Day 8 – February 7, 2011 – Kondagaon, Bastar, the land of “Zitku Mitki”

“Zitku Mitki” = Male and Female characters in Adivasi tales

BASIX colleagues, Anand and Samir had decided to extend their trip with me and stay on till I reach Raipur two days hence.  We were joined in Chhatisgarh by Manoj Mishra, who has worked in Bastar for nearly 10 years with RGVN and CARE, before joining BASIX.  We also had Pavan, the  BASIX State Head for Chhattisgarh join us.

We started from Kanker to reach Kondagaon to begin our day. Manoj had organized for us to meet Mr. Halim Quraishi, Advisor to the Minister for Women and Child Development, Smt Usha Usendi. He  told us that he advises her on both projects and programs, and also on political matters. His salary is paid by the state government. Previously, he was in an NGO supported by UNICEF.  Thanks to him, we managed to  meet a number of people in a short time.

Meeting with President of Kondagaon Muncipality

We met Smt Kiran Usendi, the elected President of  the Nagar Nigam (Municipality) Kondagaon. How did she get into politics? “My father was a Member of the State Lgeislative Assembly and now my sister Lata Usendi is not just a  second term MLA but also  State Minister for Women and Child Development. I was reluctant to join politics but my sister persuaded me.”  What are your goals for Kondagaon? “I want in five years everyone to ask – is this Kondagaon? I want to ensure basic services to all – raods, electricity, water supply, sanitation, schools and hospitals.” Are there enough resources for that? “The annual budget of Parishad is Rs. 2 crores.  The support from the state government is limited to Rs. 3-4 lakh per month, or about 20-25 percent of the total.”

An election poster for the Kondagaon Municipality

Does the administrator, who is an experienced state civil servant listen to her? “Yes, he does. We also got some training after being elected on our roles ad responsibilities.”  What about promotion of employment? “Most city people are employed in government or other jobs. Many people are coming from villages to the cities seeking work. For youth we have started computer education, Bell Metal craft training and loan to SHGs.”  It was good to visit this 30 year, young women President of a Municipal ity of a town of about one lakh people. I was reminded of Kumari Shelja, the graceful, soft-spoken Minister for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, whom I meet regularly as part of the National Technical Committee on Urban Poverty under the JNNURM.

Suraj Vikas Sanstha, Kondagaon, Bastar, An  NGO promoting Dokra (Bell Metal Handicraft)

Dokra Handicraft Training Centre, Kondagaon, Bastar

Smt Shakuntala Sagar, a member of Nagar Panchayat (Municipality) is heading this centre and her husband is supporting her in this venture. She started by forming women’s self help groups (SHGs). After that, she received a contract from the Chhattisgarh Handicraft  Development Board (CHDB) to train young women the craft of dokra (bell metal work).  So far she has trained 50 women in batches of 10 each. Many of them are making handicraft to sell to the CHDB.

Gondkuram Sagar is a craftsman working in this field for decades. His father Manikaram Sagar won the President’s Award in 1969.  He takes us around to show the process involved in making these statues:

Dokra statues. The one in the middle is the wax mould with designs

1>> Earthen/clay model is prepared

2>> Then it is plastered with clay

3>> A layer of wax is given

4>> The basic model is embellished with wax designs

5>> Second layer of clay mixed with charcoal dust

6>> A layer of red soil

7>> Side channels are made for pouring liquid metal

8>> Mould is heated in oven, while metal is molten in a spatula

9>> The liquid metal is poured

10>> On cooling the mould is broken to take out the statue

11>> Finishing work, like buffing is done (This is a modern addition)

Gondkuram works for the Suraj Sansthan and earns Rs. 120 to Rs. 150 a day depending on the work. He is illiterate and doing this work since he was 10 years. Why did Gondkuram not start his own workshop? “Today I will need to invest at least Rs. One lakh. At the age of 60, I do not want to take any risk. I have three daughters, all married off and three sons. Let them start if they want. Also, now a days, the government handicraft shops are demanding certificate of belonging to Adivasi (Scheduled Tribes) before they buy items from us”.

