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Gold lacks lustre in Gogoi's El Dorado

Koronga has allegedly been a blot on Gogoi?s performance sheet.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2006 17:39 IST

All that glitters is not gold at Koronga, the hub of traditional jewellery and metal work in Assam. And for a village that’s split between goldsmiths and blacksmiths, there aren’t many irons in the fire either.

Sited 10 km from this central Assam town, Koronga is a cluster of sonar (goldsmith) gaons and kamar (blacksmith) gaons. These villages have for centuries produced ornaments of joy and weapons for the Ahom army. The fall of the Ahom dynasty and the rise of the British empire saw the blacksmiths change over to farm equipment — their major buyers being the tea estates.

If branded jewellery has spelt doom for goldsmiths, it is ironically the crisis- ridden gardens that bypassed the local blacksmiths for cheaper “imported” alternatives. Consequence: A handful of families is left in the jewellery business while five families are into ironwork compared to 90 in 1953.

“The goldsmiths and blacksmiths have virtually been ignored,” says Gopal Hazarika, a teacher from Koronga. “You cannot blame them, they hardly count as an electoral force compared to 30,000 voters across 37 tea gardens in Titabor constituency.” Being chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s constituency, Titabor is well-nursed, a fact that even Congress-baiters admit. But for all its golden sheen, Koronga has allegedly been a blot on Gogoi’s performance sheet.

“But we have provided Rs 10 lakh for a blacksmith centre at Koronga Saringia village and helped revive a cooperative society of these artisans,” says the chief minister. No one doubts the chances of Gogoi, who won the seat after brother Dip vacated it in 2001, in retaining Titabor. Most people in this constituency kissing the Assam-Nagaland border credit him with elevating Titabor to a sub-division and making it the rice bowl of the state. They also like his straight-from-the-hip talk laced with rustic humour. “If sleeping ensures development, I’d rather be in bed 24 hours a day,” he counters Opposition’s criticisms.

Titabor, incidentally, had once been a Left stronghold with CPI enjoying a base among the Thengal Kacharis, a sub-tribe of the Bodos, who comprise 30 per cent of the population. This, however, is no consolation for veteran Kula Das, the CPI candidate. The BJP has fielded Karabi Chakraborty while the AGP-Progressive has Hemanta Kalita.

“The question here is not who will win this seat," said Titabor resident Ramesh Bora. "It is a question of who will come second."

First Published: Mar 28, 2006 12:38 IST