Handloom as a craft is integral to India’s culture and upholds the tradition of rural, semi urban India. Not only is the sector a reminder of our roots, highlighting the artistry of weavers, it is the second largest employment provider in rural India, providing livelihood opportunities to 4.3 million people directly or indirectly. National Handloom Day observed on the 7th of August provides an opportunity to celebrate this special craft and the weavers who carry it forward.
The different parts of the country specializes in a wide range of handloom products viz. Kalamkari from Andhra Pradesh; Apatani from Arunachal Pradesh; Muga Silk from Assam; Bhagalpuri Silk from Bihar; Kosa Silk from Chhattisgarh, Kunbi from Goa; Bandhani from Gujarat; Panja Durries from Haryana; Kullu Shawls from Himachal Pradesh; Kuchai Silk from Jharkhand; Mysore Silk from Karnataka; Kasavu from Kerala; Chanderi from Madhya Pradesh; Paithani from Maharashtra; Phanek from Manipur; Eri Silk from Meghalaya; Puans from Mizoram; Naga Shawls from Nagaland; Sambalpuri from Odisha; Phulkari from Punjab; Shisha from Rajasthan; Lepcha from Sikkim; Kanjeevaram Silk from Tamil Nadu; Pochampally Ikat from Telangana; Pachra from Tripura; Chikankari from Uttar Pradesh; and Panchachuli Weave from Uttarakhand.
The handloom and handicraft sector has always been an important part of our economy. In 1958 the Handloom and Handicrafts Export Corporation of India Ltd (HHEC) was formed with the aim to promote exports of handloom products. Another key initiative to support the sector was the setting up of the National Handloom Development Corporation (NHDC) in 1983.
Key Government initiatives to boost the handloom and handicrafts sector:
- Block level cluster – Skill enhancement and overall upgradation of the various clusters are done under this scheme. Some benefits consist of the Hathkharga Samvardhan Sahayata (HSS), developing work sheds, design and product development, Common Facility Centres. These are funded by the Government upto Rs 2 crore per cluster.
- Skill upgradation – Empowering the weavers by upgrading their skills, teaching them new techniques, providing new technology, creating awareness regarding using ecofriendly dyes – these measures ensure that the weavers develop the necessary skills for staying upbeat and competitive.
- Hatkharga Samvardhan Sahayata (looms and accessories) – Through this scheme the Government provides better quality looms to weavers to help improve the quality of the products.
- Work sheds – Work sheds are constructed so that the weavers and their families can work close to their place of living. They cost approx. Rs 1.2 lakhs and 100% assistance are given to underprivileged households and women.
- Engagement of designers – Professional designers could be engaged in the clusters to come up with unique, innovative designs. The designers are in turn compensated and are also provided payments for making market linkages.
- Yarn Supply – Yarn is provided to the weavers at subsidized mill gate costs. In addition to this, 10% subsidy is provided on cotton, domestically produced silk, woolen and linen yarn etc. to enable handloom weavers compete with the power looms.
- MUDRA loan – Banks provide loans at 6 percent interest to facilitate working capital and term loans. There are also provisions for availing margin money of Rs 10,000 to facilitate the loans.
- Learning opportunities – MoUs have been signed by Ministry of Textiles, National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) to impart education and build the career of the youth through distance learning courses which are specially designed for the handloom sector. Fee subsidies are provided to families belonging to SC/ST, BPL categories and also to female weavers.
- Bunkar Mitra helpline – The toll-free number 1800 208 9988 helps to address the queries of weavers and option of seven regional languages are provided.
- Welfare measures – Handloom weavers are protected under the coverage of welfare measure schemes viz. Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY), Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY), and Mahatma Gandhi Bunker Bima Yojana (MGBBY).
- Handloom Certification – In order to ensure a fair price for weavers and quality product for buyers, the India Handloom Brand (IHB) was launched in 2015.
- Marketing of handlooms – Through events, expositions and crafts fairs, weavers are encouraged to take their product to a wide range of potential buyers. E-commerce companies have also been providing platform for selling handloom products.
- Handloom awards – Awards like Sant Kabir Award, National Award and National Merit Certiﬁcates are organized to recognize exemplary work in weaving, design and in marketing. In addition to this, State Governments also play a seminal role in promoting the handloom sector by making significant budget allocation towards this.
There is significant scope for modernizing and marketing what the handloom sector has to offer. Joint efforts by the Government and Industry will take this sector a long way in empowering handloom and leveraging its full potential.