Indian Crafts for the Next Generation

Op-Ed

Indian Crafts for the Next Generation

Chatterjee, Ashoke

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Welcome and Opening Welcoming participants to this Kamaladevi Centenary Seminar, CCI President Shri Ashoke Chatterjee said that it was entirely appropriate to hold the seminar simultaneously with the KAMALA exhibition, which reflected the issues and opportunities which are its subject. Karnataka was Kamaladeviji’s home in many respects, and therefore it was also fitting that this tribute should be located in Bangalore. Her pioneering efforts helped rescue crafts from neglect and the impact of colonial rule. Thanks to Kamaladevi and other pioneers, today crafts are living and vital part of India both in terms of cultural values as well as in importance to India’s economic development. Any consideration of crafts for the next generation needs to focus on the opportunities which the sector can provide to millions of young craftspersons. Without a sound economic foundation, a viable future was impossible. Despite its importance to the Indian economy (handcrafts are estimated to provide the largest employment outside of agriculture), no one is able to provide an accurate picture of the sector’s size and scope. The number of artisans estimated in various documents ranges from 4 million to 200 million! What we do know is that the turnover last year of a selected group of crafts has been estimated at Rs60,000 crores, of which exports comprises Rs8,000 crores and textiles some 50% of the total turnover. These large figures disguise a real crisis in the sector. Ignorance of craft economics is part of this crisis, compounded by uncertainties in a rapidly changing scenario. Stringent competition, huge changes in lifestyles, new trade regimes are all part of the reason why artisans are in distress, moving to other occupations and sometimes even to suicide. There are no organized, professional marketing systems to backup a sector of this size and importance. Finance, technology, raw m...
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