Visakhapatnam: The ban on Chinese toys has not changed the fortunes of the Etikoppaka toy industry as the COVID-19 pandemic has hit hard the artisans of Etikoppaka.

Artisans from Etikoppaka, a small village in Yelamanchili mandal in Vizag district of Andhra Pradesh, known for softwood-lacquerware toys (Lakka Pidathalu), are now seeking government support.

The two-century-old legacy of the softwood- lacquerware toy industry, popularly known as "Lakka Pidathalu", at Etikoppaka village, around 80 kms from Vizag city, is facing a series of crises. Due to the pandemic, most of the artisans haven't received any major orders since the outbreak of the coronavirus in March 2020.

About 150 to 200 families from the small village located near the banks of the Varaha river have been dependent on the toys for their livelihood for centuries.

It may be recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his "Mann ki Baat" radio broadcast on 31 August 2020 had praised Etikoppaka toys to propel India's toy-making industry.

Following the ban on import of Chinese toys, the artisans had expected greater demand for Etikoppaka toys and a boost to the toy industry in the long run, thereby contributing to the "Make in India" and "Self-Reliant India" campaign. But the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the toy industry in Ettikoppaka.

"Our business depends on events like marriages, meetings, and birthday events. There was hardly a two-month gap between the first and second wave of the coronavirus. We haven't received any major orders since March 2020," said senior artisan of Etikoppaka, Srisailapu Chinnayya Chari.

Before the pandemic, people from parts of the district and shopkeepers used to visit Etikoppaka and buy their products. "But the pandemic has affected our business. Ironically, neither the Union nor the state governments have taken any step to help the artisans," said another artisan Peddapati Rama Venkata Satyanarayana.

The artisans used to sell toys worth Rs. 20-30 lakh in a month. Earlier, the figures were Rs. 40-50 lakh. But now the production has drastically come down as they struggle to find buyers for their toys.

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