India’s Crafts

Craft, Handloom, Art, Op-Ed, Policy, Safeguarding, Endangered

India’s Crafts: Crisis & Opportunity

Chatterjee, Ashoke

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What can India do with an industry that offers employment to millions dispersed in primarily rural locations, with an immense export potential and a low carbon footprint, contributing competitive skills to range of key industries, and offering a huge social and political safety-net? Does India take it to the top of its planning agenda? Or relegate it to the backburner as a ‘sunset’ activity not in keeping with super-power aspirations?  No prizes for a winning answer. Craft Considerations Consider that craft represents an unbroken Indian tradition going back centuries, that hand production was central to India’s struggle against colonial domination, and that after Independence, India pioneered craft planning as a development strategy. Consider that handcraft is acknowledged as the largest source of employment in India after agriculture --- confirmed most recently by none other than the President of the Republic. Consider the vital contribution of crafts as alternatives as well as seasonal supplements to agricultural employment (and thus as a brake on the misery of migration), and that crafts often take advantage of local and re-cycled materials. Consider again that women, minorities, Dalits and tribal communities constitute the majority in this employment-intensive industry --- the very communities the Government is committed to empower.  At last count, craft contribution to Indian exports was over a whopping Rs21,000 crores, and that excludes exports of gems and jewellery, another hand-intensive activity. India’s cultural and trade diplomacy worldwide through Festivals of India as well as the current ‘Incredible India’ campaign would be unthinkable without crafts at their center. Consider further that hand skills shelter the mainsprings of Indian creativity and innovation, and that talent from this sector has enriched a range of industries including machine tools, hospitality and tourism, space, construction and now nano-technology. Consider ...

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