Grassroots Reachout & Networking in India on Trade & Economics (GRANITE)

West Bengal State-level Workshop
Burdwan, West Bengal, September 12, 2005

CUTS Calcutta Resource Centre (CUTS-CRC) organised the West Bengal State-level Workshop under the GRANITE project, at Burdwan, West Bengal on September 12, 2005. The session started with the welcome address by Purnananda Roy, Durgapur Indira Pragati Society (DIPS) and introduction of CUTS by Mita Dutta. This was followed by addresses from Debashish Bose, Additional District Magistrate (Development) and Ashis Chakraborty, Additional District Magistrate (Social Welfare). The inaugural session came to an end by keynote address delivered by Uday Shankar Sarkar, Sabhadhipati, Burdwan Zilla Parisad.

Among other distinguished guests, there were C D Lama, Director, State Land Use Board, West Bengal and Sandip Sarkar, Assiatant Director (Handloom & Textiles), Burdwan Division, Directorate of Handloom & Textiles, Government of West Bengal. The first half was informative. Tathagata Lahiri of CUTS-CRC gave a brief description of the GRANITE project, while Dalia Dey of CUTS-CRC portrayed an outline of World Trade Organisation (WTO) and its functions. Bipul Chatterjee, Director, CUTS-CITEE provided a vivid picture of the impact of international trade agreements on the economic reforms of the country as well as on the state economy. In the second half, the participants were divided into four groups to discuss the livelihood concerns associated with textiles and agricultural sector. At the end, each group presented their recommendations related to these two sectors before the house.

The meeting was held in collaboration with DIPS, a local civil society organisation (CSO) from Burdwan district. More than 50 participants from all over the state attended the meeting. The participants were representatives of government, CSOs, representatives from the research organisations, faculties from universities and the media.


The prime objective was to provide a platform to the direct and indirect stakeholders of agriculture and textile fields in West Bengal to discuss their livelihood concerns and to access how these are related to the international trade agreements. They also brought forward some recommendations for the state as well as national level policy makers.

Key addresses in the inaugural session

Debasish Bose, Additional District Magistrate (Development)

  • congratulated CUTS for GRANITE initiative. He said that such workshops would help to clarify the concept of globalisation and WTO and their impact on our domestic economy.
  • speaking on WTO agreements, stated that we should try to understand how to utilise these in favour of grassroots economic development. He pointed out the special role of CSOs and the media to put forward a clear picture of globalisation and WTO in front of the common people.
  • speaking about the consequences of an open economy, he mentioned that now-a-days the international brands are available even at the local village markets. Initiatives should also be taken to educate the local small entrepreneurs on these issues to make them cautious about the chances of getting bowled out in price competition by the Multinational Corporations (MNCs).

Ashis Chakraborty, Additional District Magistrate (Social Welfare)

  • highlighted the lack of complete and undistorted information on globalisation and WTO among common man. He emphasised that we should not accept or reject these agreements without a debate on their far-reaching implications. The welfare aspects of these agreements also should get a priority along with the financial benefits it may bring for a country.
  • he put up the importance of the role of CSOs to demystify the issues in favour of common man and portray the true picture. Along with the CSOs, he also welcomed the media to take a lead role in this process.

Uday Shankar Sarkar, Sabhadhipati, Burdwan Zilla Parisad

  • pointed out the influence of the political agenda of the ruling party on the economic decisions of a country. Along with this he narrated some relevant events, which have contributed to the journey from General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) till the formation of WTO in 1995. He also cautioned about some advantages, the developed countries have exceeded the developing countries, like India in trade negotiations. In this regard, he also drew the attention towards non-trade barriers due to which the products from the developing countries sometimes are not getting international market access.
  • spoke of the advantages that the country has in the international market. The availability of favourable geographical conditions for various economic activities within the country can be one of the important resources that India can rely upon. He expressed faith on innovative potential of the Indians, which they are exhibiting in all spheres both within and outside the country.
  • advised the participants to keep their eyes open and analyse critically the national policies and the international agreements.

The First Session

The first session was informative. The speakers were Tathagata Lahiri and Dalia Dey, CUTS-CRC and Bipul Chatterjee, Director, CUTS-CITEE.

Dalia Dey, CUTS-CRC

  • portrayed a vivid picture of globalisation and in that context presented the structure and functions of WTO. She started with the genesis of WTO and discussed some of the rules that the member countries should abide by while carrying out bilateral or multilateral trade negotiations. The issues like Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) also got special emphasis in the course of discussion.
  • explained the process of carrying out trade negotiations under WTO, in detail. Also highlights the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) and Agreement on Textiles & Clothing (ATC), which are the two focal areas under GRANITE project. Points like reduction of subsidies in agriculture in different phases and abolition of quota in textiles & clothing (T&C) has gained the attention.

