The National Handloom week is celebrated annually in India to celebrate the imperative role of handlooms in the socio-economic development of the country and in preserving India’s rich cultural heritage.
Handlooms: From inking India’s history to weaving India’s future
The Indian handloom has the credit of weaving India’s glorious history. An imminent part of India’s freedom struggle, Khadi was Gandhiji’s unconventional weapon against the British and is still hailed as a symbol of India’s freedom and resilience.
The eco-friendly Handloom industry is a means of livelihood for millions & is the second largest contributor to India’s employment. It is an aesthetic, intricate art passed on from generations taking forward not just India’s cultural heritage but empowering lives, especially in rural India.
A symbol of India’s unique cultural diversity:
From Kanjeevaram of Tamil Nadu to Punjab’s Phulkari, from Chanderi from Madhya Pradesh to Odisha’s Ikat, each Indian state has its own traditional handloom preserving in them the true essence of India.
These handlooms are a window to India’s rich culture, heritage, beauty, and art to the world.
How India is effectively addressing roadblocks in the Handloom Industry?
– To counter rapid globalization and the increasing popularity of foreign brands that pushed the Indian handloom industry to take a backseat, the ‘vocal for local’ campaign was recently launched by the PM himself, thus inspiring not just Indians but NRIs & foreigners to buy Indian handlooms.
– There has been a sharp increase in the cost of raw materials like fabric, dye, chemicals, etc in recent years. This has substantially increased the cost of production and has resulted in cost disadvantages for the weavers.
– Small & independent weavers find it difficult to obtain credit from institutional sources, thus finding themselves at the mercy of the private money lenders who exploit them.
Under the Weavers’ Mudra Scheme, credit at a concessional interest rate of 6% is provided to the handloom weavers. Margin money assistance to a maximum of Rs. 10,000 per weaver and credit guarantee for a period of 3 years is also provided.
– The Handloom sector is largely an unorganized sector, thus it sufferers from many marketing problems that include the unavailability of genuine and affordable handloom products, especially in tier-2 & tier-3 towns.
– Lack of innovation is another reason that has contributed to the stagnation of the sector due to the inability of weavers to produce new designs or implement new sales strategies.
Initiatives to bolster the Indian Handloom industry:
The Handloom industry is an existing goldmine and it will be ironic if we let this industry sink in, for this is the sector that has the potential to make India truly Aatmanirbhar. And the Government of India has realized it and thus launched several schemes to bolster the growth of the handloom industry.
Initiatives like ‘Skill India’, ‘Self-reliant India’, ‘Make in India’, and the ‘Jan Dhana Yojna’ have provided the needed impetus to weavers to lead a dignified and secure life.
Handlooms empowering rural India:
It has helped the handloom sector to become a tool for empowerment for women self-help groups all across India. Be it the Garo women in Meghalaya and the Apatani women from Arunachal, famous for weaving ‘Galo’ or the Assamese women from the Sualkuchi village, known for their tradition of weaving silk products. Or the women self-help groups in Himachal weaving the famous Patu shawls and Saris, there’s no dearth of examples.
The way forward:
Though the Covid-19 pandemic came as a big jolt to the sector, the industry with the help of stakeholders at the central & state level made every effort to bounce back with the successful organization of Hunar Haat and the ‘Adivasi Mela’at Delhi Haat.
With the added benefit of having the Indian diaspora and admirers of the Indian handloom around the world, going digital is the answer to making the Indian handloom available to every discerning customer’s doorstep.
Thus the sector is set on the right path towards making the weavers, the industry, and thus the nation Aatmanirbhar.