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    Dated : Saturday, February 11, 2017

This is some

Through Risha’s Spectacles: Rendition of Traditional & Contemporary Designs

Risha Dutta, a young and talented fashion designer from Guwahati, has quite ably infused the flavour of the north east in her innovative collections. Her brand, “Risha’s” is quite popular in India and across the globe. This 36 year old ambitious lass has experimented with a range of fabrics, especially the silk of Assam. She has a pair of magical spectacles that lets her look at the culture and traditions, and  fashion in a different way. Her designs mirror the soul of northeastern India, to a larger extent. Our team got in touch with this versatile designer to know about her story. Here it is.

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and brought up in Guwahati, Assam. I feel very happy for being part a of this cultural hub of North Eastern States of India. What I am, is all because of my mother, Mrs Mira Deka; my father, late Prafulla Ch Deka; my family; and my hubby, Mr Arnab Sekhar Dutta. During my childhood, I was very keen in painting, fabric work, knitting and all of this led me to this glittering world of fashion and textile designing.

Since you are born and brought up in Assam, how would you describe the impact of your native place on your learning experience?

North eastern India has always allured and amazed me equally in manifold ways. My formal education in Fashion, Textile Designing, and Merchandising was in Delhi. However, my culture has always been an imbibed element in my blood.

The plethora of traditional attires and the colours of the regional ethnic wear, especially of different tribal communities of Assam and other states of North East made me an enthusiast about designing cloths & fabrics. Not just that, everything that has been at the core of our existence; our culture and way of life has always inspired me while designing. One example would be the Eri Coccon Headgear and neck piece, that I had designed for a fashion show. Evidently, and for obvious factors, my learning from Assam has been inspiring, and the surplus point is my visualizations and making the ideas happen is something I learnt in Delhi.

You have worked for a numerous brands. Tell us a bit about your experience with each brand. (Please throw light on the kind of designs you worked on for the brands)

I designed and merchandised garments for some well known brand like Zara, Oysho, Marks and Spencer, La Senza, Primark, Debenhams, Evans, etc. With every work assignment I acquired beautiful experience. When I was in Mumbai and worked for Garment export house, I got a huge exposure to the world of designing and textiles. For Zara, I designed for Kids; for Oysho I looked after the designs for Girls, and for other brands, I designed for ladies.

You have also been in teaching for some time. Which segments in your opinion, should be focused more?

Being a faculty of Assam Textile Institute Ambari, Guwahati in 2012-2013 was a different experience of my life. I was in the Fashion and Garment Department. I always advised my students that to become a good Fashion Designer they should have the knowledge of the textiles and culture.  Earlier, they were using some old method of pattern making and budgeting. I reviewed as well as revised the course module and the contents based on my personal experience of Garments merchandising. These are the focus points I feel should be taken care.

Share your views on what needs to be done for the silk industry to utilize the complete potential and get it to a new stratum.

I think we have to upgrade the technology. The demand of our silk is huge, but our conventional means of preparing is time consuming, which is why it persuades us to depend on the Chinese raw material for meeting the deadlines. Plus, most of the people take shortcuts to chase the timelines, consequently, the importance of looms is gradually depleting. If the technology of our looms is upgraded to enhance productivity, and awareness is generated amongst the youth, in fact, people as a whole, then that would be helpful.

A greenhouse is a perfect place to grow plants. If we do sericulture in the greenhouse, then we will be able to improve the quality of the silk and reduce the wastage, in my opinion. To make it more sustainable, we can also use solar energy in the production process of silks.

A simple example would be the need of light for weaving and the warmth for drying the threads and fabrics, etc., for which solar energy can be used. Solar Thermal Power (STP) generating system is a proven renewable energy technology, which is also a cost effective way to produce electricity from solar radiation.

Considering the current scenario of Muga silk production in Assam, what is your opinion about retaining the GI tag, after it expires?

Yes,  I am very positive about the GI tag for Assam. Look at the fashion segment now. Assam has more fashion designers now than there were in the earlier decades, and with the advent of various communication options, there has been huge promotions of the designs and handlooms. Most of the fashion designers from Assam have been showcasing handloom silks like Eri, Muga, and Paat. And, Muga has been fascinating people worldwide with its golden shine. These days, you get to see a lot of designs with Muga. The love for possession and the demand of Muga is huge. So, I’m quite sure that we will retain GI tag.

How does your brand support the local weavers?

My creations under the label of Risha’s have always been modern though, but have handlooms as the base. We employ local weavers to give us the authentic product.

Tell us about some/ any of your collections that has been widely appreciated.

