India

Musical boost for Tibetan carpets in Arunachal Pradesh

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An investment in a music system may power the journey of a carpet-weaving centre in Arunachal Pradesh from gloom to a GI (geographical indication) boom.

Floor and wall carpets have been the unique selling point for the Choephelling Cooperative Society since it was established in 1975 by Tibetan refugees on the outskirts of Miao, a subdivisional headquarters in Changlang district.

But productivity slumped after more than four decades and the society was finding it hard to replace the ageing weavers with younger, faster ones. Reasons: the carpet unit and its wooden looms were falling apart and a poor lighting system was affecting the eyesight of the weavers.

Administration initiative

The scenario changed after the Changlang district administration undertook a ₹15-lakh project to overhaul the carpet-weaving centre a few months ago.

“The old looms were non-adjustable. For carpets of different sizes, they had to dismantle a loom and reinstall it, wasting a day in the process. The weavers also had to sit on a low wooden block, bend and stand for different stages of work on a carpet,” said Sunny K. Singh, Changlang’s Deputy Commissioner.

“We replaced the old looms with 30 adjustable third-generation metal looms and provided ergonomic seats that are adjustable to four heights, thus eliminating bending and standing. The interiors were redone to make them cooler and airier while soothing ceiling lights were provided for better illumination,” he said.

The game changer was a music system worth ₹68,000. It plays a range of Tibetan and popular songs, often in sync with the movement of the weavers’ hands and fingers.

“The ambience of the unit with music wafting in the air has had a huge impact on the weavers. They stay behind for eight-nine hours now against five hours at the most earlier. The output has increased significantly, and most importantly, young girls and boys are finding carpet-making a profession worth pursuing,” said Tenzin Rabjor, the secretary of the cooperative society. At least five young women joined the centre in the past couple of months, he said.

Carpets the mainstay

Carpet-weaving is one of the 14 activities of the Choephelling Cooperative Society run by some 2,600 Tibetan refugees from the settlement straddling 2,000 acres. The society is self-sustaining, handling almost everything from banking to farming, including running a small tea garden in the settlement.

The bulk of the ₹7-crore revenue the society, which also runs a hotel in Assam’s Tinsukia town, generates is from carpets. Mr. Rabjor hopes the new-look unit will add to the revenue.

Apart from providing infrastructure support to the society, the district administration has tied up with the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development to fast-track the process of earning the GI tag for the society’s products branded as Miao Carpets.

“We are launching a website for enabling online marketing of these carpets that are also custom-made,” Mr. Singh said.

The settlement near Miao is the third for some 1,400 refugees who had fled Tibet along with the 14th Dalai Lama after the Chinese occupation in 1959. They had been temporarily settled at two places earlier.

About 600 refugees from the settlement have migrated to Canada while 400 have been absorbed in a special unit of the armed forces in India.

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