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Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi: ‘With more than 3 lakh artisans participating since 2016, Hunar Haat to go international’

This (at India Gate) was the 20th edition of Hunar Haat, there is one on right now in Ranchi. There have been more than 3 lakh participants so far.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi |
March 2, 2020 3:53:11 am
Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. (File Photo)

By walking into the Hunar Haat unheralded last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had elevated the status of this periodic fair for artisans from the minority communities to the league of a happening destination in the national capital. Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi talks to ABANTIKA GHOSH about Hunar Haat and how it plans to go international.

Tell us about the genesis of Hunar Haat and what has it achieved?

It all started about three-and-a-half years ago when PM Modi was very keen for a forum that would promote and market the world-class products of Indian artisans and craftsmen working from Kutch to Cuttack, Kashmir to Kanyakumari. We have a programme called Ustaad that works with artisans to train and help them so that traditional arts do not die out. We worked with Ustaad to start Hunar Haat. The first one happened at the India International Trade Fair in 2016 with participants from 19-20 states. There has been no looking back since then; we have been to Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad. This (at India Gate) was the 20th edition of Hunar Haat, there is one on right now in Ranchi. There have been more than 3 lakh participants so far.

How much business has been transacted in these haats?

Our estimate is more than Rs 100 crore. Of course, we do not ask them and they do not tell us. But that is a reasonable estimate. Apart from this, there are international orders that they get at these fairs. At India Gate, for example, there was a footfall of 17 lakh; it’s not ticketed but this is the figure we have from the metal detectors. I would say that translated into business of Rs 25-30 crore. We also trained the craftsmen in packaging, a government PSU set up a stall just for that. The importance of good packaging, the need to shun single-use plastic — all of that was taught to the participants.

Tell us about the PM’s visit.

It was all very sudden, there was no word whatsoever, he took all of us by surprise and spent so much time at the venue, interacting with participants, tasting the food. There was a stupendous increase in visitors after that.

Do you have many women participants?

As a matter of fact, we have a 50% reservation for women. It started at 20%, but over the years we have increased that to ensure more women’s participation. There are a large number of women self-help groups associated with Hunar Haat. There is one from Moradabad that makes yoga mats, it started with 20-30 women but there was so much demand that there are 500 women now who are a part of that SHG and making yoga mats.

In addition, we also have food stalls — the varied cuisine of the South, of the Northeast. The idea is to showcase unity in diversity — the culinary way.

How much does Hunar Haats cost the government?

Very little, believe me. We have spent only about 10-12 crore till date. We give the stalls for free, we give second class return train tickets to two people for every stall and, given that sales are unpredictable, we also give them TA/DA.

Any plans to go international?

We have been getting requests. There is a person of Indian origin — an NRI who wants to take Hunar Haat to London. We have a request from the Indian Embassy in Jeddah. There are also queries from Dubai and Kuwait. We have formed a task force under an additional secretary to look into it and develop a plan. We are also in talks with the Export Promotion Council and the Commerce Ministry. There were teams from both at India Gate.

Talks are on with Indian Institute of Packaging for effective methods to ensure attractive packaging for products of artisans. A 5-day workshop was held by Indian Institute of Packaging during recent Hunar Haat at India Gate lawns.

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