Jamdani revival needs more issues shored up

AFTER decades of negligence, the government has recently taken initiatives to revive the much-treasured cultural heritage of jamdani. Earlier in 2016, the Department of Patents, Designs and Trademarks certified it as Bangladesh’s first geographical indication product and authorised 66 weavers to use the tag for commercial purposes. To foster a steady growth of the jamdani industry, the government has taken yet another commendable step by waiving duty on the import of two types of metallic yarns crucial for jamdani production. The National Board of Revenue on March 19 declared the waiver that reduced the total duty incidence to only around 17 per cent. Members of the Bangladesh Jamdani Manufacturers and Exporters’ Association welcomed the move as it would reduce the cost of production by 20 per cent, enabling more weavers to continue with their involvement in the industry.
Undoubtedly, the growing attention of the government helped to revive the the jamdani industry. Compared with 1,600 Jamdani weavers in 2000, the number in 2013 was around 15,000. In the same year, the jamdani industry used about 15,500 weaving units. Since 1992, Bangladesh has been exporting jamdani sari exported to India, the United States, Dubai, England and other countries. The government incentives have helped to revive the tradition and boosted the industry’s growth but the weavers who produce this delicate cotton do not enjoy the fruits of tbe economic benefits. Without an easy-term, low-interest loan service, it is hard for grass-root weavers to take advantage of the economic stimulus. The industry treated them merely as labourers; their artisanry and knowledge are not valued. Media reports say the weavers often get cheated out of profit while the businesspeople who sell it on the local and international market make huge profits. There are also reports that the smuggling of jamdani sari to India has immensely affected the market. Since the production of jamdani is very unique and intricately linked with the local culture and ecology, economic benefits alone cannot ensure a sustainable revival of the industry. Today, Narayanganj, specifically a village in Rupganj called Rupshi, is a hub of jamdani weaving and supply. This is where it is loomed, as the River Sitalakhya is nearby and abundant water is a requisite for processing the cotton needed to make jamdani. In addition to duty waivers, the government needs to protect the ecology and provide other social supports for the survival of the weaver community.
The traditional handloom industry is an untapped economic opportunity for Bangladesh. Considering the export earnings from jamdani, the government must design a comprehensive plan that, in addition to financial incentives, will also protect social and ecological environment needed for the growth of the industry. A market monitoring mechanism must be there to protect the weavers from unfair competition on the local and international market.
Source: http://www.newagebd.net

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