India has a rich inventory of handloom and handicraft products. Fine quality of these products have enabled them to carve their own niche in the world market. The demand for handloom and handicraft items is very high. European and Arab countries, America and south East Asian countries are major importers of these products. But it is a sad news that even though people are crazy about these, this industry is dying. It is so because the artisans engaged in these professions are denied of their due wages. The middle men between these manufacturers and the customers usurp the entire profit and make hay while the sun shines. On the contrary, the weavers and artisans find it difficult even to meet their ends, leave aside any other of requirements of life like education and clothing. A weaver who toils for weeks and months to make one Benarasi or Kanchipuram silk saree worth thousands and sometimes even lakhs, thinks his offspring should not continue his legacy. At least any other profession would ensure food and education. This is the limit of deprivation. And this is the picture of almost all handicraft and handloom industry. Government’s newest policy of Make in India can bring a change if implemented properly.
The Planning Commission has proposed for a stand-alone policy named Handmade in India to leverage all sort of correspondence and activity taking place in the handloom, handicraft and small scale village industries. And everything can be brought under one brand name of Handmade in India. This can reduce the deprivation and exploitation of artists involved in these industries to large extent. As a matter of fact, e-commerce can be a great platform to put these items as merchandises for the world niche market.
Handloom and handicraft is a huge but unorganized economic sector preceded only by agriculture. Government’s Make in India policy can start with the baby steps of making an attempt to organize it and bring it under single umbrella. Latest technology, long term vision, marketing support and design innovations can do wonder for this industry. Loans on lower interest rate should be offered to modernize the technology. Elimination of the middle men or the industrialists is important whenever necessary so that the profit is shared with the artisans. This is not only for the financial upliftment but to boost the industry because if they shift their job, a huge market of India’s indigenous products will come crashing down. But at the same time, education of these young artists is also important so that they learn new technologies and implement it to make even better products in less time.
About 4.5 millions of weavers and subsidiary workers are engaged in this labour-intensive industry. About 11% of the total fabric produced in India comes from this industry. Silk, wool and khadi contribute 1% together to this 11% of fabric produce. Even the preceding governments and several NGOs have been working for the betterment of these workers and the industry, but very little could be done due to the several loopholes in the policies. So, government should include modernisation of the process, expedite rate of production and low priced products in its effort to improve this industry through Make in India. These are the very basic factors due to which we find Chinese products all around us. They have blended technology with human labour. Make in India can use this approach as well.
A little of responsibilities lay with us, the common people as well. We should encourage ourselves more to use locally made goods. Lighting earthen lamps on Diwali instead of tiny bulbs from China, handloom sarees, khadi kurta etc can be easily accommodated in our lives.