A Future Handmade

Advocacy, Cultural, Creative Industries, Op-Ed

A Future Handmade: Revisiting Gandhi and Gurudev in a Transformed India

Chatterjee, Ashoke

Cultural and creative industries, as defined in UN systems of accounting, today comprise over 6% of the global economy, with a combined GDP potential of $4.3T. Tucked within these staggering statistics are India’s crafts, representing its second largest source of livelihood. While that fact is acclaimed by the highest in the land, activists on the ground struggle to find robust data to back the claim. The Economic Census of 2012 was the first to include artisans, after strong civil society advocacy. The Census has lifted estimates well beyond the 13M artisans previously acknowledged. While numbers are still being crunched, anywhere from 40M to 200M Indians survive on hand production, depending on definitions of ‘craft’ and ‘artisan’. Statistical confusion has been critical in the neglect of a sector often dismissed as ‘unorganized’ despite age-old systems of organization and a competitive advantage as the world’s largest resource of craftsmanship. Global players envy what India chooses to ignore. Globalization brings with it unparalleled opportunities at home and overseas as well as unfamiliar challenges that may now be critical to survival. Among these is compliance to standards established in world markets which are now emerging at home. Compliance first arose as a discipline essential to exports. Oft-quoted examples are the employment and working conditions of children and women that constrained shipments of carpets and garments. Those  overseas warnings  suggest that tomorrow compliance may be as critical to domestic success. Product safety, material standards, oc...
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