Updated 21 Jul 2022, 5:12 am
It is not just about machine made handloom replicas from outside the state taking over the handloom market in Imphal, but of a challenge to the authenticity of Manipur’s famed handloom heritage and the loss of means of livelihood for thousands of local weavers and a traditional knowledge system passed down the centuries.
We might have reservations with the way students organisations based in the state seized the machine produced replicas from the market and disposed of them in a bonfire. However, we support the spirit behind the movement for preserving the handloom heritage and the livelihood issues of local weavers and handloom practitioners. It is for the state government and its various agencies to monitor and check this invasion of handloom replicas in our markets as it is against the mandate of protecting, preserving and promoting our handloom products.
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The Manipur Handloom & Handicrafts Development Corporation (MHHDC) and the Directorate of Handlooms and Textiles were specifically instituted for the said purpose. Through decades, special weavers had been celebrated with awards and recognition by both the Centre and the state government besides several schemes and grants to promote the handloom industry in the state.
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We all know, handloom products of Manipur have a big market in other states of India and abroad as well. The state government and the Corporation had opened retail outlets in New Delhi and some other cities and even abroad in a bid to showcase the distinctive handloom products of Manipur.
But, that is only one part of the promotion aspect. Promotion is also about the right handloom product reaching customers and patrons and that cheap imitation products might tarnish the goodwill and reputation of Manipur handloom products. Also, it is the responsibility of the Handloom Directorate and Corporation to ensure that the investment of lakhs of rupees which had gone into grants and subsidies to weavers and handloom clusters does not go elsewhere, besides protecting the market of genuine handloom products from fakes and imitations so as to ensure the livelihood issues of the ordinary weavers and handloom workers of the state.
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As we understand, the Manipuri Handloom imitation products had been in the market in Assam and other states years before it made its entry into the state, and state authorities had either ignored the threat or they were in connivance with the big boys of handloom imitation. It was only when powerful pressure groups like the student organisations fingered and took direct action that they took notice and tried to explain away their shortcomings and forgotten responsibilities.
Manipur has its presence in Geographical Indication (GI) of unique textile products like Saphee Lanphee, Wangkhei Phee and Moirang Phee. GIs enhance the reputation and value of local products and support local businesses. All producers operating in a geographical area covered by a GI and that comply with the GI's standards of production can benefit from a registered GI.
GIs gives us a better idea of the quality, characteristics and origin of the products we buy and tells us how the goods are produced. It also gives us a taste of the local traditions surrounding them. In addition to increasing the value of local products, GIs also prevent fraudulent uses of GI-denominated products. As IP rights, GIs provide protection against acts of misappropriation and unfair competition.'
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Producers have an exclusive right to use the GI and to prevent its use by third parties whose products do not originate from the same geographical area or do not conform to the certified standards of production. Well, that is about unique products. What about the handloom products meant for everyday use like Khudei, Phanek, Phadi or local towels?
In fact, it is this everyday item the outside companies are striving to gain control of. So, the time has come for Handloom officials to apply their mind on how to protect, preserve and promote these everyday handloom items.
First published:20 Jul 2022, 6:45 pm
manipur handloomsManipur handicraftshandloom heritageHandloom weaversGI tags