Agra’s parchinkari — How ODOP is taking Mughal-era marble handicrafts to fashionable markets

Uttar Pradesh launched a sustained marketing campaign to advertise its native merchandise even earlier than the Centre kickstarted this initiative. As a flagship scheme of the state authorities, it has seen a number of success tales, certainly one of which is Agra’s parchinkari, or marble inlay work — a product that just about didn’t make it to the checklist. Within the fourth in a sequence on the One District One Product Initiative, we look at Agra’s signature merchandise.

A query that has vexed coverage makers in Uttar Pradesh for the previous few years is, which merchandise are folks most probably to choose from the bazaars of Agra? Is it the Agra petha, a signature candy chosen by the Meals Processing Ministry; leather-based footwear, initially chosen by the ODOP programme; or a gem-inlaid marble jewelry field? Which of those might be showcased and promoted as Agra’s signature, ODOP product.

Uttar Pradesh was one of many first states to understand the potential of the ODOP, or One District One Product, initiative. On 24 January 2018 — Uttar Pradesh Divas — the Division of MSME and Export Promotion launched a state-wide flagship scheme to showcase its conventional merchandise — earlier than the launch of the Centre’s identically named initiative. With sharply outlined goals and constructing on an in depth evaluation of the state’s export potential, Uttar Pradesh rolled out an in depth motion plan to advertise 57 distinctive merchandise throughout the state’s 75 districts throughout Part-I and geared toward doubling the output of ODOP inside the subsequent 5 years.

Nonetheless, throughout an preliminary evaluation of the potential that every district needed to supply, it missed Agra’s marble inlay work — selecting as a substitute to bow to native lobbies and sensible concerns to advertise leather-based footwear, which offered higher employment within the district. Nonetheless, because the programme expanded, it turned more and more onerous to miss the native stone-work trade’s contribution to Agra’s exports.

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Exhausting to miss parchinkari

On 24 April 2020, the MSME division of Authorities of UP issued a round that considerably expanded the scope of its statewide ODOP initiative. Whereas the preliminary programme had chosen one distinctive, signature product for every of UP’s 75 districts, now buoyed by the success of this flagship scheme, the MSME division notified an extra 20 new ‘supplementary merchandise’ to be promoted. Agra’s pietra-dura (marble inlay work), higher generally known as parchinkari, discovered its method to the highest of the checklist. This delicate, extremely specialised artisanal craft would now complement Agra’s unique ODOP, leather-based items.

The choice to showcase parchinkari marble inlay work marked a delicate shift within the thrust of UP’s ODOP initiative — from the preliminary give attention to generic merchandise to showcasing people who had been distinctive, of high-quality and indigenous.

Pietra dura, an Italian phrase for ‘onerous stone’, refers back to the marble inlay work that first emerged in sixteenth century Italy. This stone-work expertise reached its pinnacle in the course of the Mughal interval in India, significantly underneath Shah Jahan, and its most delicate and spectacular expression can nonetheless be seen within the inlay work on the Taj Mahal and within the Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah in Agra. This artwork type continues to be practised utilizing expertise that has remained unchanged for the final 400 years by the descendants of Mughal-era craftsmen in three clusters in India. The remaining parchinkari clusters in India are located in Varanasi and components of Rajasthan.

Marble inlay elephant showpiece
Marble inlay tabletop
Marble inlay storage field
Marble inlay ornamental plate

Extremely labour-intensive and expert work, parchinkari stays confined to ornamental merchandise similar to table-tops, kitchenware, jewellery containers, flooring and wall ornamental gadgets in Agra, the largest hub of this handicraft. In 2018, there have been roughly 810 registered practical items within the district using 12,000 artisans throughout the parchinkari worth chain, based on an estimate by the Handicrafts Exporters Affiliation of Agra. This quantity had grown to 1,150 by 2021, after sustained promotion of parchinkari underneath ODOP Bichpuri, Achanera, Kheragarh and Fatehpur Sikri in Agra district.

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ODOP’s assist to age-old craft

The ODOP initiative has rolled out particular interventions to assist artisans such because the Monetary Help Scheme, which has upgraded 9 main items at a price of INR 2.6 crore, and a Ability Growth and Toolkit Distribution Scheme to enhance manufacturing high quality. Marble inlay work is a fancy, twelve-stage course of that includes grafting semi-precious stones like jasper, onyx, mom of pearl and carnelian utilizing emery wheels and chisels, and employs many expert artisans who’ve to make use of costly uncooked supplies. Monetary assist along with coaching and new toolkit distribution have made some headway in automating and enhancing processes which have remained unchanged for hundreds of years, coaching over 200 new craftsmen within the final two years.

Virtually 62 per cent of India’s stone craft manufacturing comes from Uttar Pradesh, with Agra alone accounting for greater than INR 407 crore of exports within the interval between September 2020-November 2021. Over 50 per cent of the marble inlay work produced in Agra reached the worldwide market in 2020, (thanks) primarily because of a sustained promotion incentive that took artisans to take part in world gala’s just like the Dubai Expo 2020.

UP’s ODOP initiative has been one of many few state-specific ODOP initiatives that has taken off, regardless of  preliminary hiccups. Within the 4 years that it has been in operation, it has resulted in a major leap in UP’s exports by nearly 32 per cent, based on an announcement by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. As a flagship scheme, it has witnessed sustained assist and promotion, and realized and tailored from its errors — widening its ambit to incorporate Agra’s marble inlay work, for instance.

Nonetheless, because the initiative matures, and seeks to broaden manufacturing bases and develop native trade, it dangers commoditising age-old conventional crafts and delicate workmanship. In its push to take the marble inlay work to world markets, care have to be taken to make sure that the standard of conventional parchinkari doesn’t deteriorate, particularly because it strikes in the direction of mass manufacturing.

District Bar Code is a sequence on the One District One Product scheme by the federal government of India. Learn all of the articles right here.

Sanyukta Samaddar is an IAS officer who’s presently a Nodal Officer (SDGs), at NITI Aayog. She tweets @SanyuktaSam1. Adhiraj Parthasarathy is a Director within the Growth Monitoring and Analysis Workplace, NITI Aayog the place he works on the analysis of presidency schemes. Views are private.

(Edited by Pranay Dutta Roy)

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