The Gist of Yojana: November 2016

The Gist of Yojana: November 2016

Sustainability of the Handcrafted

The Indian handicraft and handloom industry forms an integral part of the rich cultural heritage of the country. It is an unorganized, decentralized, labour intensive cottage industry which provides employment to crafts persons in rural and semi urban areas and generates substantial foreign exchange for the country, while preserving the rich and unique cultural heritage of India.

Agricultural and pastoral communities have traditionally depended on their skills in weaving and handicrafts as a secondary source of income. It is estimated that there are around 23 million people engaged in handicrafts and weaving today. As a socio-economic group, they are at the bottom of the pyramid. The tangible contribution by the sector is evident in significant export earnings. Indian handicrafts are exported across geographies, with major destinations being developed markets such as US, the UK, the UAE, Germany, France, Latin American countries (LAC), Italy, the Netherlands, Canada and Australia. On a cultural plane, they are the conveyers of India’s rich and ancient traditions in craftsmanship and epitomize the beauty of the handcrafted.

Investing in the crafts sector offers tremendous opportunity to improve the economic, environmental and social conditions of rural communities. The global market for crafts is projected to reach around USD 700 billion by2019; India’s present share is below 2 per cent, representing a significant growth opportunity. There are environment benefits too. Production processes used in crafts have a low carbon footprint and promote the use of locally available materials as well as natural and organic materials where possible. Crafts production represents an opportunity to provide a source of earning and employment for otherwise low-skilled, home-based women, improving their status within the household and community.

Harnessing the potential of this sector requires different types of investments to preserve traditional crafts, strengthen the sector, and improve the incomes of artisans.

The Mega Handloom Clusters Scheme has been actively engaged in developing clearly identifiable geographical locations that specialize in specific products, in skill up-gradation, imparting design inputs, improving infrastructure facilities and health facilities to meet discerning and changing market demands both at domestic and at the international level and to raise the living standards of the millions of weavers engaged in the handloom industry.

Secondly, crafts have to be con temporized and made relevant to urban lifestyles; branding efforts need to be strengthened to enable Indian crafts to compete in global markets, and new business models need to be developed that blend social and commercial goals. India Handloom Brand is ail important initiative in the marketing and branding context. It was launched by the Hon'ble Prime Minister of India on the occasion of the first National Handloom Day on August 7, 2015. It is an initiative for branding high quality handloom products with zero defects and zero effect on the environment by endorsing their quality in terms of raw materials, processing, embellishments, weaving design and other quality parameters and by ensuring social and environmental compliances in their production.

Another concern is the lack of professional guidance that is available to artisans in product design to cater to swift changes in consumer tastes and preferences. As part of attempts to address this concern, the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) has integrated the 'Craft Cluster Initiative' into its curricula that allows students to work in collaboration with the artisans and weavers from different geographical areas of the country. This helps in exposing the students to the challenges faced by the sector and in introducing new designs, techniques and materials for the benefit of weavers and artisan community. It also exposes the weavers and artisans to the challenges of the modern marketplace.

Promotion of marketing of handloom products through e-commerce is therefore one of the priorities of the Ministry of Textiles. In order to promote e-marketing of handloom products in a transparent, competitive and effective manner, different e-commerce platforms have been engaged for marketing of handloom products. By building such a marketplace, the artisan can be empowered to earn a decent livelihood.

The crafts sector can benefit through a multi-stakeholder approach by increased participation by different stakeholders such as government, financial institutions, non-profit organisations and academia in their areas of specialization. Building a collaborative ecosystem will align the roles of different stakeholders, each of whom can support artisans in different ways. An interesting example is that of the Aqua Weaves of North Eastern Development Finance Corporation, an Assam-based organisation which has turned to the perennial and polluting water hyacinth to come up with a range of interesting products like bags, home decor and utility products. Following Thailand and Malaysia and with design inputs and expert advice from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, the products have evolved and are understood to command a market not only within the country, but also overseas including in Nepal and Japan. This has benefited the artisans engaged in this activity.

Other unique and treasured fabrics of India made by skilled weavers over the centuries and accorded GI status include the famed Pochampali ikat, Kanjeevaram silk, Srikalahasthi Kalamkari, Maheshwar, the Kantha (an indigenous household craft of the women of West Bengal), the Jamdani, a vividly patterned sheer cotton fabric, the Baluchari and the famed Orissa Ikat to name a few amongst many others.

The GI protects the traditional knowledge of the communities of weavers and artisans and affords legal protection against unauthorized usage; it assigns a collective monopoly to the artisans thereby protecting the unique cultural heritage of our traditional arts and crafts.

In an increasingly mechanized, homogenized world, ensuring the sustainability of skills, techniques and the traditional knowledge behind India's myriad handicrafts and handlooms is a major challenge. Rural youth are increasingly disenchanted with family craft traditions, being exposed to the struggle to find markets and fair prices. People need to be sensitised about the importance of our' crafts. Rigorous efforts, therefore need to be made to provide children of artisans with education, training, access to the market and with wages for a dignified livelihood to enable them to continue their family and community craft traditions which have given India a unique place in the world of handcrafted products since time immemorial.

Online Portal for Handloom Stall Allotment

An Online Portal for Handloom Stall Allotment was launched by Ministry of Textiles in New Delhi recently. This portal is envisioned as a weaver friendly platform which shall streamline allotment of handloom stalls. Annually, an estimated 340 marketing events are supported by the office of Development Commissioner Handlooms. The new portal is expected to provide transparency, simplified procedures, ease of access and ensure level playing field to fresh applicants, weavers and organizations, to promote marketing hand loom products.

How does the Online Portal work?

Weavers/Organizations will be able to apply on online portal as and when online applications are called by way of advertisements in leading newspapers. Weavers/Organizations will register themselves for Applying for Allotment for the first time. Thereafter, their data base will keep getting updated. The System will allot them a login and pass-word for the purpose of submitting application.

After getting registered, they can apply online. Online applications will automatically get forwarded to the Weavers Service Centre (WSC) under whose jurisdiction the applicant-falls. Applications will be scrutinized by the WSCs within a stipulated time and applicants will have to be told the reasons for not recommending particular application. The recommended Applications will be compiled centrally by system and will be ready for computerized draw. State wise and slot wise computerized list of selected candidates including waitlist will be prepared.

System will send alert SMS and email to the allottee mentioning allotment of stall along with stall number. The applicant will be able to take printout of allotment letter from portal after login into it. With the printed copy of allotment letter, they can approach the organizers for handing over them the stalls.

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