Indian Handloom Industry: Issues and Challenges in Recent Time

Last Updated on 16/12/2020

Indian Handloom Industry: Issues and Challenges in Recent Time

R.S. Balakumar
Associate Professor
Dept of Fashion Design & Arts
Hindustan University, Chennai, India


The Indian Textile Industry conquers a unique place in our country. One of the initial to come into survival in India, it records for 18% of the total Industrial production, subsidizes to nearly 32% of the total exports and is the second leading employment producer after agriculture.

Today, India’s textile sector encompasses four important parts:

  1. Modern textile mills
  2. Power looms (Independent)
  3. Handlooms and
  4. Apparel sector

The Indian handloom industry shows a very significant role in the Indian ‘country’s economy. It is one of the chief monetary actions that providing direct occupation to over 68 lakhs persons are being engaged in weaving and allied activities.

As a result of current Government involvement through monetary support and application of various progressive and well being schemes, this sector has been able to withstand race from the power loom and mill sectors.

indian handloom industry
Fig: Handloom operated by a woman at home

This sector subsidizes nearly 22% of the total cloth produced in the country and also enhances considerably to export remunerations. Handloom is matchless in its plasticity and usefulness, allowing testing and promising improvements.

The strength of Handloom lies in the introducing inventive designs, which never be simulated by the Power loom sector. Accordingly, Handloom forms a part of the tradition of India and illustrates the fruitfulness and mixture of our country and the artistry of the weavers.

The Office of the Development Commissioner for Handlooms has been executing, since its beginning in the year 1976, several schemes for the upgrade and development of the hand loom sector and providing assistance to the hand loom weavers in a variety of ways.

Approximately nine of the major programmes are mentioned here under:

  1. Modernisation and Up gradation of Technology
  2. Input Support
  3. Marketing Support
  4. Publicity
  5. Infrastructural Support
  6. Welfare Measures
  7. Composite Growth Oriented Package
  8. Development of Exportable Products
  9. Research & Development

The numerous schemes executed by the Office of Development Commissioner for Handlooms statement the needs of weavers who organize the lacking social levels and occupational groups, which are at the bottom of the economic hierarchy. Concerted efforts are being made through the schemes and programmes 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.

In order to provide financial assistance in an integrated manner to the handloom weavers and strengthen the design segment of the fabric, Government of India had taken new initiatives in addition to ongoing other schemes and programmes by launching new scheme is called, Deen Dayal Hathkargha Protsahan Yojana and set up a National Centre for Textile Design (NCTD) recently.

The scheme has come into operation with result from April 2001. It is a wide-ranging scheme for handloom sectors to take care of a wide range of activities such as, product development, infrastructural and institutional support, training of weavers, supply of equipment and marketing support, etc. equally at macro and micro levels in a cohesive and harmonized method for a complete growth and advantage of handloom weavers.

Similarly, challenges to provide such facilities, which would enable the weavers within co-operative fold as well as external, to yield up production as per the market request. The scheme challenges to assist the needs of weavers for working capital, basic inputs, creating attentiveness and to support quality fabric productions over proper design involvement for growth in productivity along with running for publicity, marketing and transport incentives, and so on.

The Government of India has authorized a sum of Rs. 242 lakhs and released a sum of Rs. 120.28 lakhs as first instalment Central share for application of nearly sixty-four projects.

Has introduced the under mentioned scheme as follows:-

Objectives of the Scheme:

  1. To connect the weavers to the arcade and offer them with satisfactory tools to re-join to the quickly changing market situation and demands.
  2. To bond all the people fit in to the fabric industry with the elaborations in additional fields.
  3. To provide all the weavers, workers and designers superior contact and admittance to countrywide and worldwide markets thereby giving them a better employment and opportunities for more supportable progress.

National Handloom Development Corporation (NHDC), a Government of India undertaking, is the only agency approved to implement the scheme.

The scheme benefits the following organizations and their member weavers:

  1. All Handloom Organizations of National/State/Regional level.
  2. Handloom Development Centres;
  3. Hand loom producers/exporters/manufacturers registered with the Handloom Export Promotion Council (HEPC) or any other Export Promotion Council under the Ministry of Textiles, or with the State Directors of Industries;
  4. All approved export houses/trading houses/star trading houses for production of handloom items;
  5. Members of recognized/approved handloom associations;
  6. NGOs fulfilling CAPART norms;
  7. Any other agency, with the approval of the Development Commissioner for Handlooms;
  8. All types of yarn required for production of handloom items are covered under the scheme.

The Government of India is bearing the entire expenditure under the Scheme. The yarn is being arranged by NHDC from the mills as per the requirement of the user agencies and transported to the go down of the agency.

The Government of India is applying Weavers Welfare Schemes that contains Health Package Scheme, Thrift Fund Scheme and New Insurance Scheme for handloom weavers.

