Festival of creativity – Kolkata Handicraft Expo 2013-2014

Converting skilful handicraft artisans of the state into entrepreneurs is what the state government is trying to achieve through cohesion business and art, says Dr Amit Mitra, Minister-in-Charge, finance and excise department, Government of West Bengal, while inaugurating the West Bengal State Handicrafts Expo 2013-2014
3000 artisans from different parts of the state like Hooghly, Nadia, Bankura, Darjeeling, Murshidabad are participating in this handicraft fair. A separate pavilion has been allocated to Jangalmahal.
Mr Swapan Debnath, Minister-of-state, Micro and small-scale industries and textiles department informs that the artisans participating in this fair will be paid Rs 75 per day to cover their expenses. However, as claimed by the artisans, they don’t receive this money on day to day basis or soon after the fair gets over. The artisans complain off delay in payment.
Mr Rajiv Sinha, principal secretary, micro and small scale enterprises, laments the absence of a ‘Directorate of Handicraft’¬ a separate entity in the department, however,  the state government is focusing on bringing a policy which will regulate and organize the handicraft industry.
Handicraft is one of the few things that the state of West Bengal is famous all over the world and the artisans from this state has been participating in various international and national fairs where their handicrafts have been lauded, says Dr Mitra.
Dr Mitra further highlights that the state government plans to increase the bank credit for artisans who had already set up their business, training will be imparted about how to market products, apply for loan, file tax.
The artisans have a different say though. They have to run from pillar to post to get the bank loan sanctioned. Financial support, as alleged by the artisans from remote parts of the state, has not been provided to support their business and hence they are mostly out of work during most part of the year. Handicrafts from this state decorate the shops of cities in Europe, US, China and elsewhere. Art is valued , unfortunately artisans are still not. Beautiful Jewelry like bangles, ear rings made of wheat, bamboo, seeds have been put on display. Each of the creation showcases the unique talent of the hands of the creator. An entire Indian village has been created out of clay. Idols of Gods and Goddess made of Thermocol beautify the stalls of the artists who came all the from remote parts of the state to put their creations on display.
With the soaring prices of the raw materials like bamboo, colours and equipments, the artisans find it difficult to make their business survive and, as they claim, participation in a few fairs won’t help their business thrive.
“We want a better life for themselves and for our children which can be achieved only if the state government keeps up to their promises and arrange for their children’s education, provide financial support to them and their business” says Minoti Biswas, an artisan from Nadia

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Indo-Bangla Joint Retreat at Petrapole-Benapole border…

Petrapole-Benapole : The international relation between India and Bangladesh remains stable notwithstanding the ongoing political unrest in Bangladesh says  Mr Sushilkumar Shinde, Union home minister of India while inaugurating the very first ‘Retreat Ceremony’ of Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) at Petrapole-Benapole border along with Dr Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir, home minister of Bangladesh.

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Remarkable steps have been taken by the government of Bangladesh to combat terrorism, organised crime and drug trafficking across the border, points out Mr Shinde while referring to India’s security concerns arising out of various insurgent groups operating against India.
Reduced loss of lives along the border area shows that the co-ordination between BSF and BGB is at all time high and both the border guarding forces share welfare activities to benefit both the countries, comments Mr Shinde.
The sacrifice and co-operation of the Indian people for the freedom fight of Bangladesh against Pakistan army hold a glorious place in the history of Bangladesh says Dr Alamgir. He further adds that this ceremony will start over a new chapter of friendship between India and Bangladesh.

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Mr Shinde, however, says India needs to remain cautious all the time as another neighbouring country is playing an active role in infiltrating terrorists inside the country.
Mr Shinde and Dr Alamgir both insisted on the enhanced love and mutual understanding between the two such friendly nations sharing common heritage, cultural and linguistic bond.

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This event proved again that India remains committed and undisturbed towards the principle of Sarbadharma Samabhav insists Mr Shinde

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The school students of both the nations marked the ceremony with colourful and brilliant performances. The students showcased their talent through dance and songs penned down by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam.

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Differently abled youth fight social and physical challenges through daring expeditions….

Physically and economically challenged youth of the city find a platform to demonstrate their hidden skills which otherwise go unnoticed, through various activities conducted by Kolkata Sukriti Foundation (KSF), a city based NGO. A ray of hope is instilled in their daily lives which otherwise are mostly full of struggle and pain.

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Kolkata Sukriti Foundation was started in 2005 and since its inception it has focused on reaching out the unreached through the platform of Television and hence the term ENGO ~ electronic NGO is coined by Mr Abhijit Dasgupta, an eminent documentary filmmaker and secretary of KSF, to refer to the organisation which has won several international accolades.There is no paid field force for the organisation. 

Instigating and showcasing the hidden talent of those people who suffer from hearing, speech and visual impairment and those who have lost their upper or lower limbs drive the project of  ‘ Beyond Belief ‘. In this project such differently abled youth are taken for an expedition to places where even people without physical disability wouldn’t dare.

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8 such people will take part in ‘Canoe and Kayak’ in January next year. They will row at least 300 kms , in the high seas between Kolkata and Paradip, in 4 days with a crocodile infested stretch of 100 kms. 

The expeditions are converted into documentaries and offered free to different TV channels for telecast to create awareness.

Bhola Dalui, a physically challenged man who now works as a swimming instructor at a swimming club in the city, has taken part in all the expeditions organised by ‘Beyond Belief’, feels that though the expeditions were difficult but he never impossible to succeed in the mission and it made him feel that he is differently abled and not ‘disabled’. 

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62 kids who come from the lowest stratum of the society with no financial means to achieve proper education and training comprise the project of “Gold Underground”. KSF emphasizes on project-based, event-based education rather than a curriculum which gives degrees but not knowledge, says Mr Dasgupta who further stresses on the need for the education system to change with time.

Young people, physically or economically challenged or both, are taught to sing by noted singer Rupam Islam who is also a member of the NGO. They have choreographed on stage that left the spectators mesmerized. Lessons on team-building, discipline, relying on each other are imparted to evolve them into national asset.

Parents of those children, however, vehemently oppose the idea of their children getting involved with such activities instead of earning for the family. It has been quite a task for KSF to convince the parents.

A research on the prevalence of HIV+ and ignorance about it was conducted by KSF. They were startled to discover that students of secondary classes of English medium schools frequent brothels without proper knowledge of STDs, HIV+ and the need to use protection.

KSF visited 100 schools to educate them about HIV, ways to prevent it and encouraged students to write stories that were later selected and televised.

A muslim girls school in Howrah, surprisingly, allowed the volunteers of KSF to campaign in the school on the rising menace of HIV+ cases, ways to prevent it and encoraged student to write stories. Nine stories were produced by the girls of which some were selected and televised.

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Tanushree Dasgupta Breast Cancer Trust along with KSF works towards bringing smile on the faces of children suffering from cancer. Members and volunteers visit such patients at pediatric wards of hospitals and show them magic, sing for them,decorate their rooms with cartoons made by Chandi Lahiri and his daughter.

Treatments of 36 poor women suffering from breast cancer who cannot afford treatment are sponsored by KSF too. 

Lack of fund, however, is posing a major threat to the philanthropic work carried out by the NGO but the success stories like the one of Bhola Dalui  give the impetus to carry on amidst adversities.