India/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.3 Cultural/creative industries: policies and programmes


The cultural/creative economy sector in India received a major and transformative intervention in 2005 at what came to be known as the ‘Jodhpur Consensus’, a conclave conducted by UNESCO under its Creativity and Cultural Industries Programme in Asia and the Pacific. The conclave was entitled ‘Asia Pacific Creative Communities: Cultural Industries for Local Economic Development’, and was designed to help governments and the private sector coordinate initiatives and help policy makers develop a common understanding and approach to developing a conceptual framework for cultural industries in the region. It was done in co-operation with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. The ensuing ‘Jodhpur Consensus’ defined Cultural Industries as follows:

Cultural Industries are defined as those industries which produce tangible or intangible artistic and creative outputs, and which have a potential for wealth creation and income generation through the utilisation of cultural assets and production of knowledge-based goods and services (both traditional and contemporary). What cultural industries have in common is that they all use creativity, cultural knowledge and intellectual property to produce products and services with social and cultural meaning.

The Big Idea

The phenomenon of a dynamic global business using creativity, traditional knowledge and intellectual property to produce products and services with social and cultural meaning, points to the next Big Idea. (Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Executive Head of the Planning Process, Government of India, 2005).

In 2005, following a proposal by designer Rajeev Sethi, the Planning Commission appointed a Task Force on Culture and Creative Industries to make recommendations for the 10th Five Year Plan.

The final document by the Task Force was never officially adopted by the Planning Commission, and as such by the 10th Five Year Plan, although several aspects of its contentions do in fact reveal an unacknowledged influence on what appears the definitive turn to the culture industries strategy in the 11th Five Year Plan. As such, the final, extravagantly designed report of the Task Force, is worth looking at in some detail, mainly for the breathtaking audacity of several of its claims.

In his provocatively titled preface, ‘Positioning the Big Idea: Creative and Cultural Industries as a Lead Sector’, Ahluwalia states that the Planning Commission sees itself as primarily facilitating ‘the transition of cultural industries (traditional art and craft) into creative industries’ with the help of design and media industry. Such a transition would ‘create original inroads into the global market’. Bringing together tradition and technology would not just ‘bring us at par with international strategy’ but would ‘create distinctively Indian products and services… our own original contribution that can hold its own against the best the world has to offer’.

What places India in a unique position to achieve this goal is, in Ahluwalia’s opinion, its vast human resource — ‘the largest number of economically vulnerable people all over the country’— who in turn would find employment in these industries. Thus, alongside its contribution to the GDP, culture industries are seen as having the greatest available potential to employ currently unemployed/underemployed people, especially in rural areas.

Sethi’s own manifesto statement, ‘Making, Doing, Being’ reproduces a specific strategy that we have seen was already one the Planning Commission was working with. He claimed that whereas agriculture employs 48% of India’s organised workforce, has a 20% share in the country’s GDP and is growing at 2-3%, on the other hand self-organised, household, artisanal and legacy industries employ 30% of the organised workforce of the country, have a 14% share in the GDP and are growing at the rate of 12-15%. The crux of his argument was that India possesses an excess capacity of 20-22% of its population in agriculture, which effectively means that around 5 crores of people in agriculture are either unemployed or underemployed. While organised manufacturing, mining and services can absorb a maximum of 2 crore[1] of this population, India still possesses an employable workforce of 13 crore literate and 15 crore illiterate people. If properly worked, this can be harnessed by creative, cultural and traditional/legacy industries, to contribute to a GDP that, even if computed at half the per-capita income (INR 18,000 p.a.), could well grow to INR 216,000 crores (USD 43,200 million) equivalent to roughly 6% of GDP at current prices.

While elements of this kind of strategy echo some of the earlier plans of the Nehruvian era – as also evident in Sethi’s extended reference to the troika of Kapila Vatsyayan, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay and Pupul Jayakar, architects of Nehruvian cultural policy, what is perhaps most significant is his inversion of the very relation of tradition and modernity, something that none of that venerable trio could have possibly imagined. Sethi now claims that science in modern times plays the role that culture did in traditional times; large industry and IT telecom play today the role that cottage industries and household manufacturing did in the past, nuclear and hydel power replaces water mills, allopathic medicine replaces indigenous systems of health, electronic broadcasting and cinema replace live itinerant performances and popular theatre, dance, music, etc. For him, a ‘subsidy ridden minus’ suddenly becomes a potential ‘plus’ when it acknowledges its character and maximises the potential it offers instead of dismissing it as a defect.

Such a formulation is directly echoed in the 11th Five year plan. The crucial chapter on ‘Employment Perspective and Labour Policy’ has a major section on the informal sector. The Plan expects to significantly step up growth in employment in other sectors, countering the long-term trends observed in the past. Employment in manufacturing should grow at 4% per annum against the trend of growth in the preceding 11 years (1994–2005) of 3.3% per annum. Employment in construction should grow at 8.2% per annum against the trend of 5.9% growth, and in the transport and communication sector at 7.6% against the long-term trend of 5.3%.These growth rates in employment in individual sectors are achievable provided they are supported by programmes for skill development, which will ensure availability of the relevant skills without which the growth of employment will probably choke. It is also necessary to ensure a wider provision of social security and welfare of unorganised workers, particularly in sectors such as construction and transport (‘Employment Perspective and Labour Policy’, 11th Plan v 1, Ch. 4).

