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Craft Clusters and Work in Rural India: An Exploration

  • Keshab Das
Chapter

Abstract

With the farm sector continuing with unimpressive performance in terms of the growth of value of output, agricultural infrastructure, and also sustained massive rise in the landless agricultural laborers, non-farm employment of marginal and small farmers remains a potential source of local income and job generation. As an important source of non-farm livelihood option in villages and small towns in India, artisans—drawing upon cultural heritage, traditional skills, and entrepreneurship—have relied on local resources and, typically, served local demand. While the number of persons engaged in the huge variety of craft clusters (both handicrafts and handlooms) spread across the country is substantial, there has been a systematic policy neglect of the problems faced by the crafts as well as the craftspersons. That state policies have hardly helped preserve and promote craft skills and business is justified by the fact that there is no reliable and comprehensive official statistics on the craft activities, and that implies whatever schemes meant for artisans or their products would not be reaching most of the craftspersons. Consequently, a number of crafts are on the decline including the languishing crafts, inter alia, due to raw-material crisis, skill shortage, and dwindling demand for the products. A variety of institutional constraints facing these clusters over the decades have acted against developing an innovative ethos in the craft activities. While informality and the very small size of these enterprises characterize much of craft cluster dynamics, the policy apathy has continued to be the bane of this sector. Even the cluster development programs have been uninnovative in appreciating craft-centric issues and irresponsive to spatial development issues, particularly, economic infrastructure and enabling institutions. The chapter attempts to critically address important policy concerns through references to two cases of rural craft clusters in western and northeastern India.

Notes

Acknowledgments

An earlier version of this chapter was presented at the International Conference on Labor and Employment Issues in the Context of Emerging Rural-Urban Continuum: Dimensions, Processes and Policies organized by the S.R. Sankaran Chair (Rural Labor) at the National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj (NIRDandPR), Hyderabad, in March 2015. Some parts of this were also presented at the National Seminar on Role of Public Policy in Development Process (Emerging Economic/Social Scenario in the Indian Economy) organized by the Sardar Patel Institute of Economic and Social Research, Ahmedabad, in January 2016. The author is grateful to Kailas Sarap for the opportunity to write this paper and comments on an earlier draft. Several scholars provided comments, suggestions, and encouragement both at the aforesaid conferences and beyond. Sincere thanks are due to Jenine Rodgers, Ashwani Saith, Judith Heyer, G. Vijay, D. Narasimha Reddy, K.P. Kannan, S.P. Kashyap, Rajeswari Raina, Tirthankar Roy, Anita Arya, and Niti Mehta. Research support by Gani Memon, Arti Oza, and Kamlesh Vyas is greatly appreciated.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Keshab Das
    • 1
  1. 1.Gujarat Institute of Development ResearchAhmedabadIndia

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