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Handlooms find a way to beat global downturn with a new atlas

Indian handloom sector came out with the first-ever Handloom Atlas of India, in a new initiative to boost exports and overcome the fallout of the current global meltdown. MR Venkatesh reports.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2009 13:22 IST
MR Venkatesh
MR Venkatesh
Hindustan Times

“Economy is at least 50 per cent psychology”. Sounds incredulous? But in the most painful post-World War II economic reconstruction period, this was the prescription by no less a person than Ludwig Erhard, the celebrated first post-war Economic Minister responsible for the ‘German Economic Miracle’.

After more than 60 years, Erhard’s voice resonated here in Tamil Nadu’s capital in the words of Mr Roland Friedrich Hermann, Consul General of Germany in Chennai, as the Indian handloom sector came out with the first-ever Handloom Atlas of India, in a new initiative to boost exports and overcome the fallout of the current global meltdown.

Elucidating Erhard’s profound insight, Hermann’s point was that economic recession “goes both ways”. Fighting it is as much a collective human effort (the psychological aspect), as it is hemmed in by external circumstances (resources and capital), he underscored, after receiving the first German copy of this ‘Atlas’ brought out in four languages simultaneously, the other three being English, French and Japanese.

This Atlas will be a “comprehensive source guide” to all importers and exporters across major markets for Indian handlooms and would be a key tool in minimizing the impact of the global downturn, said Mr BK Sinha, Development Commissioner (Handlooms), coming under the Textiles Ministry in New Delhi.

This prestigious Handloom Atlas of India, a joint initiative of the Handloom Export Promotion Council (HEPC) and the DC Handlooms, was formally released by the Union Textiles Minister, Mr Shankersinh Vaghela and his deputy, Mr EVKS Elangovan at a function here recently, with a pep talk to exporters not to sulk amid the slowdown.

As information is the key in International trade, Mr Sinha explained that the Atlas, a concise compendium- including an overview on the Indian textile industry, the handloom scenario, the major production clusters in the country, products profile and a directory of handloom exporters besides other related information like transportation logistics etc.-, will give this sector, with a niche market, wider access to buyers abroad.

“This Atlas has a totally commercial orientation and will help us to get more customers when we are facing a financial meltdown,” said Mr JN Singh, Joint Secretary, Exports. India’s handloom sector with 38.9 lakh looms, employs 6.55 million people, accounts for 13 per cent of the total cloth production and nearly 16 per cent of the country’s total cotton textile exports of 17,718 Crores, as per the latest official data.

Terming it a “maiden attempt at a one-stop sourcing guide which will be updated periodically”, the HEPC’s Executive Director, Ms Beela Rajesh, the moving spirit behind the Atlas, said all maps used in it have been approved by the Surveyor General of India.

Even as Mr Vaghela disclosed that a Rs 2600 Crores loan waiver package for handloom weavers under the cooperative fold was under the Centre’s “active consideration” and would be finalized soon, Ms Rita Menon, Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, hailed the project as the “dream of every exporter and importer”.

Given the rich cultural heritage and uniqueness of Indian handlooms across various States, it could be further upgraded into a “collector’s item”, Ms Menon suggested. The ‘Atlas’ would be rapidly moved through the External Affairs Ministry to all Indian Missions abroad, she said. Efforts will also be made to include the ‘Atlas’ in the ‘Handbook of Travellers’ so that “it is a big hit in the global tourism circuit”, she added.

Mr Mishra, speaking to HTlater said the fresh National Handloom Census ordered by the Ministry, was now in progress across the country and would be completed by December 2009. The census undertaken once in ten years will give a full picture.

First Published: Feb 06, 2009 13:19 IST