GUWAHATI, June 15 � In a development that would adversely affect the growth of the North-east's handloom sector, the Weaving Service Centre in Guwahati, functioning under the Development Commissioner for Handlooms, New Delhi, faces an uncertain future as a move is on to get its zonal functions shifted to Kolkata.
Set up in 1978 as an �A� centre headed by a director to cater to the needs of the weavers of Assam and other north-eastern States, the mandate of the office got extended in 1985 with the formation of the East Zone office in Guwahati to cover regions like Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, and Bhagalpur, among others.
Sources said that as the first step to get the zonal functions shifted to Kolkata, the Development Commissioner - without any discussion with the State authorities and without issuance of notification - transferred the zonal director from Guwahati to Kolkata. The zonal director has already joined the Kolkata office and he will exercise the functions of the zonal office from Kolkata itself.
As per official data, Assam alone has 3,000 handloom primary cooperative societies � the highest in the country � as against West Bengal's 600. The other north-eastern States, too, have a large number of such primary cooperative societies.
Sources said that the shifting of the zonal office to Kolkata would jeopardize the future of lakhs of weavers of the North-east and throttle the growth of the region's fledgling handloom sector. Poor artisans hailing from remote areas of the region will find it impossible to visit the Kolkata office, and the interests of the North-east would be best served by having the zonal office in Guwahati, sources reasoned.
Earlier in 1986, there was a similar move to shift the zonal office to Kolkata but it was thwarted due to timely intervention by the State Government, and the office was retained in Guwahati. The then Union Minister for Textile, Md Khurshid Alam Khan had issued a directive to the effect that the office would remain in Guwahati.
In 2000, a conference of the handloom ministers of the north-eastern States had decided to upgrade the Weaving Service Centre into the zonal office for the Eastern Zone and also to set up a Regional Design Centre. Unfortunately, the Government of India is yet to initiate any measures to set up the design centre.