the brother though otherwise enjoying almost nil tuition and hostel fee did need some money on the side (mobile recharges etc).

To help out we got into a long term engagement with the remaining family members, sending them advance money for art works they could send us later. This helped a bit and the elder brother decided not to move to the city and look for a job. We had also planned an extensive workshop in Bangalore with all the 3 members teaching their art forms over a 3 week period. This was for wall murals as well as canvas & paper art. 

Almost at the same time the DC of that region saw these artisans work on one of his village tours and gave the elder one the opportunity to create wall murals in all the district government buildings, all for a good sum of money, and he almost gave him a recurring contract where he would be engaged for at least 6 months of the year. So, though disappointed slightly with the cancellation of our workshop idea, we were quite happy seeing the family come upon good times, finally. 

These are some of our experiences with rural & tribal artisans. There are a few more such instances, I have shared the ones that were unique, and we hope that we can create more opportunities in the future.

Your’s thoughtfully,

Vinay Prashant

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