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Kalimpong’s famous ‘Bhutia Dhoop’ industry fading away

PRADIP LOHAGUN
KALIMPONG : Kalimpong is known globally for its small enterprises, historical destinations, educational institutes, floriculture and the hospitable nature of its residents. Among them, Kalimpong’s Bhutia Dhoop or Tibetan incense stick industry was once renowned for its quality and fragrance all over. However, with time, the industry has faded away with only a few units still functioning.Why has this once thriving small-scale industry almost vanished from Kalimpong? Has the incense stick market gone down? Why are the factories being shutdown? Many such questions are plaguing the minds of those concerned. The industry is self sustainable as the sticks are used by many people because of their unique aroma and the way they are prepared using the age-old Tibetan method. 
 
The incense stick market, on the other hand, can never get saturated because of its usefulness and the demand for the product has only increased constantly over the years.The question lies on why the factories are pulling down their shutters and the most likely reason anyone can figure out is lack of support from the government, paucity of raw materials and decrease in manpower needed by the industry. Raw materials used for the production of Bhutia Dhoop were earlier transported from Sikkim, but the supply has stopped since the last few years for reasons unknown.The condition of the 25-year-old incense factory in Kalimpong owned by Bajrang Agarwal clearly reflects the state of the incense industry. “After Sikkim stopped supplying raw materials for producing Bhutia Dhoop, it has become really difficult for us to sustain production,” he said.

Sawdust is readily available in Kalimpong, but other materials used to produce the unique incense stick such as Jaitree, clove, nutmeg, sandalwood and Rudra are difficult to obtain in bulk and have to be brought in from the plains.“When raw materials used to be transported from Sikkim, production level was very high, but once this stopped, we have been facing problems to procure the items from other destinations, hence the decline,” Agarwal pointed out.The closure of many factories in Kalimpong has led to an increase in unemployment, among many other problems. Many people have worked in the industry for more than 25 years, but they never received government accreditation. Meanwhile, many companies in Bhutan, Delhi and Nepal are using Kalimpong as a brand factor and promoting their products under the Kalimpong tag, which is also contributing to the decline in the incense industry in the sub-division.

“We used to produce 2,000 incense stick packets per day in the past, but these days we manage to make just about 300 packets a day with the help of a few workers,” Agarwal informed. This fact can be seen from the Shantinagar area of town, where once each and every household was involved in producing Bhutia Dhoop. However, only a handful of them are engaged in the industry these days. With just a few factories left in Kalimpong, the majority of the products are taken to Sikkim, which has remained the only large-scale client for the industry stakeholders of Kalimpong. The industry is now pinning its hope on the GTA’s recently established small-scale industry department for support. If the authority steps forward in support, the industry could get a new lease to its life and the once renowned Bhutia Dhoop industry of Kalimpong will once again flourish.

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