The government through convergence of various ministries is working on a plan to promote tribal, handicrafts community and fill the various gaps, Union Textile Minister, Smriti Irani said at an ASSOCHAM event held in New Delhi today.
“I had a meeting three days ago with the minister in-charge for tribal affairs and we are propagating a plan between two ministries so that there is convergence of effort to ensure things like uniqueness of their craft, the fact that they have challenge of not understanding the amount of opportunity the market has to offer to them, social challenges with regards to education, healthcare are met including housing,” said Irani while inaugurating an ‘ASSOCHAM Global Investors’ India Forum.’
“So we are preparing a plan to ensure, not only in the tribal community but in the handicrafts community per se, we have these interventions with convergence of various ministries and we reach out,” she added.
“I think one of the biggest challenges in the handicrafts sector as I have said, is that those who were interested in their care between the central and state government or between state government and administration at the district level, the gaps arose in those areas which have not been filled for too long because it was nobody’s baby, so now we are hoping that we bridge that gap,” further said the minister.
Sharing her experience in the Human Resources Development (HRD) Ministry, she said, “I have personally seen how much success is met when there is direct communication between centre, state and district administration because we had that deadline by the Prime Minister to build toilets across all government schools across India in just one year which looked like a statistical and infrastructural impossibility.”
“I am proud to say that has been one of the landmark efforts of our government and I am hoping that we have a similar intervention in the handicraft, handloom sector as well because when you look at the north-east tribal community, you see them coming out with lovely handlooms as well but the challenge there has been that there needs to be a streamlined process of engagement across government in the federal structure so that it benefits the last mile individual, so that’s what we are hoping to do,” said Irani.
She also informed that government was conducting a study of all the reserves that India has.
“We are in the process of digitising our land records in the country, so under the Digital India program, that is an emphatic push by the Government of India,” said the minister.
“Also from the land and irrigation perspective, the Prime Minister has been very clear in his instructions that we need to map all that we have invested in our seven decades of democracy in irrigation systems of our country, how many of them are genuinely functional, how many need an intervention where they can be now propped up again and service the land around it, how many actually need new structures so those studies and mappings are underway currently,” she added.
In terms of an intervention for soldiers, how they can be better protected through clothing, she said, “We have identified within the Ministry, our engagement with the Ministry of Defence as to what kind of support that we can give, the industry can have a huge intervention, not only from R&D (research and development) perspective but also from investment perspective, so that we self-support our systems, our army for their needs be it at Siachen or any other station. This includes our forces like BSF, CISF because they also have these technical textile needs.”
The union minister also informed that Textile Ministry was in discussion with Road, Transport and Highways Ministry to ensure that logistical challenges are met and sought industry’s support in this regard.
“If we look at the logistical challenges that India has, as compared to Bangladesh, yes from placing the order onwards to processing that order takes longer in India than it takes in Bangladesh, so we are in conversation with Nitin Gadkari ji to ensure that our logistical challenges are met but after we have these facilitations we will need industry to step up and fill the gap from the perspective of investment envisaged,” said Irani.
Highlighting the various challenges being faced by the power loom sector in India, she said, “There are many complex issues ranging from subsidising for up-gradation of looms onwards to even providing money so that renewable energy can be used for looms, we are working out some kind of support for the entire sector but my biggest concern is for those who have one-two 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.”
Talking about poor response from the industry to help build toilets in government schools across India while she was in the HRD Ministry, she said “With a lot of hope I went out and pleaded with everybody in the industry to help me build toilets in the country, only five per cent stepped up, in fact Government of India funded it, we ensured that if a district collector said that I am not getting money in time, I would RTGS that fund straight from the centre so that my toilets are made in time.”
She also said that the government was trying to push through administrative reform measures, that will make the engagements easier with institutions or individuals who want to bring about change on the ground. “One has to recognise that government can only become that facilitator, that bridge and it is ultimately the industry and the people who have to walk the talk.”
On the issue of caste inequalities, Irani said, “I think we have to be conscious of our challenges and address those challenges from a social and economic point of view, the challenge is that there are more people who divide compared to those who are there to fill those gaps.
She also said that there is a need to drive the children to pursue excellence and not to pursue a certificate as to promote innovation one needs to have an adventurous spirit that is engaged with at a very young age.