The Indian handloom industry is an ancient and one of the earliest existing sectors in the country. It plays an important role in the nation’s economy as well. However, there are certain issues pertaining in the sector creating an obstacle in the growth of the industry. There have been some commendable measures taken by the government to magnify handloom brands thereby boosting growth of the sector.
Overview of Handloom Sector
Handloom sector under textile industry is the second-largest employment generating sector for a major rural population in India after agriculture. It provides direct employment to a major population engaged in weaving and allied activities. Unique designs and finesse is the specialty of Indian handloom industry along with the artistry of weavers, it also demonstrates the richness and diversity of the nation.
Handlooms contribute a major part in exports as well. The sector has an advantage of being less capital intensive, minimal use of power which makes it eco-friendly, flexibility of small production, openness to innovations and adaptability to market requirements.
It is a natural productive asset and tradition at cottage level, which has sustained and grown by transfer of skill from one generation to other. Owing to the unorganised nature of the sector there are several problems that the weavers face which have compounded in the recent times. This has led to closure of many handloom units and thus has resulted in massive unemployment.
Challenges in the Handloom sector:
i. Number of handloom weavers is declining sharply
ii.Younger generation is not adopting weaving profession due to lower wages, tough working conditions
iii. Low productivity in comparison to powerloom and mill sector
iv. Limited scope of technological upgradation and improvement in weaving activity
v. Shifting of skilled labour to other sectors
vi. Serious constrains of credit availability
Since the establishment of Development Commission for Handlooms in the year 1976, there have been several schemes introduced to encourage development of the sector however; there was a need of some firm reforms for it to get the deserved recognition. Since the present government has taken over the governance, there have been many notable changes in the sector.
In 2014, when PM Modi took over the reign, he promised a better deal to the weavers of his constituency in Varanasi which would require a better handloom policy, access to credit and markets, and an infrastructure of support. After a year, delegation of designers met the textile minister and landed a deal of setting up dyeing centres, providing subsidized yarn, a campaign for handloom along the lines of Incredible India and a nationwide series of exhibitions to establish classical handloom design benchmarks.
In a recent development, the union textile ministry brought as many as 14 leading e-commerce entities to increase dissemination of handloom products in the domestic market. Before the latest shuffle of ministry, ex Textile Minister Santosh Gangwar while briefing about the new horizons in Indian textile industry, handloom being one of them stated, that in order to promote the weavers, easy loans under Mudra scheme has been initiated. And in order to maximize reach of handloom products, they’ve roped in e-marketing wherein 14 eRetail companies will partner them. The government also plans to create a separate section on their webpage for India Handloom brand and handloom market. According to Development Commissioner, this step would assure the consumers receive authentic products as there have been cases of spurious products being sold on many portals.
These steps taken by the government to boost the Handloom sector are commendable however, effective application of the measures is also needful. The current condition of handloom weavers demands facilitation of more growth opportunities to them for example, modernized and upgraded technology should be made available to them. Input and marketing support should be available in great amount. They should also have access to infrastructural support, welfare measures, composite growth along with oriented package development of exportable products through research & development. At the same time, tactful application and practice of all the implemented schemes is required.
With the new textile minister on board, the handloom sector have high hopes and aspirations and seek to see betterment in their present situation. Also, making note of the latest changes and introduction of new schemes, one can expect to see a revolution of the sector. Being a major contributor to Indian economy, the handloom weavers have every right to visit their glorious days with access to better infrastructure, credits markets and overall support from the industry and government. The art and craft traditions since almost the dawn of civilization has been kept alive despite sweeping changes due to continuous efforts of generations of artists and craftsmen who weaved their dreams and visions into exquisite handloom products.
Authored By: Rahul Jashnani, Managing Director, Jashn