Rigveda, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Greek historians, etc have mentioned the spinning, weaving, and high-quality cotton and silk in India.
These materials were traded and exported to different countries in ancient times also.
It was stated in a paper by Exim Bank (2019) that arts and crafts are a constituent of India’s creative economy.
Craft means an occupation, trade, or activity requiring manual dexterity or artistic skills. They are not only pleasing to the eye but also have utility.
Importance of Crafts
It is the backbone of the rural economy and provides employment to many people. It is estimated that there are approximately 200 million artisans in India.
Once promoted adequately, they can fetch foreign exchange earnings.
It can give a competitive global advantage.
It preserves India’s rich culture and tradition.
The handicraft industry is usually an unorganized sector in India’s economy.
Artisans are unable to gauge market dynamics. They have little knowledge to optimize social media outreach.
There is low penetration of technology in rural areas.
Inaccessibility of funds and poor institutional framework are other serious issues.
Despite superior skills, wages are not in accordance with income growth in other sectors.
According to the Fourth All India Handloom Census 2019-20, 66.3% of the weaver household earns less than Rs 5000 per month.
Interventions to Boost Handicraft Industry
The Office of Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Ministry of Textiles implements schemes like National Handicraft Development Programme and Comprehensive Handicrafts Cluster Development Scheme.
Artisans are mobilized under Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana to provide direct benefits, technology and infrastructure support, marketing support, etc.
‘Shilp Guru’ awards and National Awards are given by the Ministry of Textiles to give recognition to legendary craftsmen for their excellence.
TRIFED is a national apex body under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs. Its main aim is retail marketing development of tribal handicrafts and handloom products.
Several NGOs like Indian National Trust for Art and Culture Heritage (INTACH) work with craft clusters to develop community-based enterprise
The artisan economy is all-pervasive and crucial for inclusion as it primarily comprises women and marginalized groups. Initiatives like ‘Unity Malls’ and ‘crafts village’ are required to make the handicrafts industry a big source of livelihood.