ADDRESS AT THE NATIONAL AWARDS FOR THE YEAR 2000 AND 2001 TO CRAFTPERSONS AND WEAVERS
12-12-2003 : Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi
VISION FOR WEAVING AND HANDICRAFTS
I am indeed delighted to participate in this function for presenting the National Awards for the year 2000 and 2001 to the craft persons and weavers. I congratulate all the awardees for their excellent contribution in preserving, promoting and enriching the traditional and cultural heritage of our country through the unique art-forms of crafting and weaving. I am sure such recognition for the innovative and skilled workmanship of these creative persons, who have come from different parts of the country, provides an encouragement for others to work hard to bring prosperity to the Handicraft and weaving sector.
Handicraft sector, which provides livelihood to more than 12 million people in our country, plays a significant role in the national economy, as it possesses enormous potential to provide productive employment to large number of craft persons and budding entrepreneurs especially in rural, semi-urban and urban areas and earn foreign exchange through exports by blending traditional heritage craft skill with contemporary development approach.
Integrated action for promoting Craftsmanship
Majority of our rural community get their livelihood from Crafts and artisan area. When I think of craft work I am reminded of handloom weavers of Mangalagiri, to the chappal makers of Kholhapur, to the potters of Panchmura, to the sandalwood carvers of Bangalore, to the palm leaf basket makers of Pulicat, to the durrie weavers of Fatehpur Sikri, and the dhokra metal worker of Jhigdi. I would like to share one of my experiences with The Palm Leaf Basket Makers of Pulicat, which triggered my thoughts of my school days at Rameswaram. It was in 1940s. I found in many houses, one or two persons would be involved in making many products from palm leaf including baskets. This activity was supposed to be an additional unstructured small-scale business. Each day, a trader used to pay and collect all the finished products from these craftspeople. Rameshwaram temple pilgrims were the main purchasers of these products. After my early schooling at Rameshwaram, I went to Ramanathapuram for my high school and then to Tiruchirapalli for my college. During 1950-60s, I found the products of craftspeople started diminishing because plastic products started entering the market.
At Pulicat and later in the different parts of the country, I have personally witnessed the type of hard work put in by the craftspeople. I have developed sensitivity over years about the need for providing thrust through training and confidence in their area of work. Technology and crafts work need to be integrated. Emerging technology need to be provided to the craftsmen and weavers which will lead to value addition of their products. Marketing of the finished product is the crucial factor in view of the intense competition they face from multinational companies particularly from China and South East Asia.
Status of weavers and craftsmen
We have to look at the major problems that have led to weaver's pain. This has arisen due to their dependence the government agencies and certain captive customers for the sale of their products. Inability of these customers to buy from the weavers on a sustained basis had put them into difficulty and created unsold inventories in their godowns.
Time has come for the small scale industries, handlooms weavers not to depend on sale entirely through government subsidies. It is important to generate new class of entrepreneur and new class of training. "Manufacturing locally and marketing globally" must be their motto. For this, they can use many of the recent advances in communication and marketing, including the Internet. When the Roses of Bangalore can be auctioned over the Internet for global supply, why can't we use the same colourful medium of the Internet for marketing out extremely colourful and aesthetically pleasing products of our weavers and craftsmen through the medium of Internet marketing and E-Commerce. Instead of selling as a cloth they must migrate to selling finished customer products like garments and augment this with innovative marketing ideas. This type of value addition will provide reasonable revenue to the weavers and avoid intermediaries benefiting at your cost.
One of the major problems in our country is that many of the handloom/handicrafts/artisan cooperative societies are not doing well due to competition in the market, non-availability or high cost of raw materials, inadequate finance and ignorance of the supply and demand in the market, lack of quality consciousness and the ethics of the members of the co-operative society.
The state and central governments should analyze the causes of the sickness of the cooperative industries and facilitate them to work with the successful cooperatives, industries and association. In the country we have many successful models like Milk cooperative in Anand, Thirupur knitwear industries, Chatrapatti bandage cloth industries, Ludhiana wool ware etc., These models can be studied and their expertise can be made available through consultancies for reviving the co-operatives, which are in difficulty.
I came to know from my friend Dr. Bowonder who had made a detailed study about the successful experience of silk industry in Kancheepuram and Kolhapuri chappals where technology, training, partnership and marketing have produced spectacular results. I would like to share with you.
The silk industry in Kancheepuram is one of the fastest growing industries in India. The industry currently employs more than 30,000 weavers in the art of saree making. The industry had to compete with the synthetic fiber industry in many aspects. The industry was on the brink of extinction due to the obsolescence of the designs and design making procedures. This is because, design adds splendor to a saree and forms an integral part of its exquisiteness. Introduction of computerized Jacquard borders in Kancheepuram silk saree has helped in the revival of the industry. The use of ICT has not only helped in creating new and complex designs but also reduced the time involved in the design. There has been an increase in the exports. The acceptance of these silk sarees by the consumers has also increased with the automation of designing process. Visualization of saree designs ahead of its production and the ability to create new color combination at the click of a mouse has increased the flexibility and reduced the time for realizing new designs. Though the materials and the techniques are changing with the market demand, the motifs are still conventional to hold the custom and tradition of the Kancheepuram saree. The silk industry in Kancheepuram has transformed into a high growth industry by opening up new avenues for the traditional weavers. The example illustrates that computer aided design can help renewal of a traditional industry provided the new technology is simple to use and users are trained properly.