I had the opportunity of showcasing my creations in North East Fashion Fest (NEFF) 2013, organised by Basic. I had designed a lehanga in Eri silk for Bollywood actress Soha Ali khan, the brand ambassador of NEFF. I felt honoured when she wore it and admired it. I had also designed a shirt for Joi Baruah, Singer and brand ambassador for cultural event at NEFF.

My creations for NEFF were purely based on experiments with Red and White Eri Cocoons and Eri Yarn in its raw form.

How much does Risha’s support eco-friendly/ sustainable fashion?

I support Eco Friendly  fashion as I want to give back to the Earth for the amount of learning she has provided me with her fascinating creations.

Put some light on the demand of Assam silk or textiles, with a special reference to your collection’s sale and popularity in abroad. (Please mention what percentage of your entire designs or collection is supplied to other countries)

My clientele based abroad love Assam Handloom Fabric. They are crazy about the Assam Silk especially for Eri and Muga Fabric. I export handloom garments and meter Fabric, only.

Are your collections available online or any plans to do so?

Soon my collection will be available online for sale.

Muga Silk is one of the expensive varieties and produced in less quantity. How do you manage to acquire it for your textiles?

When I get an order for Muga. I always take some time from the buyers at least 3 months for the production to happen followed by designing. I have some suppliers in Assam as my stakeholders who provide 100% pure and quality assured fabric as per my requirement. I rely on them for acquiring fabric.

What is your vision for Risha’s?

My vision is to trade garments with my own designs under the brand name of Risha’s.

I want to popularize my modern designs made of handloom fabrics just to let the world know about the beauty and uniqueness of the north east.

Your comments on the illegal production of the items that are ought to be produced in the handloom.

In my opinion, in Assam  there is no illegal  production of the handloom items. But it is taking place outside the state and sent to the Assam’s market directly. There is hardly any protective measure for that.

In my opinion, the handloom has its own grace and aroma of the region. In its own capacity, even if it’s small, it supports a lot of local weavers and their skills. The manufacturing industries can definitely copy the design and meet the supply quantity with a good turn-around-time, but they will not be able to gain the grace and the purest form of beauty that only a weaver can do in a loom. Additionally, weaving has been in the culture for centuries. It is a kind of landmark for a place. The skills have been passed on to generations over the time, which will be lost if the industries start producing it. And, I feel handloom act needs to take measures on these issues.

A few words for the women of north east.

Women of North East are known for their hard work, liberal thinking, and culture. From a poor farmer’s family to an aristocrat’s, you will find creativity everywhere. My message would be to preserve and use this talent, and try your best to let the world know you and your native place really well. Be your own ideal, then you can represent your states better.


Are women safe in India?

By Indrani Medhi

The issue of women's safety in India has been in the news frequently lately. Every day the newspapers publish stories of endless cases of rapes and sexual abuses on women, which clearly state that India is not a safe place for women. In a country where both men and women are worshipped as gods, in the very same country women become victims of brutal violence and molests. Indian women and foreign visitors alike face various threats like staring, groping, stalking and most seriously, rape. With such threats forever hanging over a female's head, it makes sense to wonder why India today is ranked as the fourth most dangerous country in the world for the female child.

Of late, I came across a post in social media in one of the famous community pages of Assam which read about a group of girls flaunting their blouses with wide-opened backs on Saraswati Puja. The post further continued that any man could see and have fun with 'that' (ostentatious backs), even the married ones!  India's cities are so much full of disillusioned men like these who have lost their moral compass and respect towards women. Drink, drugs and pornography also play a role to imbibe such heinous crimes.

Patriarchy too, allows men to commit violence against women. A man leers, jeers and attack a woman's dignity when he sees a woman as inferior. It doesn't really matter whether it is New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore or any other metro city of India. This is not because girls with short skirt or jeans provoke their male counterparts but because a woman in our male-dominated society is regarded as inferior and a mere object of pleasure. Due to this stereotypical thinking, she is not always respected and considered a liability and a commodity and hence molested or abused or even raped whenever desired, whether it is a five years old girl or a woman clad in short skirt or jeans or salwar-kameez or even sari.

The whole of India today is unsafe for females. But why are women always blamed as sexually provocative?

As crimes of sexual harassment continue unabated in the country, a recent study states that India is the worst country for women among the G20 nations (a group of 20 nations that represent 85% of the global economy). The report suggests that Indian women are not free from violence. The National Crime Reports Bureau back in 2012 showed that New Delhi ranked first in the country while Bangalore came second for the crimes committed against women. According to the report, Bangalore had 1,890 cases, which accounts for 5.6%, after New Delhi at 13.3%. The question is that why do Indian men use sexual violence to rob a woman's security?

