Balurghat: Weavers in a remote village in North Dinajpur district of West Bengal have been stitching Banarasi-style carpets for around three decades, but with little recognition. Only recently, the West Bengal directorate of textiles has decided to set up a mega carpet cluster at Malgaon village in Kaliaganj block of the district where these hand-woven carpets are being made since the middle of 1980s.
“The preparation of a detailed project report (DPR) for the mega carpet cluster at Malgaon is nearly complete. Work for the project will start after the government approves the DPR,” District Industries Centre general manager Sunil Sarkar said. Besides weaving woolen carpets, the facility will have arrangements for training of workers, designing of carpets and marketing of the products, Sarkar told.
As of now, around 300 women weave carpets in the village as members of Malgaon Handloom Cluster Development Society, formed in 2009. The society’s president Siddique Hossain said five European experts were recently brought to Malgaon by a Kolkata-based export organisation and they were highly impressed with the quality of carpets weaved there.
They said there would be no problem in marketing the carpets of Malgaon in the West, Hossain said, adding that if the government takes proper care of the industry here, the district could become the Varanasi of West Bengal. Around 40 carpets of various sizes are made in Malgaon in a month and their estimated total price is Rs 6 lakh, he said.
But how did Baranasi carpets make inroads into Malgaon and earned the place its nick name ‘Carpet Gram’? It was the effort of Abu Taher, a resident of Malgaon who took interest in carpet weaving during a visit to Varanasi in 1978 and brought the technical knowledge back to his village.
By 1985-86, he passed on the acquired knowledge to the children of Malgaon, though there was hardly any market for these carpets in the area. Taher said, “We used to bring orders and raw materials from Varanasi and take the final products there for sale. This arrangement was leaving us with almost no profit.”
To top that, when the labour department found out that children were being employed in the industry, they stopped the practice. Soon after, those children were sent to school and industry faced a major setback, he said.
Later in 2009, women of self-help groups were trained in the art and Malgaon Handloom Cluster Development Society was formed. The District Industries Centre now makes arrangements to send these carpets to various handicraft fairs across the country fetching modest income for the weavers sometimes, Taher added.