Bengal handicrafts to get new fillip with GI tags

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Kolkata, Aug 16: Thousands of rural artisans in West Bengal who have been making various handicrafts for generations will soon get new stimulus through Geographical Indication (GI) tags.

The West Bengal State Council of Science and Technology has now taken up the onus of getting GI recognition for various handicrafts which are unique in character and have the potential to be marketed nationally and internationally.

west bengal map

Officials of the state patent office, said in co-ordination with the department of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) and NGO Banglanatak.com, they have recently applied for GI tags for seven handicraft products like 'Patachitra' paintings, 'Dokra', wooden mask, 'Chhau' mask, 'Madur' etc.

"GI tag acts as a marketing tool. Not only it ensures that the community from that particular geographical area gets a right over a product, but it also helps them to position their product in the market in a better way," Amitava Bhattacharya, founder director of Banglanatak.com, told PTI.

GI tag is an intellectual property right used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. Once granted by the Chennai-based Geographical Indications Registry, the tag will stop others from selling the product by claiming it is from that particular region.

The GI tag, owned by the community of artists and artisans, also adds an element of authenticity to the products and recognition to those making it.

Officials said these tags will increase the sales of the state's handicraft industry. Among the most prominent products for which GI has been sought is 'Patachitra', a form of scroll painting which uses vibrant natural colours and singing to tell a story.

The art form is heavily concentrated within a community of 250 artists known as 'Patuas' in West Midnapore district's Naya village. While 'Patachitra' has gained some popularity in the last few years, many other traditional artforms are languishing. 

MSME department officials said the idea is to revive such art-based cottage industries to generate livelihood. In West Midnapore district, it is estimated that there are about 4,500 weavers who are involved in making of 'Madhukathi' mats made from grass weed. In recent years, they have diversified into making curtains, hats, purse etc.

Similarly in Cooch Behar, the craftsmen make 'Sitalpati' mat, which is famous for its glossiness, smoothness and fineness of texture. The expensive cane product is specially suited for hot and humid climates as it is very cool.

In Purulia, the 'Chhau' mask is famous and is used for 'Chhau' dance and also for decoration purpose as wall hangings. In Bankura, artisans have retained the thousands of years old wax casting technique with 'Dokra' products like figures of gods and goddesses, birds, animals besides jewellery.

"We are working with the government in developing rural craft hubs in these areas. GI tag will give additional recognition," said Bhattacharya, who has been working to generate livelihood in rural India by reviving traditional artforms.

PTI 

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