Women are harassed not only at night or in the evening but also during the day time at home, working places, or other places like street, club, etc. It is found through surveys that the reason of sexual harassment is the lack of gender-friendly environment and improper functional infrastructure such as consumption of alcohol and drugs in open area, lack of adequate lighting, safe public toilets, sidewalks, lack of effective police service, lack of properly working helpline numbers, etc. A huge percentage of women have no faith that police can curb such harassment cases.

We all know that India is a conservative country, so women are usually expected to be dressed up covering their shoulders, legs and cleavage. But wearing an Indian attire such as a sari, a kurta (long, loose tunic) or a salwar-kameez suit can by no means guarantee a woman's safety and may not change the way men act towards women.

An event that changed the course of ancient Indian history was Draupadi's public molestation and attempted rape. Draupadi or Panchaali is believed to be the epitome of chastity and truth. She was a brilliant, sexually liberated (she set new standards for a liberated woman by marrying five men) and ambitious woman. She is still worshipped as a goddess in South India. She is known for her extreme devotion to her husbands, mother-in-law and Lord Krishna. But not to forget, Draupadi herself was molested and sexually abused by her brother-in-law Dushaasan in front of her five husbands and the entire family in the royal court of the Paandavas and Kauravas. No one could protest when she was publicly molested and humiliated until Lord Krishna saved her from the shame. Bound by morality and promises, it was her husband Yudhisthira, who had put her at stake after losing the entire royal wealth and kingdoms during the game of dice. Does history justify Draupadi's molestation? Perhaps not!

As we all know that India is a country famous all over the world for its great tradition and culture where women are given the most respected place in the society from the ancient time. It is the country where women are respected and even worshipped. A woman is given the place of Goddess Lakshmi in the Indian society. Indian women are found working in all fields like aeronautics, space, politics, banks, schools, sports, businesses, army, police, and many more. We cannot say that our country has no women concern however we cannot ignore positive points for women in India. There is an urgent need to understand and solve this problem of women safety so that they can also grow equally like men in their own country. It is high time for women to stop playing the victim any longer and instead mirror out one's authentic self and stand tall with courage, confidence and compassion to create - a safer India for women.



Sexual Harassment of Women at Work place ( Part- IV)

Complaint of sexual harassment by the Aggrieved Woman

Any aggrieved women has to make a complaint of sexual harassment atworkplace in writing, to the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)/ Local Complaints Committee (LCC) within 3 months from the date of incident or the date of the last incident in case of a series of incidents.

Conciliation and Settlement

Before initiating an inquiry into the complaint, the ICC or LCCmay, at the request of the aggrieved woman, take steps to settle the matter between her and the Respondent so that  a settlement may be worked out between the parties.

Where such a settlement has been arrived at between the parties, the ICC or the LCC, shall record the settlement and forward the same to the employer or the District Officer as the case may be.The ICC or the LCC shall then provide copies of the settlement to the aggrieved womanand the respon-dent. Once there is a settlement between the aggrieved woman and the respondent, no further in-quiry shall be conducted by the ICC or LCC.No monetary settlement can be made as the basis of such conciliation.

However, if the aggrieved woman informs the ICC or the LCC that any term or condition of the settlement has not been complied with by the Respondent, the ICC or the LCC shall proceed to make an inquiry into the complaint or forward the complaint to the police.

Inquiry into Complaint

Upon receipt of the complaint in writing, the ICC or LCC  shall  proceed to make an inquiry in ac-cordance with the service rules applicable to the Respondent or where no such service rules exist, in accordance with rules framed under The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention , Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013

In the case of a domestic worker, the Local Complaints Committee may within 7days,  forward the complaint to the police for registering the case under Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code and any other relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

If  the aggrieved woman informs the ICC or the LCC  that the Respondent has not complied with   the terms and conditions of a settlement agreed upon in the Conciliation proceedings, the ICC or the LCC may make an inquiry or forward the complaint to the Police.

Where both the parties are employees in the same workplace, the parties during the course of the inquiry shall be given an opportunity of being heard and a copy of the findings shall be made avail-able to both the parties enabling them to make representation against the findings before the Committee.

Inquiry Report

On  completion of the inquiry, the ICC or LCC will provide a report of the findings to the employer or the District Officer within 10 days from the date of completion of the inquiry and such report will be made available to the concerned parties.

Time Limit of Inquiry

The inquiry should be completed within a period of 90 days from the date of  receipt of the Com-plaint.

Nikita Barooah,

 Advocate Gauhati High Court


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Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one?s courage.
— Anais Nin
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