There are over 15,000 micro units that manufacture plates and cups from sal leaves in Kandhamal. There are over 50,000 people involved in the industry, most of whom are women and children.
“It takes over three days to make a few products from sal leaves. We have to walk about 5km to collect leaves, then stitch them and dry the finished plates and cups, but we earn only a meagre amount of money for the same. This is why most men now prefer to engage themselves in agriculture instead of in this traditional industry,” said Baburam, one of the manufacturers.
“We can earn only Rs.20 after a few days’ hard work. The sal leaf industry is declining in Kandhamal,” he said.
“The traders are earning more than what we do, as they collect plates and cups from us at lower prices and then sell them in different parts of the country at higher prices,” said Trivani, a woman worker.
“Our income is not sufficient to survive, so we ask the women and children in our families to work in this industry while we try to get other work,” said Baburam.