West Bengal has an extremely rich cultural heritage in handicrafts and handloom that was in danger of languishing when PIDT began its work there. For the last 26 years, the government of West Bengal has been under the control of the communist party, which has overseen very successful land reform policy implementation and substantial spread of education. However, party cadres are present in every village and enjoy high positions of power, making grassroots action, without their consultation and support, difficult. Crafts persons had been marginalized as they were unable to compete with the subsidies given to government favoured industry. As their services were considered dispensable, they had not been unionized.

So, PIDT focused on working with and organizing crafts groups in the area to revitalize traditional skills and introduce the concept of market-oriented design to give renewed relevance to the craftwork. PIDT has set up a marketing venue for handicrafts that is gaining fame in East India, where it sells and promotes products from 52 crafts organizations from West Bengal and around the country.

While Sanhati Bipani caters to the wide existing middle class market, rather than aiming towards export or the urban elite, continued effort is made to introduce new designs and value-added products that meet consumer demand so that the craft industry remains economically
viable and sustainable for its workers. Back