India/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.9 Employment policies for the cultural sector

In 2005, the Planning Commission set up an Inter-Ministerial Task Group on Technological, Investment and Marketing Support for Household and Artisanal Manufacturing (2005),[1] which claimed that the household and artisanal sector formed ‘the backbone of India’s socio economic fabric’ since around 65 lakh[2] persons are engaged in handloom weaving and allied activities, 6.2 million in handicrafts and 19.1 million in village and small enterprises, 6.2 million in sericulture and 7.3 million in food processing. A large segment of artisans and household manufacturers belong to the disadvantaged strata of society – Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and the minority community. In order to increase the living standards of this disadvantaged stratum of our society, it is imperative that their main source of livelihood be firmly placed on a sustainable growth trajectory.

Such growth could only be ensured through giving a major boost to the unorganised sector, the backbone of the Indian economy. Whereas manufacturing in the organised sector has a Net Domestic Product (NDP) of INR 1,27,387 crores (USD 25477.4 million) and accounts for 6.75 million jobs, the unorganised sector has an NDP of INR 82,419 crores (USD 16,483.8 million) and accounts for 34.04 million jobs. This, said the Report, translates into employment intensity in the unorganised sector that is 7.8 times that of the organised sector. In order, therefore, to address the issue of employment in the areas of handlooms, handicrafts, sericulture, village & small industries, food processing industries, it was necessary to address and overcome sector-wide constraints of inadequate technology, improper marketing and insufficient credit.

It is clear that those employed in such sectors are not ‘professionals’ in the usual sense of the term, nor are they even white-collar workers, but often come from the lowest social strata. Bringing respectability to their professions is therefore a major task, and while some of the statements being made by the Inter-Ministerial group clearly evoke early Planning documents outlined in previous sections, the solutions being now provided have been occasionally drastic. The Report proposes, for example, a ‘cluster based development strategy for this sector’ where ‘clusters of artisans in a defined geographical area’ are permitted common services and facilities such as:a design centre, a post-production processing and finishing centre, a common tooling and machine centre, an internet enabled market exchange for e-commerce, a product standardisation and quality control centre, a bulk merchandising interface forum where bulk orders are received and disaggregated to artisans and finished products are received from artisans and aggregated for delivery to export houses/department stores/chain stores, etc. and common plant facilities for treatment and disposal of hazardous waste.

[2] A lakh or lac is a unit in the South Asian numbering system equal to one hundred thousand (100,000). 

Chapter published: 22-04-2014