Cottage Industries in India

‘REAL India resides in RURAL India.’ Cottage Industries support a large portion of the rural population of India acting as one of the major sources of its economy, and are responsible for having hugely preserved the cultural heritage of India…. Not only do they help this country in maintaining a distinct identity of its own but also provide it with a unique platform to display its specialty whenever a tough competition is faced in the international markets. That is the only time when the indigenous goods can fairly compete with the foreign goods due to the impression of Indian culture that makes them unique.

Cottage industries or the small scale industries (SSIs) are the terms used for small business carried on at home involving very less number of people as laborers who may or may not be the members of one family and sometimes, such a production or manufacturing of goods involves those traditional artisans and craftsmen who have inherited their work as an art form from their previous generations. Their various goods like dress fabrics such as khadi, leather, silk, cotton, wool, muslin, etc, many precious items like jewellery, ornaments, statues, idols, gems, stones, etc and edible items like spices, oils, honey, etc have a huge demand not only within India but also in the foreign markets.

Since ancient times in India, such indigenous products have been able to attract foreign traders and merchants. They helped India in successfully establishing trade relations with the Greek, Chinese and Arab merchants. Even in the medieval India, Indian craftsmen and artisans flourished well under the rule of the Turk, Afghan and Mughal dynasties. But after the advent of the East India Company, there occurred a drastic change in the running of these cottage industries. In order to have more and more luxury items at the cheapest prices, the European traders and merchants exploited the Indian peasants to an unimaginable extent due to which these cottage industries witnessed a severe lash to their production. After that, the Industrial revolution in the West also gave a fatal blow to their economy and led to a considerable decline in their number. Although, the ‘Swadeshi’ and the ‘Boycott’ movements led by Gandhi helped in the promotion of khadi and other Indian fabrics, but still, they could not help much in saving the decline in the manufacturing of the items that involved fine work as well as an artistic taste.

After the independence of India in 1947, there was a much-needed change that was introduced in the country for the improvement of the economic condition of India and as a consequence of which, the cottage industries were neglected again. Although, later, they became an integral part of India’s five-year plans and more so after the implementation of the second Five-year plan.

Since then, after more than sixty two years of independence of India, the contemporary condition of these small scale industries is under control more than ever before. They are run with a joint co-operation of the public and the private sectors. Now, almost every state in India has its own set of cottage industries whose art and craft items depict the traditional art form and the culture of that region. They prove to be boons for those who are self-employed or unemployed by providing them with the means to earn their livelihood. The “Prime Minister’s Rozgar Yojana Scheme”,(PMRYS) which was launched for the educated but unemployed youth by the government of India on October 2, 1993, for providing them with self-employment ventures in Industries, Services, Business, etc, now provides them with training in the Government recognized or government- approved institutions. Under the Ninth Five-year Plan Period, a target of training 90,500 persons was made out of which 68,525 persons were actually trained. 73,672 applications were sanctioned for providing financial assistance to the tune of Rs. 380.84 crores and an amount of Rs. 297.21 crores was actually dispersed to 59,578 applicants. The subsidy was met entirely by the Government of India.

Under the Tenth Five-year Plan, the areas identified by the government for the development of SSIs are “Leather and Leather products”, “Textiles and Readymade Garments”, “Gems and Jewellery”, “Pharmaceuticals”, “Information Technology”, “Bio-Technology”, “Automobile Component”, “Food Processing”, “Coir Industries”, etc.

The introduction of Market Development Assistance scheme (MDA), Entrepreneur Development Institute (E.D.I.), State Industries Centers – EDP Training, Women Entrepreneur Development Programme, Construction of DIC building, maintenance, contribution to specific fund (TTM) etc, Assistance to Coir Industrial Co-operative Societies, Assistance for setting up of Industries (Capital Investment Subsidy to SSI Units) etc, has made it possible for the cottage industries to flourish well. “Handloom Weavers’ Co-operative Societies”, “Spinning Industry”, “Power loom Industry”, “Garments Industry”, “Knitwear Industry”, “Processing Industry”, etc have all been set up to encourage the working of these SSIs.

The contemporary condition of SSIs in India is much better than what it could be if they were not given so much support by the government of India. But still, that does not lessen their problems in anyway.

One of the fastest budding economies of the world, China, offers a very tough competition to all the markets, all over the world because of which, many times, the items of the cottage industries of India do not find any buyers even in their own soil. Many times, even the people of India refrain from buying their products either because of their high prices or because of availability of better quality goods elsewhere. In such a situation, the loss of these SSIs becomes inevitable.

Many times, the dress materials like Khadi or silk are stereotypically so classy that often, only a handful of politicians or the sophisticated intelligentsia are seen flaunting in them. Gone are the charkha days of Gandhi when one used to sit for hours to make yarns to finally weave them into a cloth. Now is the time when people draw their inspirations from the Bollywood or their favourite pop-stars when it comes to their looks. International brands like Gucci, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, etc have a very huge impact on the minds of youth and therefore, the future of Indian textiles seems to be in dark.

Calorie conscious people prefer eating olive oil to ghee and avoid pickles. Today, allopathy has already superceded Ayurveda. So the herbal medicines and other indigenous food items have a lesser number of buyers now.

If all this continues to take place, then the promotion of cottage industries would become like a tough battle which we might have to fight. Then, the day when things like “Chinese khadi” and “American achaar” selling in the Indian market would not be too far.

Aditi Swami

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