By Dr. Amrit Patel:
Household industry as employment provider plays relatively smaller role as it absorbs only 3.66 % of total workers, whereas the handloom and handicraft industry engages as high as 60.42% of artisan households and has been a significant source of livelihood in the region since they earn more than 90% income from this industry. The share of handloom and handicraft in the monthly average income of the artisans was the highest in Mizoram (97.57%) followed by Manipur (91.73%), Assam (79.58%), Nagaland (77.11%), Tripura (70.99%), Meghalaya (67.68%), Sikkim (55.80%) and lowest in Arunachal Pradesh (48.84%). There were approximately 67,500 handloom units and 57,500 handicraft units employing about 2.76 lakh weavers and artisans with value of production amounting to Rs 20941.08 crores.
Rural artisan: The poor among the self-employed in non-agriculture is high. The category constitutes rural artisan and handloom weavers both in rural and urban areas. Women have inherited skills for handloom weaving and have been engaged in handloom weaving through generations. Handicraft activity is the domain of male. The operational units are tiny, predominantly manual and thrive in unorganized market. The industry’s strength has been its relatively large number of weavers with traditional inherited skills, established reputation and large production facilities and availability of raw material. Despite the products of both have high demand they experience serious challenges viz. stiff competition, lack of design up-gradation and product diversification, low labour productivity, absence of pre and post loom processing facilities and marketing platform, low volume of production, lack of continuity in supply of raw materials and low rate of capital formation. All these weaknesses need to be systematically addressed and enabling environment created.
It is necessary to organize artisans and weavers in the form of SHGs for production, create yarn bank / raw material bank, product diversification and packaging according to market demand, improvement of looms / tool kits, introduction of computer aided design (CAD) and participation in trade fares / exhibitions and adopt common region specific brand name. The development plan can be prepared for product specific cluster.
Two models have been reported successful viz.
- Model Craft Village of Majlishpur of West Tripura district, Tripura for development of handicraft and
- Hand loom Cluster developed by the women NGOMacha Leima (Manipuri Chanura Leishem Marup) in Imphal (W) district of Manipur.
These models should be evaluated and redesigned, if need be, to meet the needs of the local people before replicating in other districts and States.
Handloom is by far the largest unorganized industry next to agriculture in terms of employment generation. Handloom industry has been playing an important role in meeting the domestic needs as well as a source of economy for the people of the region. Handloom accounts for 27% of all textile production and 21% of textile exports. The region has the highest concentration of handlooms in the country. Out of 25.4 lakh units engaged in handloom activities, 14.6 lakh units (household and non-household) are in five States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Tripura. Over 53% looms in the country and more than 50 % weavers belong to North Eastern States. The share of these five States of North Eastern Region in the domestic looms is 82%. However, only 13.4% of the commercial looms of the country are in these States and their contribution to these States in total production of handloom fabrics is merely 20%.
Handicrafts: The region has been a rich repository of arts and crafts that are both eco-friendly and unique in craftsmanship and utility. Though the region’s share in country’s total exports of Rs.3.5 billion is less than 1%, it has the potential to contribute significantly to country’s handicraft exports. Currently the artisans produce ethnic goods that cater largely to the consumption needs of the local populace. It is necessary to
- Initiate a scientific product development program and train the artisans to produce quality products that meet with demand for export
- Establish Fashion Design Centre in Aizawl and Kohima
- Create much needed basic infrastructure facilities including accessible network of financial institutions
- Provide logistics support for fully realizing export potential in handicrafts
- Conduct workshops on handlooms and handicrafts in each State with primary focus on product development, design and export marketing with the objective of creating awareness on international trends in design, color, pattern, production techniques and marketing strategies amongst entrepreneurs and exporters of handlooms and handicrafts and build capacity of artisans to respond to these requirements.
Tertiary Sector Activities: Poor among self-employed in non-agriculture representing small businessmen and service providers both in rural and urban areas are quite large. Tertiary sector has the potential to provide repairing and service facilities being critical to promote the use of modern machineries and equipment in primary and secondary sectors. There is a significant demand for these services in rural and urban areas. To make tiny business and service sector economically viable and attractive to unemployed youths and women, there is need to emphasize significant improvement and up-gradation of technical, managerial and financial skills of youths that can facilitate them to access formal credit and markets and develop tertiary activities as commercial business enterprises, rather than providing livelihood. It is necessary to form SHGs of unemployed youths and women and train them.
Slow growth: Region has formulated a Vision 2020 document envisioning short-term targets to be achieved by 2010, medium and long term by 2015 and 2020 respectively. Field studies reveal that the performance as on March 31,2010 has been quite poor exhibiting significant gaps between achievements and targets. Region’s growth has been slow due to factors, viz. extremely difficult terrain, grossly inadequate physical infrastructure including institutional banking and credit structure, lack of required level of managerial, technical and financial skills leading to slow growth of entrepreneurship and low level of technology intervention, absence of proper market linkages, among others. Last but not the least has been the disturbed law and order situation in some of the states that discourages investment in the region.
Development opportunities: Policy initiatives and programs are necessary to create and expand development opportunities for a large number of rural households in primary, secondary and tertiary sectors of economy. Rural development initiatives need to focus productive utilization of human capital through training and capacity building programs. The investment in creating rural infrastructure involving skill labour is low.
Conclusion: It is now most opportune time to review the performance as on March 31,2012 being the terminal year of the Eleventh Five Year Plan [2007-12] and identify the shortcomings in critical areas which should help the States in the region to formulate State and sector-wise strategy to achieve the targets for 2015 on time. Even experiences and lessons from the past several decades should help NEC, States and Union Government draw the road map for the integrated development of the region to achieve during the Twelfth Five Year Plan [2012-17] the 80% of goals envisioned in the Vision document 2020.