Bipul Chatterjee, Director, CUTS-CITEE

  • Narrated the impact of WTO on the state economy and tried to clarify certain myths associated with the WTO agreements. He once again reminded participants the responsibility of CSOs in putting up the undistorted view of these agreements in front of the general people and pointed out the importance of the role of media in this regard. He identified Right to Information Act as the most powerful tool, which the CSOs should excise properly for advocating pro poor changes of the national and state policies.
  • Speaking on reforms, he firstly pointed out the issue of land reforms in West Bengal and discussed how land reforms have changed the lives of small and marginal farmers in West Bengal.
  • West Bengal has developed in the field of agriculture. But lack of infrastructure, cold storages and post harvest technologies should be looked into for standing upright in the competition. Diversified use of the agricultural commodities should be taken up also according to the change in consumer choices.
  • However, in case of industries the state is still lagging far behind. New agro-based industries should be established and new avenues explored, keeping in mind, the resent demand both in domestic and international market, which, in turn, will contribute to achieve the targeted level of growth for the state.
  • Under the agreement on TRIPs, the geographical indication can be exploited which can lead to the economic benefit of the poor artisans and farmers of our state. He stressed that the government should take initiative on this line to protect the indigenous traditional knowledge and explore marketing channels for these items.

The Second Session

In the post lunch session the speakers were C D Lama, Director, State Land Use Board, and Sandip Sarkar, Assistant Director, Handloom Textile Department, Government of West Bengal. Then the participants were divided into four groups to discuss on the following issues:

  1. a) Marketing – A major problem in handloom sector
  2. b) Volatility of the agricultural commodity markets
  3. c) The role of banks in agricultural sector in West Bengal
  4. d) Role of Self Help Groups (SHGs) in Agriculture Market

The recommendation came out from the discussions was presented before the house. Nabinananda Sen of University of Calcutta chaired the session on presentation of group discussions.

C D Lama, Director, State Land Use Board

  • pointed out that competition has regulated the price of telephone service and even the commons can get connectivity at a nominal price. This communication medium should be utilised properly to disseminate information so that the ultimate producers could know the prices prevailing in the distant markets.
  • stated that the domestic policies should be reviewed to earn maximum benefit from the international economic/trade agreements. This way the growth of the nation could be ensured.
  • stressed that we should compete in the international market with our existent strengths. Labour being cheap here, we should use this skilfully to reap profit from the international market. She supported the liberalisation but with safety nets.

S Sarkar, Deputy Director, Handloom & Textile

  • compared the handloom and the power loom products on the basis of designs and affordability. He stated that the demand for saree has gone down among women, which is one of the prime reasons for downfall of the handloom sector.
  • although the computer-aided designing centres have started in various districts but the benefits of the centres are yet to percolate to the ultimate producers.
  • stressed on the improvement on research and development in this sector, which can help in diversification of the product. He discussed the role of Handloom Export Promotion Council and textile fares in marketing products. As a piece of information to the participants he also mentioned the role of Apparel Export Promotion Council, which has its head office at Salt Lake in Kolkata.
  • the competitive attitude should be generated among the indigenous entrepreneurs. They should try to produce good quality at a reasonable cost.

Highlights of Group Discussions

The recommendations of the group on Textile are as follows:

  • The factors those are responsible for supply of the quality handloom products by the weavers at a stipulated time to the market should be taken care of by the administration. The external hindrances posed due to the administrative problems sometimes are dampening the spirit of the artisans to produce good products.
  • The supply of handloom products should be demand driven.
  • New designs should be brought into for boosting up sales. Even the traditional products should have all the possible variations within it.
  • The training for packaging, marketing etc. should be provided along with the training on weaving.
  • The government support should be extended for research and development of the sector.

The recommendations of the groups on agriculture were as follows:

  • The crop sequence should be changed and modified. The farmers should act collectively in groups and plan for the crops to be sown. Bio farming should be revived once again.
  • Local storage facilities through the cooperative societies, especially modern facilities for storing fruits should be available for the farmers.
  • Provision should be there for soil testing which would help farmers to decide upon the appropriate farming technology which, in turn, would lead to low cost of production.
  • Loan facilities should be institutionalised and processing formalities should be simpler. The banks should take initiative to make farmers aware about the intricacies of various schemes available.
  • The crop insurance procedure should be made simpler so that farmers can easily insure their crops.
  • The local market should be targeted first for the sale of products. If the price is going down in the local market then the group should collectively look for information in other markets and the transportation of crops should be done on collective basis.
  • The farmers should also look for branding their products in name of the farmers’ groups. The credibility of the group should be built among the consumers.


In his concluding remarks, Nabinananda Sen said that bio-farming is being carried out in large scale even in the developed countries of the world. Bio-farming can reduce the cost of farming. This simultaneously will reduce the dependency of the farmers on the expensive agricultural input market thereby increasing their profit margins. He pointed out that the branding of products along with the quality certification is not practiced in large scale in our country although we need it urgently for protection of our indigenous techniques and products. In case of textile also the branding is essential to ensure percolation of trade profits to the ultimate producers.