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Saturday, December 04, 2021

A clay pot dictatorship

Our Honorable Railways minister Laloo Yadav wants the kulhar back on trains. Perhaps he might soon push for a Ministry of kulhars or for the...

Written by Venkatesh Dutta |
July 15, 2004

Our Honorable Railways minister Laloo Yadav wants the kulhar back on trains. Perhaps he might soon push for a Ministry of kulhars or for the kulhar to be made the mascot of India in Olympics, Asian Games and India could soon organise a Kulhar International cricket match with Pakistan and the Aussies. And the trophy could be a kulhar!

And the potters will remain in the Stone Age forever. The political gurus wish to keep the potters backward so that they get their continued support for this pseudo-sympathy and they can continue to make merry at their scotch parties at the expense of the poor. With no offence, considering that these are manufactured by illiterate poor people with limited resources and without any concept of hygiene, the only gain from this effort will be stomach diseases derived from dirty kulhars. Unless well made, you are likely to drink tea mixed with small quantities of mud and ash.

Generating jobs for local kulhar-makers is only at the expense of losses incurred by the plastic-cup makers elsewhere. The potter who makes the kulhars gets just 25 paisa per piece. So if the potter works really hard and makes 100 kulhars a day, how much does he earn? Rs 25. Just imagine, how much agricultural land will be needed for several lakh kulhars a day? Perhaps more than 100 acres per day per state. As for the clay, it leaves behind wasteland and wasted lives.

Clay pots are made out of soil from agricultural land. They can’t be made out of sand or desert clay. They can’t be made out of soil from public lands because it is forbidden for private purposes. Therefore, these kulhars will be made with soil from private agricultural land. Irreplaceable coal and trees would be fed into the fire resulting in pollution in rural areas. Manufacturing kulhars results in destruction of fertile top-soil (which has taken millions of years to form), deforestation as wood is the major source of firing kilns and air pollution from the emission of chimneys.

The minister say that kulhars are bio-degradable but what is the time frame we are looking at for their bio-degradation? Particularly curious because, in archaeology, the first thing we find while digging is earthen pots and earthen ware given the fact that heated soil remains as it is for eternity! That’s how Mohenjodaro, Harappa and others were immortalised! Archaeologists have found them in most ancient civilisation sites. In fact, kulhars are no better than plastic except that they are not synthetic. Can someone educate our clay-pot dictator on this? Disposing off used kulhars may not be environment-friendly. Though plastic is a non-eco friendly material, kulhar is no saint either. Note that where plastic is the major driving force of life—the West—there’s relatively little pollution compared to environments dominated by kulhar. Plastic doesn’t pollute, it is our way of managing them that make plastic a hazard for the environment.

The author is Research Fellow, TERI School of Advanced Studies, Delhi

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