June 29, 2015
WB CM takes initiative to revive the Bengal muslin
Muslin is getting a leg up from Chief Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee. The lush cotton fabric is getting a brand new home: Club Muslin. This new chain of outlets for selling muslin is going to be inaugurated on June 30 by the Chief Minister at the Dakshinapan shopping complex in Kolkata.
Over the past few centuries, muslin has made a name for itself as one of the finest varieties of cloth in the world. Once upon a time, it was a marker of opulence for the wealthy families of Europe. The fabric was brought to Europe by British merchants from colonies in the Indian subcontinent. However, to control the production of indigenous muslin in order to prop up production at home, British merchants of the East India Company imposed heavy tax on the weavers. As a result, gradually, this art of weaving died out. But it was kept alive by those workers in their homes, mostly as a cherished hobby.
Now, muslin in West Bengal is being given a new lease of life. West Bengal Khadi & Village Industries Board has identified around 1800 weavers who are engaged in the production of the threads (katai) and in weaving (tanti). It has adopted a Rs 62-crore scheme for the upliftment of these weavers and their families. Rs 5 crore has already been allotted in the current financial year. The money is being used for skill development programmes, including the teaching of weaving threads from the cotton. Initially, the programmes are being administered through 172 weavers’ associations.
To keep up with market trends, stress is also being given on the production of coloured muslin and on teaching the weavers how to create the latest designs (for which they are being supplied with modern spindles). To improve the lot of not just the weavers but the families as well (because production of muslin entails the involvement of the whole family), social schemes like supply of quality drinking water and building of toilets in homes are being given a priority as well.
Under the aegis of the State Government, weavers and thread-makers now earn on a regular basis and so don’t have to struggle to make ends meet.