India’s handloom industry faces gloom and doom | Support this by wearing the hand-loom saree!
GST benefits to weavers is just another yarn
By George Julius Williams | Consulting Editor
The handloom industry in India exudes a national identity that is revered all over the world given its unique, unparalleled and rich heritage. It exhibits the spectacular craft of the artisans and nourishes the social fabric of the country.
The sector generates maximum employment in India (after agriculture) and also has the largest number of weavers in the world.
It has been particularly favourable for women empowerment in the country too, a significant factor on International Women’s Day.
And although the demand for handloom fabric in India, as well as abroad remains significant, competition from power looms and falling incomes, among other external factors, have forced skilled weavers across the country to struggle for survival.
Digital India and technological advancements are rightly encouraged in the country, under the current majority- ruled government, but sadly, this impacts the handloom industry negatively and the cut-throat competition from power looms and other external factors have put the very existence of the handloom sector in doubt.
Many have abandoned their looms and migrated in search of other livelihoods leaving colourful threads that merge, after a multi-level intricate process into exquisite handloom sarees, into complete disarray.
This year’s budget presented by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has not brought much cheer to the handloom sector which was hoping for some good news after the previous years had dealt a massive blow to the handloom sector with major downgrading in the financial allocations from Rs 604 in 2017-18 to Rs 386 in 2018-19.
Unfortunately, this year it was was a mere Rs 485 crore.
The government which on one hand promises to promote the handloom sector under the Make In India programme should really reconsider the step-motherly treatment meted out by Ms Sithraman to the handloom industry and the poor weavers who depend on it for their very livelihood.
Demonetisation has demonized the poor weavers who also had to suffer the effects of GST tax where repeated taxation on yarn, dyes, chemical, as well as the product again, ends in a compromised selling price for the product which leaves the weavers with extremely low benefits.
Most of these weavers are not registered with GSTN and GST itself is too complicated a tax structure for them. Neither are the mostly uneducated weavers familiar with input credit nor is the poor weaver able maintain strategic records or claim returns.
Cash crisis has hit the weavers with strict norms for money withdrawals have deprived them of any non-governmental and/or private loan lender support.
Rising costs, unfair competition, huge cuts in yarn supply scheme allocations and fossil fuel prices are all adding to the woes of the poor handloom weavers. It seems there has been a deliberate and definite move to kill the handloom industry in the country.
The handloom industry has never seen such a huge downgrading in the past 100 years!
Instead, ironically the Union Finance Minister has in this year’s budget announced a National Technical Textiles Mission, which is expected to give thrust to production of a wide variety of textiles used in sectors such as healthcare, infrastructure, automobiles, defense, and agriculture.
This Rs1,480 crore Mission, to be implemented from 2020-2021 to 2023-2024, aims at positioning India as a global leader in technical textiles.
“India imports significant quantity of technical textiles worth $16 billion every year. To reverse this trend and to position India as a global leader, a National Technical Textiles Mission is proposed,” she said.
While one can laud the Finance Minister’s lofty thoughts of increasing exports and decreasing imports by making the Indian technical textile industry a global leader, a sorry state of affairs awaits the poor handloom weavers in a miserable state of doom and gloom.
However, not all is lost. The only welcome move is the announcement of the National Handloom Day on the 7th of August – a mere week before the Independence Day.
The high profile celebration, initiated and actively participated by the honourable Prime Minister Shri Narender Modi has optimistically raised the hopes of handloom weavers, producers and consumers alike.
Lets all hope that not all is lost for handloom industry in India and the nation remembers that Mahatma Gandhi started the Swadeshi Movement and re-introduced hand spinning in the name of Khadi which essentially means hand-spun and hand-woven.
Let’s save this timeless tradition and support Handloom – and what better way on this International Women’s Day for Indian women to go out and support this historical and traditional by wearing the handloom saree!
* Sinchita Maji – Threadbare in Santipur: The Plight of Handloom Weavers
- Ananya Borgohain, Senior Correspondent –Economic Times Weaving out of trouble: Handloom industry looks at Budget 2018 to solve woes
- The Hans India – Handloom sector gets a raw deal