Why are craftspeople absent in the country's trade policy space?
I was asked this question while working on a report that analyses in some detail the effects of trade and globalisation on 'human development' in South East Asian countries.The report discusses at length how the lives of food growers, fisher folk, textile and garment producers - even workers in tourism and BPOs (business process outsourcing) - are being affected by the increased opening up of the South and South East Asian countries in the last decade. It has policy pointers on how developing countries can harness trade to improve the lot of these workers, and raise their human development quotient. The 'human development lens' of the report views the effects of trade on the productivity and empowerment of workers, how sustainable the process has been, and whether income disparities have increased as a result. These are the very issues with which workers in the crafts have to contend.
No Space in the Policy SpaceCraftspeople had no 'voice' in the report. And little - if any - representation in the trade negotiations that our government officials are involved with at the World Trade Orgainsation (WTO - the body that determines the rules for almost 90% of world trade). This is surprising when we consider the numbers involved. Almost 10 million people work in the area of crafts, most of them are poor, and many of them are women - all of which make them ideal candidates for government programmes that typically target the 'deprived' sections. If the government needs other reasons for its intervention, one only has to look at the wide-ranging effects of opening up of trade on Indian craftspeople's hold on the domestic market. The influx of cheap mass-produced 'traditional' weaves from China (Kanchipuram saris, Kuchhi embroidery and now Benares brocades) hav...