1. Health Package Scheme for Handloom Weavers:
Under the Scheme, the weavers are providing financial aid for the action of sicknesses like asthma, tuberculosis and inflammation of respiratory system, resource of drinking water, motherhood benefits to women weavers, fee of additional compensation for permanent measures of family planning and arrangement for the primary health care.

2. Thrift Fund Scheme for Handloom Weavers:
The Scheme predicts the formation of a deposit like provident fund to meet incidentals towards children’s education, marriages, and religious ceremonies and so on.

3. New Insurance Scheme for Handloom Weavers:
This scheme covers the following benefits as mentioned as, People Accidental Insurance against accidental death at premium of Rs.120/- per annum, with a contribution of Rs.20/- by the weaver, Rs.40/- by the State Government and Rs.60/- by the Government of India.

The significance of the hand loom sector in the national economy is glowing recognized. On account of having the advantage of flexibility of production in small batches, individuality, continuous scope for modernization, eco friendliness, flexibility and, above all, the component of rich artistry, this handloom sector has the prospective to donate towards export incomes in a big way.

Consequently, export of handloom products has been acknowledged as a “Thrust Area” for the overall development of the sector. The Government is discovering the probability of making peak use of the possessions to boost production competences of exportability handloom products.

A donation of Rs. 26.00 crores was made to tool the Hand loom Export Scheme during the 10th five-year plan.

From 2002-03 to 2006-07 (till January 2007), 57 Export Projects were sanctioned and Rs.802.42 lakhs were released to various agencies, covering 3942 weavers.

During the same period, financial assistance of rupees, 1165.20 lakh was released for participation in 47 International trade events to the Handloom Export Promotion Council (HEPC), Association of Corporations and Apex Societies of Handlooms (ACASH) and Handicrafts and Handlooms Export Corporation of India Ltd (HHEC).

The Handloom Export Promotion Council, itemized under the Companies Act, 1956, was established in 1965 by the Government of India as the nodal agency for export promotion efforts related to the cotton handloom textiles and also provides a wide range of services listed below:

  1. Distribution of trade information &cleverness;
  2. Persuasive abroad for Indian handloom products;
  3. Organisation of commercial mission’s/buyer seller meets and contribution in International trade events;
  4. Consultancy and supervision services for handloom exporters;
  5. Relationship with the Government of India on all bureaucratic and strategy matters significant to the handloom export trade;
  6. Dealing with profession grievances affecting to handloom exports;
  7. Association with the commercial agencies abroad for expansion of handloom exports;
  8. Simplifying product modification and revision to meet contemporary market necessities;
  9. As long as motivation to upgrading of handlooms for the export market; and
  10. Establishment of design inputs to promote export of handloom products.

The Indian cotton handloom fabrics and made-ups occupy a place of prominence in the markets of USA, UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Japan and Australia. The main items exported belong to the segment of home furnishing, which constitutes roughly 90% of our total handloom exports.

Handloom weavers are facing severe livelihood crisis because of adverse government policies, globalisation and changing socio-economic conditions. The national and state governments do have several schemes pertaining to production inputs, market support and development, meant to protection the welfares of the weaving community.

Fruitless operation of the schemes and the changed context of textile industry, increasing competition from the power loom and mill sectors have been largely responsible for the crisis in the handlooms.

Lack of information to weavers regarding various policies and schemes is no less a significant cause for the dwindling fortunes of the weaver community. Even government departments and implementing agencies related to handloom suffer from inadequate information and data resulting in a spreading opening between policy preparation and application. In the recent periods, due to absence of facts and fast stepped deviations, performs in handloom sector became static and seemingly terminated.

Currently, government policies are progressively prejudiced by the globalization developments and are related to WTO-induced trade systems. As the panels on exports get liberalised and internal markets open up, the textile situation in the country is likely to experience radical variations in terms of assistances, efforts like designs, market trends and fluctuating anxieties therein.

In former planning developments at the national level, development of handloom sector was seen as an encouragement for rural development, being based on local resources, local workmanship and catering primarily for local markets.

In the first times following India’s independence, all national policies emphasized this. Conversely, current thinking at the apex policy level is that the handloom sector is a redundant profession and is a burden on the government exchequer. Political leadership, in general, has been avoiding taking up sticks on behalf of the weavers’ community.

The central government needs to recognise the value of the Indian handloom industry in sustainable development. On its specific, the government would never be able to provide employment to such a huge labour force. Successful by the reason of liberalisation itself, the government in turn should to verbalize, encourage and boost policies that sustain this employment. Government has to ensure a ‘level playing field’ for this sector towards healthy race between the different sub-sectors of the Indian textile industry.

The following are facets that require instant responsiveness:

1. Raw Material supply:
Access to raw material such as yarn, dyes and dyestuffs has become a problem. Weaving is a rural and semi-rural production activity and weavers have to go far to get these raw materials. To highest it off, yarn prices are gradually increasing. As a consequence, there is a perpetual scarcity of yarn for the weavers. In the face of a few schemes, the hank yarn access issue has not been resolved.

