The Handloom Textiles constitutes timeless facets of the rich cultural Heritage of India. As an economic activity, the handloom sector occupies a place second only to agriculture in providing livelihood to the people. The element of art and craft present in Indian handlooms makes it a potential sector for the upper segments of market domestic as well as global. However, the sector is beset with manifold problems such as obsolete technologies, unorganized production system, low productivity, inadequate working capital, conventional product range, weak marketing link, overall stagnation of production and sales and, above all, competition from power loom and mill sector.
India has the world’s largest installed base for looms. There are approximately 5mn looms in the country.The power loom sector produces more than 60% of cloth in India and textile ministry’s estimation says that more than 60% of the country’s cloth exports originated from that sector. With its employment of 4.86mn workers, the power looms sector comprises approximately 60% of total textile industry employment.
The Indian loom industry is small scale unlike the industry of China and Taiwan and therefore incurs high co-ordination cost. Through Technology Up-gradation Scheme (TUFS) Government is trying to modernize these sectors and make import of latest technology looms easier and affordable. Still India lags behind in productivity due to outdated technology and low penetration of shuttleless looms.
Advance technology installation demand skilled labor to understand and install such facilities, shortage of skill labor is also a roadblock in adaptation of new technology in weaving loom industry.
Along with increasing trend of importing new technology shuttleless looms, there is, however, a recent trend of investment in setting up hi-tech, stand-alone mid-size weaving companies focusing on export markets.
KASHMIR'S FABLED handcrafted pashmina shawls could soon be a thing of the past. The proliferation of machine-made pashmina products has become a big threat to the livelihood of the state’s artisans who have been spinning and weaving pashmina for ages. According to the Jammu and Kashmir handicraft department, the export of pashmina shawls fell from Rs 579.72 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 368.20 crore in 2014-15, declining by around 26 per cent. This is a second blow to Kashmiri weavers after the trade of shahtoosh shawls was banned in 2000.
Around 95 per cent of pashmina in Kashmir is now processed through power looms because they offer a better margin of profit. These looms are not registered for making pashmina products but operate illegally. The proliferation of machine-made pashmina has also made the craft lose its purity because the wool has to be mixed with nylon or angora to make it survive the strain of mechanical weaving. The sharp fall in handmade pashmina was also admitted by the Union Minister of State (independent charge) for Textiles, Santosh Kumar Gangwar, while replying to a question in the Lok Sabha on May 7.
Back in 2017, the Pashmina artisans accused the government of failing to stop weaving of pashmina on the power loom saying it has left them jobless. The artisans staged protest demonstrations saying, “spinning of fake pashmina on power looms is posing serious threat to the existence of real Pashmina shawls.”
President of Pashmina Artisans Fayaz Ahmad Shabnum said government has failed to safeguard handloom industry.
He said handloom industry was a major source of income to around 2 lakh families in Srinagar.
“When the educated youth could not get the job in the government sector they choose to weave Pashmina to earn their living. But, unfortunately, the manufacturing of fake products on power looms which sell cheaper has snatched our livelihood,” said Fayaz.
The Office of the Development Commissioner for Handlooms has been implementing, since its inception in the year 1976, various schemes for the promotion and development of the handloom sector and providing assistance to the handloom weavers in a variety ofways. Some of the major programs are:
1. Sustenance of Employment
2. Modernization and Upgradation of technology
3. Input Support
4. Marketing Support
6. Infrastructural Support
7. Welfare Measures
8. Composite Growth-Oriented Package
The various schemes implemented by the Office of Development Commissioner for Handlooms address the needs of weavers who constitute the disadvantaged social strata and occupational groups, which are at the bottom of the economic hierarchy. Concerted efforts are being made through the schemes and programs to enhance production, productivity, and efficiency of the handloom sector and enhance the income and socio-economic status of the weavers by upgrading their skills and providing infrastructural support and essential inputs.
Here are some schemes and welfare programs that were/are being incorporated by the Indian Govt.-
Deen Dayal Hathkargha Protsahan Yojana, Enforcement Of Handlooms Reservation Act In 1985, Input Support(Hank Yarn Packing Notification), Mill Gate Price Scheme, National Handloom Development Corporation (NHDC). A few other schemes are - Artisans Credit Card, Research & Development Scheme, Dastkar Finance etc.
From the IKF Desk on have power looms already reached Kashmir?
According to Business Today the Home Minister Amit Shah said responding to a debate in the Lok Sabha, "The law of the nation does not reach Jammu & Kashmir, Pakistan uses this to instigate separatism in the hearts of the people there"
By revoking Article 370 that abolishes 35 (A), there is a huge possibility that the schemes the Indian Government has incorporated for the handloom weavers reaches the craftsmen and weavers of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh more efficiently and easily now.
Also the political instability and chaotic situation will stabilize, giving foreign investors and industries security to establish themselves there which will create employment and impart new skills in the valley.
Although as already mentioned in the blog the power looms are already hitting the handloom pashmina sector there, it is possible that with industrialization the handloom sector gets affected even more.
The power loom sector occupies a pivotal position in the Indian textile industry, in future Technology would play a lead role in this sector and will improve quality and productivity levels.
Today, the handloom industry occupies a position of strategic importance in the economic structure due to its significant contribution in terms of output, exports, and employment and at the same time, this industry is relatively cost-inefficient. However, for the sector to fully realize its potential, it is essential that firstly, the introduction of advanced techniques like computer-aided designs would help the weavers to develop new motifs. Counseling bodies comprising of professional, trained counselors who belong to a similar background should be constituted for the benefit of weavers and secondly that the Government realizes the urgent need for a shift in policy regarding the sector, so as to allow it to flourish.