A Reminder To Support The Local Artisans And Businesses In India

By: Mayuri, Milton

Published On: August 07, 2021

Observed on the 7th of August, Handloom Day can be seen as a celebration - a way of acknowledging the Indian artisans, craftspeople and the handloom industry they contribute to. The Day was first organised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015 in Chennai, to empower the weavers and revive the country’s second-oldest industry. The move was supported heartily across the nation and was seen as addressing the need for the preservation of a decades-old culture.

The Handloom Industry

The story of the handloom begins with woven and dyed cotton fabrics excavated in the ruins of Mohenjo Daro, and weaving styles found in the Vedas. It was one of the symbols of Indian resistance during the 1850’s as well, with the symbol of charkha used on our national flag.

The handloom industry is deeply traditional in nature, with the entire family being involved in the production of cloth. Right from spinning the yarn, coloring it, to weaving on the loom everything is done by them as a unit. The tools required for this process are made from wood, sometimes bamboo, and they do not need resources such as electricity to run them. The entire process of fabric production is labour intensive yet one of the most eco-friendly ways of producing clothes.

Why is the handloom business declining?

The handloom sector has had to face competition from other cheap imports and design imitations from power looms, especially post 90’s liberalization. Power looms are mechanized looms powered by water, steam, or electricity rather than by hand - the original way of  weaving cloth, tapestry and the like in India.

Weaving has been on a gradual decline in the past years due to power loom/mill fabrics ruling the market along with other factors like weavers not earning enough or not having access to competitive markets, quality raw materials, and design support. So the younger women who can no longer weave to make ends meet have no choice but to migrate to nearby cities or get married at an early age. 

The funding and policy protection given by the government has also drastically declined due to various reasons. This isn’t helped by the fact that the cost of natural fiber yarn has increased tremendously, especially when compared to artificial fibre. These increases in price make it unaffordable for a large section of our society to purchase them. To add to their burden, throughout these changes and ordeals, the wages of handloom weavers remained unchanged. 

Today, many weavers are quitting weaving as they are not able to compete with cheaper poly-mixed fibers. As a result they have no choice but to go for unskilled labor work. Many of them have also been reduced to extreme poverty.

How has Covid affected the handloom business?

Handloom crafts and textiles have a lot of significance in India’s heritage. Weaving is a source of livelihood for millions of people. The handloom sector has been severely affected due to the COVID-19 crisis as it has caused a disruption of businesses across the globe. With only 15 out of 40 looms being operational, most of the artisans are facing trouble finding jobs. They are facing a severe financial crisis as they had to stop working.

The sector has experienced sudden stalling of orders as retailers themselves are closed thanks to the worldwide lockdown and no signs of immediate recovery are visible. Cash flow has stopped as no sales are happening. Production has stopped completely, huge unsold inventory has accumulated, there has been no sale either through exhibitions or through orders. They have no capital to reinvest in. The artisans have a shortage of food let alone savings to meet medical and other emergency expenses. Many artisans are now looking for agricultural work or to migrate back to their hometowns.

For artisans, the living expenses have risen thanks to inflation of essential commodities and also a rise in precautionary medical expenditure thanks to fear of the coronavirus. On average, the artisans earned about Rs 10,000 per month before the lockdown, but it has come down drastically.

How can crowdfunding help?

For the past few years, online crowdfunding platforms such as ImpactGuru have helped people raise funds for causes such as medical, educational and social. It is a fundraising portal that hosts the transformation of dreams and wishes into reality and connects causes to inspired communities

ImpactGuru has helped many of the underdogs in our country. These platforms give voice to small businesses, NGOs and individuals across India to share their story and get financial support from an entire donor community.

If you want to reach out and help the craftsmen and artisans during these dark times, consider starting a fundraiser on behalf of them or donate to a cause that supports them. Any step towards helping them is a step ahead for our artisans and local businesses to continue doing what they love. Celebrate this National Handloom Day with a gesture of goodwill.

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