2. Raw material prices:
Handloom mostly uses natural fibres such as cotton, silk and jute. Prices of these fibres have been cumulative during production and processing. Cotton production in India is expensive because of rigorous and high usage of costly agricultural inputs such as pesticides and fertilisers. Moreover, while the fibre production most often happens in the region of the weavers, their meting out is done in distant areas, and as such the prices to the weaver are higher.

3. Infrastructure and Investment:
Investment in handloom sector has accordingly far been partial to input supply costs. There is no investment on sectoral development. While there have been some piece-meal schemes such as workshop-cum-housing and venture package schemes, they simply prolong the existing conditions.

There has been no thinking on basic necessities of the producer. Facilities such as land, water and electricity need to be providing in several places that are a harbour for handloom industrialized. On the other hand, power looms are receiving more usable provision from the government in obtaining land, water and electricity.

4. Design developments:
While there are recommendations that handloom sector should intensification its design in comeback to deviations in the market, the blockages are countless. The absence of change is not due to the weaver not being pliable to change, as is mentioned. Slightly, it is due to indisposition of the depositor to take hazards and afford inducement to weavers for effecting the change.

5. Market for products:
Handloom products necessitate additional distinguish ability. This means healthier and broader market linkage. Unique displays organised with the support of government do not suit.

6. Patenting designs/selections:
Handloom designs are not endangered. As a consequence, stockholders are not attentive in case they end up with the risk and those who copy the assistances. Safety options include development of handloom/silk/jute marks and registration under Geographical Indications Act.

7. Free export/import trade – opportunity:
Post the WTO Agreement on Textile Clothing, there is successful to be more free export and import of textiles. The handloom sector, as an old-fashioned area, can honour some special packages or discriminatory measures, to guard this kind of production.

8. Cooperative system:
While cooperatives prepare help in maximising the assistances for weavers in the complete manacle of production, their present condition a cause of alarm. The handloom cooperative system is perforated with exploitation and party-political interference. Cooperatives have to become independent of district-level government generals in positions of management and the administration.

9. Intercessors (individuals/institutions):
Government has formed a few research, training and input institutes to help the handloom sector. These establishments include weaver service centres, institutions of handloom technology, (IHT) and National Institute of fashion technology (NIFT), etc. But their presentation has been below par and their presence has not helped in preventing the problems of handloom weavers.

10. Budget allocations:
Distributions for handloom in national and state finances are being reduced. This has to be upturned. Budget has to increase with new schemes which address the problems of the sector, in view of the association and the need to shelter rural employment.

11. Enhancement of Value:
There is a need for attractive the value of handloom products through utilisation of organic cotton and organic yarn, application of natural dyes and by accumulative the productivity of the looms through investigation and innovation – for instance, changes in the width of the looms and some suitable technical changes.

12. Competition and unfair competition from mills and power looms:
Competition is now uneven, with mill and power loom sector receiving appropriations in various forms. Furthermore, power looms have been destabilization handloom markets by selling their products as handloom.

13. Wages, employment and livelihood issues:
Wages have not increased in the last several years. Some sections of handloom weavers are breathing in hand-to-mouth conditions, with no house or assets. These subjects need to be addressed by the government; at least effectively implement the Minimum Wages Act.

The budget has made a special mention that the textile industry is geared up to meet the worldwide challenge and clusters were designated. 273 new yarn maintenance yard are opened in till now and the Handloom Mark was launched. The Government proposes to take up additional 100-150 clusters in due course.

The 12 schemes that are now implemented will be grouped into five schemes in the Foredooming Plan, namely,

  1. Integrated Handloom Development Scheme (IHDS),
  2. Marketing and Export Promotion Scheme (MEPS),
  3. Handloom Weaver Comprehensive Welfare Scheme (HWCWS),
  4. Mill Gate Price Scheme (MGPS) and
  5. Diversified Handloom Development Scheme (DHDS)

The health insurance scheme has so far covered 300,000 weavers and will be extended to more weavers. The scheme will also be enlarged to include ancillary workers. The provision for the sector has also been increased from Rs.241 crores to more than Rs.321 crores in the upcoming year.

The Indian handloom industry set up a everlasting part of the gorgeous cultural Heritage of India. The element of art and craft present in Indian handlooms makes it a prospective sector for the upper segments of market domestic as well as international. Conversely, the sector is surrounded with manifold problems such as out dated know-hows, disorganized production system, small productivity, insufficient working capital, predictable product range, pathetic marketing link, overall immobility of production and sales and, beyond all, struggle from power loom and mill sector.

As a consequence of actual Government involvement through financial support and application of various progressive and welfare schemes, the handloom sector, to some magnitude, has been capable to flow over these hindrances. Accordingly, handloom arrangements a priceless part of the generational heritage and demonstrates the fruitfulness and multiplicity of our nation and the talent of the weavers.

You can also like: Structure of the Indian Textile Industry: A Case Study

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