The Plan thereafter brings the service sector together with industrial sectors and an ambiguous category called ‘other sectors’, to combine, crucially, IT-enabled services, telecom services, tourism, media and entertainment services, energy-production, distribution and consumption of horticulture and floriculture, with industries such as leather, rubber and rubber products, wood and bamboo products, gems and jewellery, handicrafts, handlooms and khadi and village industries.

The specific Plan for Arts & Culture, typically tucked away in Volume 2 of the 11th Plan (Chapter 2, ‘Youth Affairs and Sports and Art and Culture’) nevertheless echoes several of the key components of the far more visible Employment/Labour plan. A summary statement of the ‘Specific Plan of Action’ for Art and Culture includes ‘dovetailing of cultural and creative industries—media, films, music, handicraft, visual and performing arts, literature, heritage, etc., for growth and employment’, ‘generating demand for cultural goods and services as a matter of sustenance rather than patronage, thus bringing art and culture sector in the larger public domain’, ‘promoting export of core cultural goods and services for taking the country in the list of first 20 countries ranked by UNESCO for export of culture, recognising ‘cultural heritage tourism’ as an upcoming industry with mutually supportive activities, and crucially, ‘building cultural resources with adaptation of scientific and technological knowledge to local circumstances, and forming partnerships between local and global’ along with ‘infusion of knowledge capital in cultural institutions through flexible engagements’.

Questions of intellectual property

In addition to employment generation, a key cornerstone of the entire strategy enshrined in the 2006 task force and the 11th Plan was to generate across-the-board Intellectual Property (IP) assets.

In their contribution to the Task Force report, lawyer and one of India’s leading authorities on IP, Pravin Anand, along with Swati Sukumar, defined cultural industries as those which derive economic value from cultural value, and as such split the category into two: (1) ‘classical’ cultural industries i.e. broadcast media, film, publishing, recorded music, design, architecture, new media  and (2) the ‘traditional arts’ i.e. visual arts, crafts, theatre, concerts and performance, literature, museums and galleries. While the two areas needed to be treated differently in terms of their respective IP, they nevertheless could come together if the emphasis was on creating and legally supporting ‘innovation culture’ in India.

The specific focus on IP law in India should be, they argue, towards converting every single Indian into an IP creator. While IP education and awareness programmes have been launched for various authorities like the Customs Department, the Police and even the Courts, the potential IP creators themselves have received no such education. They therefore recommend that various Governments set up grassroots-level Intellectual Property Management Cells in every district.

As per the Task Force, this kind of IP required the following, and the net was cast very wide:

  • A proper Copyright Law (The Indian Copyright Act has been recently revamped, and has been discussed later, in Section 5).
  • Geographical Indicators to include all elements of traditional knowledge including, as a random list, folklore, music, painting styles, dance styles, emblems, insignias, old processes or practices (to grow, to preserve and to heal), textiles, designs, etc. It is important, they said, that the definition should be illustrative and not exhaustive).
  • Creation of a Collecting Society: State acquisition of traditional knowledges where necessary should be acquired by a new entity called the Traditional Knowledges Board which, they propose, should function like a Collecting Society along the lines of the Performing Rights Society envisaged by Section 33 of the Copyright Act, 1957.
  • Credit structures for traditional knowledge producers, including Self-Help Groups (SHGs) who could interface with authorised credit, and producing specific loan packages for IP generation
  • Management of heritage: specialised initiatives to develop trained administrators of heritage
  • Focus on innovation with respect to energy efficiency
  • Marketing: specific focus on trade fairs, and creation of Rural Business Hubs
  • Registries of Traditional Knowledge and Genetic Resources (the relevant portal of WIPO was established by the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) at its third session and is linked to the Clearing House Mechanism of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The purpose of the Portal was to facilitate the study of IP issues related to traditional knowledge (TK) and genetic resources databases and registries.
  • Specific focus on health, especially on Ayurveda

The recommendations by the Rajeev Sethi initiative were themselves never taken forward, but some aspects highlighted in the report – especially with regard to labour – do find themselves reflected in 11th Plan priorities.

Training for the culture industry

This profile has repeatedly sought to demonstrate that much of what is today known as the culture industry was, in the period of high industrialisation, a part of what was known as the ‘informal’ or ‘decentralised’ sector. As such, although there are few programmes dedicated for training of culture industry professionals, there are numerous training course and institutes for training of what have today been named culture industries. These include institutes for film and media offering Diplomas, University departments offering Bachelors’ and Masters’ programmes in Communications Studies, and professional institutions such as the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune (FTII) and the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata (SRFTI). Institutions of design increasingly offer courses that include traditional design. Similar programmes are available in music, publishing etc. Some management institutions (e.g. Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore) have explored event management programmes. An early instance in Arts Management was the programme offered at the Sanskriti Foundation, New Delhi, and more recently by the Goethe Institute-supported ArthinkSouthAsia[2]. (See section 8 for more details).

[1] A crore is a unit in the South Asian numbering system equal to ten million.

Chapter published: 22-04-2014