Sathi Sansth, Kuharpara, Bastar,  An NGO working with potters


Terracota figures at Sathi Handicrafts, Kondagaon, Bastar

Sathi Sanstha was started by Bupesh Tiwari along with his three friends in the late 1988.  Before that, Bhupesh got specialized training in Ceramics for three years in Bhadrawati, under the guidance of Mr. S. K. Mirmira, the follower of Gandhiji, who dedicated his life to uplift of “kumhars” or potters. He, along with Mr TN Sharma, another follower of Gandhiji, took advanced training in pottery and ceramics from Japan, and then trained many young Indians like Bhupesh to go and work with potter communities.  The Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology (CAPART) then funded  Bhupesh for implementing an integrated training–cum-production project in the village Kumharpara near Kondagaon in Bastar. The village has a history of 300 years and has a 100 odd families working in pottery.

Bhupesh and friends started by learning the local “Halbi” language. They started working with 25 youth and gave them training for a year in checking the quality of soil, developing new designs,  establishing market linkage etc.

The strategy adopted was simple and as follows:

1>> Skill development, technical input, design input

2>> Proper tools, latest equipment

3>> Marketing of product

4>> Finance from bank, funding agencies

Initially the banks were reluctant to extend the loan. The comment passed was “tera muh dekh kar nahi lagta ki tu paise wapas lautayega.”  (you look like you wont repay). According to Bhupesh, the CHDB is not very useful to the craftsmen. The information flow from CHDB about sales exhibitions is given at the last moment as a result of which genuine craftmen are not able to benefit. Instead, the middle men who have stock, are earning money.

He gave the example of an exhibition in Bologna, Italy in the year September 2007. The organizers got in touch with Sathi Sanstha in February 2007, so they were very well preparation for the same. They sent their products to Italy well in advance to Italy. They earned handsomely through sales worth Rs. 2 cores. In contrast, the  CHDB started preparation just 30 days before the exhibition. Their team was of one Minister, five officers and five craftsmen. The total expenses incurred were Rs. 26 lakh and the goods sold were of Rs. 80,000 only. But on coming back, they held a press conference stating they sold goods worth crores, by including the sales of Sathi Sansath in their achievement!

Recognising the need for overall upgradation of the human resources in the community, Sathi Sanstha is also running a school up to 6th class. They have vocational courses in accounts, cooking, DTH installation and rural tourism.

^^ I make a note to ask Sushil Ramola  if he would consider setting up a B-ABLE Centre here. The focus should be on Green Skills for Tribal Youth

Kondagaon Sahakari Vipanan Sanstha Maryadit – An Agro Produce Marketing Cooperative

With the President of the Agro Produce Marketing Coop, Kondagaon

Mr. Manojpuri Goswami welcomes us though it was Sunday a holiday for the Sanstha. Around 2300 farmers are the member of this co-operative society. At present they do not have funds to extend any loan to their members.  The general impression one gathered was this coop was  barely functioning and the reason why it is not in good shape at all is because the government does not use it as channel to buy paddy at the  minimum support price.  They have got an Agency of Indane Gas. They are implementing the Gruha Laxmi Scheme for LPG Gas. They also have a  rice mil, which  is defunct and it requires about Rs. 15 Lakh to revive the same. They are finding the ways to revive the same. We wished them success in their business and drive back to Kanker.





About vijaymahajan

Educated at St XaviersSchool, Jaipur; IIT Delhi; IIM Ahmedabad and Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, USA; Co-founder of several development organisations - BASIX (, PRADAN (, Development Finance Forum (, Andhra Pradesh Mahila Abhivruddhi Society (, Sa-Dhan ( and the Microfinance Institutions Networrk ( Chair of CGAP Excom; BASIX Boards; DSC Board; Board member of MSSRF, ASSEFA, Gram Vikas Honours - WEF Davos Schwab Social Entrepreneur; Ashoka Global Fellow; IIT Delhi Distinguished Alumni Award; HSBC-Access Award for Outstanding Contribution to Microfinance in India; listed among India's top 50 most powerful people in India by BusinessWeek, Asia edition, 2010 Married to Savita, Deputy Dean, ISB, Hyderabad; two children, Chirag and Chandni
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2 Responses to Day 8 – February 7, 2011 – Kondagaon, Bastar, the land of “Zitku Mitki”

  1. Gregory Lee says:


    I spoke to Amit today and he told me about your journey and blog. I confess I am amazed. To me it almost seems a luxury to make such a journey. After reading your posts, your blog reminds me of just how blessed I am myself. I often think I have problems, and realise they are most often of little consequence. It also reminds me of just how little I know of India. Safe journey.


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