New Delhi: India's
handmade textiles industry can spin magic yarns for both domestic
buyers and connoisseurs across the globe but government policies
are coming in the way of its advancement, rues crafts impresario Jaya Jaitley, who has been associated with the sector for about
"The potential as well as scope for Indian handmade and handwoven
textiles in the domestic and international markets is huge. We can
be the world leaders. Unfortunately, government policies seem to
put more and more obstacles in the way of this sector. The focus
is mostly on exports, which is not wise at all," Jaitley,
president of the Dastkari Haat Samiti, told IANS in an interview.
As many as 1,500 craftsmen are associated with the Samiti and have
so far conducted over 100 crafts bazaars across the globe,
including cities like London, Oxford and Frankfurt and in
Highlighting the problems, the 70-year-old Jaitley said that the
proposed National Fibre Policy would pose a major roadblock for
the progress of the craftsmen.
"The proposed National Fiber Policy to tax cotton on a par with
polyester is a matter of concern. By reducing the tax on synthetic
yarn and placing a tax on cotton in the name of equity, the
government will take cotton yarn out of reach of handloom
weavers," she asserted.
According to reports, despite a huge production base of natural
fibers like cotton, wool and jute along with man-made fibres, the
Indian textile industry is losing its share in the global market.
Keeping this in mind, then textile minister Dayanidhi Maran had
proposed the National Fibre Policy in 2009. He felt that the
scheme would iron out disparities in the taxation structure.
Jaitley vehemently disagrees with this.
"The climate of the country cannot sustain the wearing of
synthetics for health reasons. Silk yarn prices have doubled.
Weavers are committing suicide in Andhra Pradesh and poor weavers
in Varanasi are suffering. Political packages are an eyewash. It
is sad and frustrating when there is so much we can be proud of in
our textiles heritage," she maintained.
International icons fancy Indian handlooms and crafts, but Indian
fashion enthusiasts do not care for them and Jaitley believes this
is because youth is blinded by imitation.
"We have some passionate art and craft lovers, but the majority
open their eyes to their own wealth of craft only when foreigners
start appreciating it. We (the Indian market) have allowed the
aesthetic sensibilities developed by our traditional artisans to
be debased by chasing after western products, fashion and style.
"The good stuff is only for the select rich. The common customer
is buying cheap imitations, synthetic and Chinese copies or is
influenced by our celebrities who prefer wearing short dresses and
colouring their hair brown. Why don't we have confidence in our
own identity and heritage?
"Today everyone is following this monster called the market
instead of remembering culture, tradition and skill levels.
Today's time is more about survival than revival. The government
should realize that crafts is an area for employment generation
and sustainable livelihoods," Jaitley added.
Given her promotion of handloom art and crafts for four decades,
Jaitley feels proper motivation can help in boosting the weavers'
"If we allow our artisans to come forward and encourage them to
follow the path of literacy and education while not abandoning
their skills, then only can they come out of the shadow of
exploiters. We just need many more platforms and innovative ways
to do this. I have tried it with Dilli Haat and other such
programmes," she said.
Currently Jaitley is busy with what she loves the most --
promoting "Handcrafting Promises" at Dilli Haat to mark the 25th
anniversary of Dastkari Haat Crafts Bazaar.
The spotlight is on African nations and she has invited artisans
from Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Uganda and Rwanda to exchange
tips with their Indian counterparts.
She also remembered social reformer and freedom fighter Kamaladevi
Chattopadhyay, who was the driving force behind the revival of
Indian handicrafts and handlooms.
"I greatly respected Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay's lifelong passion
and hard work. She was in the freedom movement and was a part of
those who could influence policies from a very nationalistic
viewpoint," she said.
(Nivedita Sharma can be contacted at email@example.com)