Government is working on a plan to plug the gaps in its outreach for tribal communities in the handicraft sector and ensure monetary support reaches them directly, Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani said on Friday. Talking about the “legacy challenge”, Irani said: “The crisis in the handicraft sector is those who for almost seven decades received grants from the government to reach out to the tribal community became fiefdoms unto themselves and a lot of tribal community members felt that the government was giving out money but it was not reaching the last person.”
Highlighting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “insistence” on direct benefit transfer, Irani said efforts are being made to ensure the money reaches tribal community or individuals directly. Irani has met the tribal affairs minister recently to chalk out a plan to identify market opportunities for tribal communities engaged in handicraft and address social challenges with regard to education, healthcare and housing.
Addressing the Global Investors’ India Forum organised by Assocham, Irani said the textile ministry is in talks with Union Road, Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari to ensure its logistical challenges are addressed and sought the industry’s support in this regard. Irani spoke of the need for better protection of Indian soldiers, saying the ministry has identified specific clothing with the help of its defence counterpart while asking India Inc to invest in the technical know-how.
“In terms of an intervention for our soldiers (regarding) how they can be better protected through clothing, we have identified with the help of our engagement with the ministry of defence what kind of support we can give,” she said. “I spoke about technical textiles and that is where I think the industry can have a huge intervention not only from R&D, but from investment perspective…”
Highlighting various challenges faced by the power loom sector, she referred to complex issues ranging from subsidy for loom upgradation to allocation of money for use of renewable energy for looms. The minister added: “We are working out some kind of support for the entire sector, but my biggest concern is for those who have 1-2 looms or less than eight looms because till now, most of the money has gone to people who are organised better, not the individual power weaver, where everything is shutting down.”
She said further: “One has to recognise that government can only become a facilitator… and it is ultimately the industry and the people who have to walk the talk.”