Leather industry is a traditional industry. Kolhapuri is a traditional chappal manufactured through a manual process. This is a case study of the manner in which the design process, manufacturing process and marketing was reengineered using ICT interventions. Use of ICT helped this industry to reposition itself. The main reason for the early adoption and rapid diffusion of the new technology has been the systematic training carried out by Central Leather Research Institute for imparting skills in the local craftsman using two people from the same community. The income of craftsman increased considerably after the adoption of ICT for designing and market access. The production increased from about 20 pairs per week to almost 200 per week. CLRI also helped in changing the manufacturing process such that the productivity has gone up apart from the use of computer aided design. The designs have shown a quantum jump both in terms of quality and variety. The whole project was implemented under the National Leather Technology Mission. An NGO from Bangalore helped in selling the Chappals on line thereby enhancing the price realization. The exports have shown an increase. On the whole this is an exciting experience of using new technology to reengineer and renew a traditional industry. The main reason for the success has been the training of the local craftsman by CLRI.
These two experiences clearly indicate the success components of such missions. They are application of Information technology, partnership with the R&D and entrepreneurs; value added training to the crafts man and marketing support. This model should be replicated across the country by the industry, academia, non-government organisations and the village bodies. State and Central Government should proactively facilitate nurturing of the industry.
In addition to the training of craftsman and weavers, official, administrators and technologists from the government and private sector who manages the handloom and cottage industry also need higher level of training at management schools technology centres to enrich their knowledge in handicrafts, textile design, quality, market analysis, export promotion to revive and reengineer the sick weaving industries and promote new industries.
Knowledge powered rural complex
The work of craftspeople and artisans is the result of creativity. Creativity comes from traditional knowledge. However this traditional knowledge and skill need to be upgraded through research and development and integrated with technology for sustainable development of this sector. We are all aware of the various constraints being faced by this industry such as non-availability of adequate quality raw material in time, lack of timely credit facilities, lack of training for using modern technological applications, inadequate organizational and marketing support and services etc. I am happy to know that in order to address these challenges and empower the craft persons and weavers, a few schemes have already been launched in partnership with State agencies, voluntary organizations, national institutes and entrepreneurial community. The problems about how to market with value addition the finished products of craftspeople, how to integrate multi departments and provide assistance in an integrated way can be addressed with the concerted efforts and techno-commercial assistance of all agencies like local self-help groups, panchayat and co-operative societies. Instead of craft persons and weavers coming to urban marketing centres, the reverse phenomena have to take place. This can be made possible through implementation of PURA model.
As you are aware, our Prime Minister in his Independence Day announcements has declared a rural development programme called PURA - Provision of Urban amenities in Rural Areas. It involves identification of rural clusters with growth potential and creating Physical Connectivity, Electronic connectivity, Knowledge connectivity and thereby Market connectivity. In the identified and developed periphery, apart from schools and primary health centres, there will have to be vocational training-cum-work centres for craft persons and weavers, warehouses for storage of products and marketing centres for promoting these products. Each PURA should have a separate handicraft co-operative society which will ensure timely supply of sustainable raw material, availability of credit facilities and marketing services. The small scale industrialists and entrepreneurs can establish handicrafts and handloom production units using the core competence of the region.
I find that so far the nation has awarded 763 master craft persons and weavers during the last four decades. I would suggest we can make use of their talent in shaping the industry by asking them to be facilitators in their areas of specialization in respective regions. They can provide innovative ideas on product design, guidance and suggestions on improving the productivity, conduct training and vocational education for the younger generation and also give ideas on alternative products. In some cases they can also be funded to become entrepreneurs with suitable entrepreneurship training. These master craft persons should be supported by the entrepreneurs by providing them all the infrastructural support and marketing support.
Craft persons and weavers are an important component for our upliftment of rural economy. Over 12 million people are earning their livelihood from this industry. For example, in Nagaland and Arunachal pradesh every house weaves, knits and produces gadgets using the animal horns and other natural inputs and become a family craft centres. Most of the items are used by themselves and rest of them they sell in the barter basis in the local markets. We have seen some of island of success and number problems faced by the industry as a whole. Concerted action is needed to promote this industry into a thriving wealth generator bringing prosperity to rural craftsman and weavers.
I would suggest that the concerned State and Central ministries in the textile, handicrafts and artisans domain can have an eight point programme to bring vibrancy to this sector in partnership with NGOs, R&D Centres, Academia and other industries:
1. Create design centres at district level for computer aided design of products and also monitor the performance of existing centres how they are working and provide corrective action wherever necessary.
2. Identify the core strength of the village cluster and infuse the technology to the relevant weavers, craftsmen and artisans
3. Create core strength specific vocational training centres value added with state-of-the-art technology at district/Taluk level
4. Create a consortium of Industry, R&D, academia and successful co-operative societies which can provide consultancies on total business development in the village cluster
5. Create mobile qualify assurance service centres with the state-of-the-art equipment at the district level to provide quality assurance services to weavers to ensure quality delivery of garments
6. Create entrepreneurial training centres for promoting craftsmen, weavers, artisans into successful entrepreneurs to manufacture locally and market globally
7. Expose internet method of marketing to the village industry and provide right kind of buy back arrangements
8. Work for creating a business volume Rs. 80,000 crores per annum by the end of 10th plan and 11th period.
I am reminded of a Tamil saying:
Which means that the dress that a man wears makes half the man - Thus if you create good garments and not stop with just weaving only cloth, you will make half of our Nation - Then we can go on to capture half of the world.
I am sure that these initiatives by the state and central governments and also successful entrepreneurs will bring prosperity and happiness to our traditional weavers, craftsman, and artisans and give a thrust to the rural economy.
My best wishes to the awardees and the organizers.