Can India's handloom industry become Atmanirbhar?

By Ipsita Chatterjee & Hemanth Guthala Oct 13, 2020


The notion of Aatmanirbhar Bharat echoes the call for the Swadeshi Movement of the early 1900s, often symbolized by the spinning wheel-an emblem that axiomatically bespeaks the importance of the handloom industry in India. On  27th  July, the Ministry of Textile scraped the All India Handloom Board in light of minimizing government and maximizing governance, which elicited mixed reactions from different people. The handloom industry is a promising apparatus that can not only help the country inch towards the fulfillment of the goal of self-reliance but also significantly increase job and lifestyle opportunities in rural and urban India. However, it has its drawbacks, and there is much scope for improvement. 

Financial Inclusion: 

The government must take up initiatives for the financial inclusion of the handloom workers vigorously. One of the crucial factors that partly assure improvement of the informal sector, including handloom industry is financial inclusion- something the handloom industry is in dire need of. Out of the total number of handloom weavers in India (26.73 lakh), only 23.3% are bank account holders. Banking penetration levels in rural areas are especially dismal. Banking would open different financial avenues, including the enablement of government loans and other schemes. This will help individual handloom weavers and small handloom corporations in their trade through financial aid and encouragement, which in turn will help assure the steady supply of handloom products.   

Information Dissemination: 

The dissemination of information on different government schemes and enterprises should be done rigorously. Awareness of relevant welfare schemes among handloom weavers is minimal. For the Fourth Handloom Census Report (2019-2020), 13 relevant government schemes were selected to test the awareness level among the weavers. The awareness levels of 9 out of those 13 schemes were less than 65%. Only about 10% of the weavers knew about the Credit Waiver (Loan) under the RRR Package; approximately 10% knew about the yarn supply scheme, only 3% were aware of the Weavers’ Health Insurance Scheme, and the list goes on. Nonuse is almost as bad as misuse and leakage because these schemes and initiatives fail to reach the target beneficiaries, and the financial assistance and moral stimulant potential of these schemes are wasted.  

Skill Creation: 

Formalization of skill development training should be brought into the mainstream education system. The lack of proper vocational training at the school level is presenting a significant opportunity cost. 23.2% of the total number of handloom workers had never attended school, and 76.3% of the workers haven’t completed secondary education- this starkly indicates that the current formal education system is failing to provide the kind of coaching that can help a large part of India earn a livelihood.  

Given the natural resources and population of the country it is not impossible to attain self-reliance at least to a decent degree. Most of the government schemes and endorsements are also critically acclaimed. However, implementation of aforementioned government initiatives is one of the most important factors. If implementation of key schemes is ensured and the population realizes its potential to the fullest, there is no reason why Bharat can’t be Aatmanirbhar.