An appeal to go Swadeshi to help revive Indian crafts post lockdown
The crafts sector, mostly unorganised, is in dire need of a revival. Designers, crafts activists and NGOs make an appeal to go Swadeshi in a bid to provide livelihood to millions of weavers and crafts people.Updated: Apr 28, 2020 15:30 IST
Coronavirus pandemic has hit businesses hard, especially the unorganised sectors. To help Indian crafts people and weavers, organisations including Crafts Council of India, Dastkar, Craft Revival Trust, Weavers Association of Andhra Pradesh, and several designers have come forward for the initiative #HandmadeInIndia. In a way, it alludes to making and buying local, a hat tip to the Swadeshi movement led by Mahatma Gandhi in 1905.
Laila Tyabji, craft revivalist, says, “The orders and sales have come to an end. The crafts people have no access to any capital or raw material. They don’t have insurance, pension or stable income. We want to draw attention to that. During the lockdown, there has been no discussion around this. We, at Dastkar, started a relief fund and have been disbursing money all over India. But we thought that a collective message would reach out to more people, the media and the government.
Tapping into the power of this soft power of the country, Purnima Rai, former president of Delhi Crafts Council, says, “The strengths of the handloom sector are now going to sustain it through this crisis. We foresee problems in terms of the stock that they have, and ways to market it. Online marketing is a possibility. We have to get this message that craft provides livelihood to millions and this is something we have to do for ourselves.”
Designer Gaurav Jai Gupta, who specialises in woven textiles, says the problem also lies in there being a lack of centralised policies. “Since this sector is not organized throughout, it does not get spoken about in bigger scheme of things. It’s a living heritage of our country and needs support. We require an equitable economic. As of now, there are no government schemes that are directly helping the craftsmen,” he says.
Designer Rina Dhaka, who has been involved with the country’s handloom belts like Kota and Bhuj to work with the crafts people, feels that it is important to adapt and innovate to keep the crafts relevant. “The design industry, including the students and buyers, has to get more involved and make facilitations. The designer holds the pulse in setting trends,” she says.
Designer Gunjan Jain has been working closely with weavers and crafts people of Odisha for the last 12 years. She feels that to homogenise the industry would be to kill its strength. “We have to treat them as equal partners. We have to holistically design a system,” she says. And moving forward, crafts will lead the way towards a greener way of life. “We are looking at a more sustainable way of life going forward. The crafts community has been offering us all these solutions — it has a low carbon footprint, it is decentralised and helps curb migration. Sweatshops produce millions of metric tonnes of fabric which ultimately goes into landfill,” she says. With a hope that the public, media and government take notice, Jain concludes, “The crafts sector is dependent on the market forces and I hope it recovers soon. Most of these weavers live hand-to-mouth and I hope they take notice of this industry.”
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