A Brief on the Craft Society of Manipur  - Sent By L.IBOTOMBI
               In yeoman's service of state craft
               Gin Gangte
               (Oriental Times : 7-21 January, 1999)

               The first national leader to have noticed the skills and talent of craftsmanship
               of Manipur was none other than the first President of free India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
               It was on his visit to Imphal the State capital in 1952 that he was totally touched by
               the skilful indigenous products of the State. His admiration, appreciation and vision left
               a big impression in the minds of the people which eventually led to the establishment of
               the Crafts Society of Manipur (CSM) in the late 80s. After  decade of struggle for
               upliftment and promotion of handicrafts in Manipur, the society has earned the
               distinction of a model NGO, demonstrating worth emulate example for others. As
               of today, the society  needs no introduction  in the whole North-Eastern region of India.

               In a booklet entitled The Craftsmanship of Manipur published by the society, the
               introductory passage thus reads --- "Nestled in a valley among the hills of the eastern
               Himalayas,for above the sea level with nature's pristine glory, Manipur's mythological
               concepts of creation is revealed in her famous folk dances and crafts. Handlooms and
               handicrafts is a heritage of Manipur, almost every  household owns a loom
               ---- womenfolk alone being the weavers. The handloom industry is the largest
               cottage industry in the State. The handicrafts sector also enjoys a very special place in
               Manipuri society. Manipuri pottery craft is world famous as it is crafted without any potter's
               wheel. The beautiful pieces of cane and bamboo furniture, Manipuri dolls, etc. give an
                aesthetic feeling to the products of Manipur."

               In a state where corruption is rampant at all levels, the efforts taken by the
               Society for the development of local industry is commendable. Unlike hundreds of other
               NGOs, which are one-man profit-making units, the CSM is managed by a collective people's
               leadership who are committed to the cause of promotion of crafts in the State. As Kamesh
               Salam, chief functionary of the society puts it, "we believe in collective efforts." Mr. Salam is the
               only non-official member of the All India Handicrafts Board,Ministry of Textile from the whole
               Eastern region.

               The society aimed at the promotion of Manipuri crafts with a social aspect. The
               primary objectives of  the society include:

               1) Providing raw materials, marketing of finished products: The society helps
               the craftspersons by providing raw materials at reasonable price and has direct interaction with
               the customers about their products.

               2) Developmental and promotional schemes for craftspersons: The Crafts Society
               of Manipur has put in a lot of work in implementation of the developmental and promotional
               schemes for craftspersons, like Craft Development Centre (CDC), Training Programme,
               seminar, workshop, etc., and also exploring avenues for handicraft products worldwide.

               3) Preservation and promotion of the rare exquisite crafts of Manipur: There are
               some crafts in Manipur  which may be losing their ground in commercial world and need
               exclusive attention as they are symbolic in its originality. The society takes interest in
                preservation  and promotion of  such Manipuri crafts.

               4) Research and product development: The responsibilities of the CSM do not
               finish by providing raw materials, providing marketing facilities and implementation of certain
               promotional schemes only. The society keeps on doing research and documentation of different
               forms and aspects of the crafts and the methods and techniques of local craftsmanship.

               5) Developmental programmes/schemes for unemployed youth and women: This is one
               of the most important roles played by the society in Manipur by launching various
               developmental programmes/schemes among the unemployed youth and women of the rural and
               urban areas.

               During a short span of its existence, the society has taken up various measures
               for the development and preservation of crafts in the State. In order to give clear exposure to the
               artisans and craftspersons from the whole North-Eastern region, the society has successfully
               organised 'North East Crafts Festival' for consecutive three years at Dilli Haat in New Delhi.

               "The feedback we got from the festivals is enormous," commented Kamesh Salam,
               who is the brain behind in organising such festivals. Now, people from abroad placed orders for
               our products, he said.

               Mr. Salam, while talking to this correspondent has strongly advocated the
               improvement of technology used in making of the various products. "We are still using the
               technique that was used 50 years ago," he said. Modernisation of technology, couple with
               availability of marketing for finished goods would certainly improve the condition of
               craftsmanship in the region. Mr. Salam proudly declared that, "as soon as we are endorsed with
               modern technology, no one can compete us." He goes on to explain that the North-East is
               abundantly blessed by natural products like bamboo, wood, silk, muga, etc. are the asset
               of the region.

               Focussing his mission towards the next millennium, Mr. Salam said that the CSM
               is going to bring out quarterly magazine called 'Crafts update" by February 1999. It is hoped that
               the society would continue to play a model role even in the midst of insurgency and abysmally
               low attention from the Government, which are due to be overcome.