An investment in a music system can propel the journey of a carpet weaving center in Arunachal Pradesh from gloom to a GI (geographical indication) boom.
Floor and wall mats have been the sole selling point of the Choephelling Cooperative Society since it was founded in 1975 by Tibetan refugees on the outskirts of Miao, a subdivisional headquarters in Changlang District.
But productivity plummeted after more than four decades, and the company struggled to replace aging weavers with younger, faster weavers. Reasons: the rug unit and its wooden looms were falling apart and a poor lighting system was affecting the weavers’ view.
The scenario changed after the Changlang district administration embarked on a ₹15 lakh project to overhaul the carpet weaving center a few months ago.
“The old looms were not adjustable. For rugs 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 the different stages of working on a rug,” said Sunny K. Singh, deputy commissioner of Changlang.
“We replaced the old looms with 30 third-generation adjustable metal looms and provided four-height adjustable ergonomic seats, eliminating bending and standing. The interiors have been redone to make them cooler and airier, while soothing overhead lights have been provided for better lighting,” 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 vibe of the unit with music floating through the air had a huge impact on the weavers. They stay eight to nine hours now against a maximum of five hours earlier. Production has increased significantly and, more importantly, young girls and boys are finding carpet making a profession worth pursuing,” said Tenzin Rabjor, Secretary of the Cooperative Society. At least five young women have joined the center in the past two months, he said.
The pillar carpets
Carpet weaving is one of 14 activities of the Choephelling Cooperative Society run by some 2,600 Tibetan refugees in the settlement which spans 2,000 acres. The society is self-sufficient, handling almost everything from banking to farming, including running a small tea garden in the settlement.
Most of the £7billion revenue the company, which also runs a hotel in the Assam town of Tinsukia, comes from carpets. Mr. Rabjor hopes the new unit will boost revenue.
In addition to providing infrastructural support to the company, the district administration has partnered with the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development to expedite the process of obtaining the GI label for the company’s products. under the Miao Carpets brand.
“We are launching a website to enable online marketing of these rugs which are also custom made,” Mr Singh said.
The settlement near Miao is the third for some 1,400 refugees who fled Tibet with the 14th Dalai Lama after the Chinese occupation in 1959. They had been temporarily settled in two places before.
About 600 refugees from the colony emigrated to Canada while 400 were integrated into a special unit of the armed forces in India.