Union textile minister Smriti Irani announced the launch of a national helpline for weavers, apart from a census of them, on Sunday.
The helpline, to be headquartered at the union ministry of textiles, will enable weavers to lodge complaints with the minister directly, and also give suggestions for development of the handloom sector.
Irani made the announcement at the second National Handloom Day celebrations at Swatantrata Bhavan, Banaras Hindu University. The initiatives are meant to further Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s general election promise to help the sector, which includes a large community of Muslim weavers. Modi is the MP from Varanasi.
“It would start soon. I have asked the textile secretary to set up a helpline for weavers as soon as possible so that they can call me up directly and inform whether they (weavers) are getting the benefits of the schemes meant for them and we may know about their problem and solve them,” said Irani.
As for the census, the government wants to find out the exact number of weavers across the country in order to ensure that benefits of various government schemes are being extended to each person, Irani said.
“The centre has taken various steps to enhance income of the weavers.”
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed with the ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship for upgrading skills of handloom weavers through the Weavers Service Centres (WSCs). Another MoU was signed with the National Institute of Open Schooling and IGNOU for providing educational opportunities to handloom weavers and their children.
“If the children of weavers can’t come to school, schools would go to them. We have signed an MoU with NIOS to make sure that the children of weavers get education,” said the minister, who gave out Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) loans to handloom weavers.
The minister gave away Sant Kabir Awards 2015 to three master weavers and National Handloom Awards 2015 to 20 others. Irani also distributed prizes to the winners of the India Handloom Brand Design contest and ‘Design Sutra’ competition of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT).
Another MoU was signed with NIFT for implementing revamped curricula to incorporate handlooms and handicrafts, and also to engage leading fashion designers to work with handloom clusters. The MoUs were also signed with the Fashion Design Council of India and other designer groups so that reputed designers may mentors weavers through WSCs.
Noted designers such as Rajesh Pratap Singh, Anita Dongre, Samant Chauhan, Sanjay Garg , Shruti Sancheti, Rina Dhaka, Tarun Tahiliani have joined hands with the ministry in promoting hand-woven fabric.