Bengaluru: In Karnataka and Maharashtra, Kolhapuri chappals enjoy widespread popularity. Despite being named after Kolhapur in Maharashtra, these traditional leather sandals are exclusively manufactured in Karnataka.
However, the lack of proper marketing facilities has left over one and a half lakh families in Belgaum district, relying on leatherwork for their livelihood, facing challenges.
The Kolhapuri chappal makers have been demanding that the state government discuss problems faced by the community and assistance to leather chappal artisans, in the upcoming Belagavi Assembly winter session, scheduled for December 4.
Belgaum district, particularly in places like Athani, Nippani, and Raibag in the Chikkodi subdivision, is home to more than one and a half lakh leather artisans who have been crafting leather sandals for generations.
The unique style of sandals, including those from Athani, contributes to the fame of Kolhapuri chappals. Historically, sandals made in places like Madabavi in Athani Taluk have been sold in Kolhapur since the 18th century, during the time of Shahu Maharaj.
Despite their rich tradition, Athani’s shoemakers are facing hardships, especially with the imposition of 12 percent GST on leather products. Additionally, the production of slippers in Athani, which was previously exported abroad, has ceased. The artisans now are seeking assistance from the government for the procurement of sophisticated machinery.
The withdrawal of the state government subsidy from a 60:40 ratio has added to the distress of leather artisans. In response, they have called for discussions during the Belgaum session to address their concerns and allocate Rs 200 crores by establishing a separate Corporation Board for the benefit of leather artisans.
While the previous governments proposed the Athani brand as an alternative to Kolhapuri chappals, dissatisfaction prevails among leather artisans due to inadequate marketing. Emphasizing the need for a proper marketing system to boost the Athani brand, they urged immediate action.
With over 18 lakh leather artisans statewide facing challenges, the winter session in Belgaum is expected to address these concerns and discuss the establishment of a separate corporation for the welfare of leather artisans, in addition to the existing Dr. Babu Jagjivanaram Leather Industries Development Corporation.