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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 36, New Delhi, August 22, 2020

The worsening crisis in handlooms and handicrafts sector - Press Release by National Federation for Handlooms and Handicrafts (NFFH) | August 19, 2020

Friday 21 August 2020

Press Release

The worsening crisis in handlooms and handicrafts sector

19th Aug 2020, New Delhi

The National Federation for Handlooms and Handicrafts (NFFH) organized an online press conference with representatives from weaving and artisan communities from across the country. The meeting was addressed by representatives from 9 states. At the outset, the speakers highlighted the importance of the sector which is second only to agriculture in employment generation in the country. They articulated the need to look at the handlooms and handicrafts sector as not just a niche market but as a traditional livelihood source which contributed significantly to the national development whether through exports or domestic market consumption.

Almost all representatives brought attention to the declining budgetary allocations to the Handlooms and Handicrafts sector since the last 5 years. This pointed to the apathy of the government to the situation of the weavers and the artisans. Mrs Jaya Jaitley pointed out that textiles and craft can be connected with almost any industry, thereby ensuring mass demand from the public sector itself e.g. railways or health sector, but the political will is always lacking. Mr Sivakumar from Kerala highlighted the kerala government’s efforts at ensuring that the handlooms cooperatives which account for almost 60 % of weavers engagement in Kerala, are supported through government orders. Mr Sonam from Sikkim echoed the need to create local demand for the products and thereby ensuring that there is always a local market to ensure sustainability of the weavers and artisans. Post the pandemic, the situation has been further worsened by lack of demand in the market as pointed out by Mr Nihar Ranjan Kalitha from Assam. He also mentioned that loans under the financial package created as COVID relief have not been accessible to weavers in Assam, where citing one reason or another, they have been denied by banks.

Mr Arup Rakshit of the M G Gramodyog Seva Sansthan Foundation spoke about the dire situation of the weavers working on khadi products citing that 174 khadi societies in West Bengal were unable to provide jobs to their weavers in the last many months. Also apart from the 5kg rice available through BPL cards, there is no support for these weavers from centre or state. Mrs Belaa Sanghvi mentioned that India is home to the largest skill sets of weavers and artisans in the world and it needs to be treated as a world heritage. She also highlighted the need for the community to be more cohesive. Mr Suresh from Telangana also stressed upon this aspect of collective bargaining power. He insisted that the powerloom as such are not a threat to the Handloom sector if there is strict oversight to prevent powerlooms products being sold as handlooms which is the case in India. Macherla Mohan Rao from Andhra said that despite the National Handloom Board and National Handicrafts Board being less active in the last many years, nonetheless they were the voice of the weavers and artisans. The abolishing of these Boards by the central government is the latest in the clear indication of the government absolving itself of its role as a welfare state. He mentioned that he doesn’t trust them to implement the Handlooms Reservation Act.

The government’s non-collaborative nature in deciding what is good for the community and the sector was highlighted as consistent problems. The communities have been hit hard by these and their repeated attempts to reach their voices to the policy makers and the common people of the country have been drowned out. The increasing number of suicides is but an indication of an awaiting disaster if the government doesn’t take note and act immediately. The National Federation of Handlooms and Handicrafts also gave a call for a peaceful struggle as the only way forward if the government continues to act with apathy to the situation of the weavers and artisans.

For National Federation for Handlooms and Handicrafts (NFHH),

Macherla Mohan Rao
Email : nfhh4artisans[at]gmail.com
Contact – 9505976131

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