Hopes sink for dhow heritage unit

KOZHIKODE: Efforts to revive the age-old tradition of building dhows (Uru), by imparting training in heritage shipbuilding technologies have come to a halt following the decision of the governing body of the Centre for Heritage Studies (CHS) to scrap the courses and training programme conducted at the Heritage Ship Technology Unit, Beypore.
The governing body citing grave irregularities in the conduct of courses and closed the unit on February 2012. The unit offered PG diploma and certificate courses on heritage ship technology at a rented building at Beypore. A temporary shipbuilding unit was also set up at Beypore for imparting training to the students.

The unit was launched in 2010 with the consent of the ministry of cultural affairs to spread the glory of dhow building heritage of Beypore. Former vice-chancellor of Calicut University K K N Kurup was the director general of CHS during the commencement of the course. Forty students were enrolled in the first batch and a total of Rs 20 lakh was spent for the commencement of the courses.

The governing body also decided to stop all recurring payments, except the wages to the watchman, and to terminate the service of the temporary staff.

Explaining the reasons for the discontinuation of the courses, director general of CHS M G S Narayanan said CHS is a body entrusted with heritage studies. "As we do not have the infrastructure and backing of engineering staff to carry out construction, we decided to stop the functioning of Ship Technology Unit," he said.

It was also alleged that there was no need to open a shipbuilding centre to train students as large number of private parties own shipbuilding yards, which could have been utilized as training grounds.

Meanwhile, responding to the allegation that the former governing body had appointed unqualified trainers, K K N Kurup said the entire faculty at the institute was highly qualified and competent. "Mechanical engineers and guest faculty from National Institute of Technology and engineering colleges handled classes."

"O P Aandikkutty, a master craftsman of dhows who died recently and his brother Narayanan were guiding the students on the traditional aspects of dhow building," he said. "Besides, a master carpenter was appointed to train students on wooden works."

"Whatever be the claims, the aim to retain the tradition of Beypore has gone futile thanks to the apathy of the present governing body," said Kurup.

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