Kiran Karmakar

People still need pitchers to fetch drinking water

Kiran Karmakar manufactures something every village household needs: metal pitchers. Piped drinking water is still a dream in many areas. Mahajans from Calcutta supply her metal sheets and headpieces, and she completes them into pitchers using simple machinery and some welding.

She makes four sizes of metal pitchers or kolshis as they are known in Bengali, ranging in weight from 4kg to 5.5kg, in increments of 500 gm. She employs two workers and pays them Rs 200 for finishing each pitcher.

The 37-year-old resident of Telkalpara village in West Bengal’s Purulia district got married young, but she has studied up to Class 10. Her husband Byome is a para-teacher in a primary school in Purulia town and teaches all subjects from Class 1 to Class 5.

Kiran got the business from her father-in-law. Her husband has no interest in the business. There are many families in her village making kolshis. She took her first loan from VFS in 2016; now, she is in her 4th loan cycle and has kept her repayment record spotless. Earlier, women like Kiran were totally dependent on mahajans for funding their business, as the mahajans used to lend them the capital and buy the finished product, leaving nothing much for the business owner.

After factoring in the raw material cost and labour and manufacturing costs, Kiran can sell each such metal pitcher for Rs 2,000-2,500. Their house is their factory, and the work goes on from 6am till 5pm every day. She has two welding machines and two grinding and polishing machines.

Kiran also refurbishes and repairs old metal dinner plates, glasses, pitchers and bowls that the mahajans bring.

Kiran has two children: a 14-year-old daughter, who studies in Class 10, and a 10-year-old son, who is in Class 5. Kiran devotes her evenings to her children. No metal-bashing then; just two kids reading. The children do not show much interest in the business.

Published on Mar 26, 2021 | Updated on Apr 13, 2022