The Indian Craft

Advocacy, Op-Ed, Policy

The Indian Craft: Sunrise or Sunset in a Global Market

Chatterjee, Ashoke

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In July 2006, national newspapers carried an official half-page advertisement declaring "A Sunrise Sector: Indian Handicraft - A promise to (sic) sustainable self-employment". Record exports during 2005-06 of almost Rs17,280 crores, 73 Common Facility Centres for access to new technologies, 21 crafts surveyed and documented for registration under Intellectual Property Right challenges, a flagship 'cluster development' scheme for 618 clusters and 'business plans' for 37 clusters, and building the brand image of Indian handicrafts through promotion in national and overseas fairs were among a long list of achievements celebrated in the announcement. Other events in July speak of a different reality. Activists have been meeting to address the plight of weavers in Varanasi, where imports of imitation 'Benarasi brocade' from China is leading to job loss, starvation and suicide. The Bodoland Association of Handloom Units announced that at least 60,000 Bodo households would lose family incomes due to a flush of mill-made cheap imitation Bodo cloth, including garments traditionally woven at home and marketed locally. In Rajasthan, artisans have appealed for help in a 20-year struggle with local tax authorities. Two award-winning craftspersons just returned empty-handed from a major sales event in New Mexico - their consignments could not reach the venue due to sanction delays in New Delhi. Organizers of a forthcoming international convention on natural dyes, which will showcase India's traditional technology and a range of naturally-dyed products for markets at home and overseas, continued to run from pillar to post to raise resources for the event - despite UNESCO partnership and despite the huge potential for business promotion. And in Kolkata, land allocated ten years ago for development as an artisans' centre has been forcibly seized. In July 2006, sunrise seemed a very long night away fro...

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