Jute fibre is making a comeback in new and innovative ways
Dreams in jute
JUTE is in. Elegant wall coverings and curtains, wall and pot hangings, trendy shopping and handbags, colourful bead curtains, attractive lampshades, handy tablemats and coasters. The Phulbari Handicrafts Cooperative Industrial Society Ltd (PHCIS), an ngo based in West Bengal, makes and markets these products made of stuff conventionally used to manufacture carpet backing and gunny bags.
"We started weaving them 3 years ago, when the Ramkrishna Mission in Howrah extended its support to us," says the PHCIS's Balaram Sarkar. The organisation recently participated in the Gram Shree Mela in Delhi -- an annual fair organised by the Council for the Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology, an outlet for craftspersons and NGOS. Sarkar says, "Today, we have 40 big and 43 small handlooms on which we train 180 women from 10 villages in the area." The Calcutta-based Jute Manufacturers Development Council (JDMC) displays these products in its showroom, Sonali.
The jute programme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which started 2 years ago in collaboration with the Indian government, gave a much-needed impetus to efforts to diversify the range of jute goods. A network of 16 research stations and a marketing organisation was established.
"The UNDP programme is concerned with the overall development of the jute sector, from cultivation to marketing," says L V Saptharishi, UNDP national programme manager. "We not only coordinate the r&d activities of various organisations but also provide technical knowhow to the industry." The programme extends support to member entrepreneurs, traders, exporters and NGOS.
The Jute Agricultural Research Institute, through its chain of 16 intensive-cultivation blocks in the 5 major jute-producing states of West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, is trying to improve cultivation methods, with the ultimate goal of developing high-value varieties of the fibre.
The Jute Technology Research Laboratories (JTRL) of Calcutta develops machinery to process and manufacture jute. It is planning to set up jute-based paper mills which would use fibre, sticks, paste and waste to manufacture different grades of paper, including the basic newsprint. The South India Textile Research Association of Coimbatore has developed jute-processing and cotton-blending machines for spinning yarn. The technology has been successfully adopted by the local National Textile Corporation mill to produce finely blended fabrics.
The Khadi and Village Industry Commission (KVIC) is working with small entrepreneurs and artisans. It markets cotton- and wool-blended jute articles like tablemats, slingbags, dusters and blankets.
Says Sri Nath of the Delhi branch of the jmdc, "The marketing of new jute fibres and products, both in the country and abroad, is as important as their development." The jmdc has branches in Hyderabad and Madras and showrooms in Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi, Madras, Hyderabad and Bhubaneshwar. In Bihar, the Jute Crafts Cooperative Marketing Union Ltd, a voluntary organisation, helps the local artisans market their products.
The jtrl, the Institute of Jute Technology, the Multi Disciplinary Trading Centre of the kvic in Calcutta and the psg College of Technology in Coimbatore have been organising regular training courses for weavers and craftspersons.
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