Human Resources Development: Is it needed in community-based industries?

The fact that many small-scale cottage industries run by various NGOs or community-based organizations all over India are gradually taking new strides in their production, not only in terms of expanding their businesses by linking up with organizations like Dastkaar or Sasha, but also to the extent of becoming members of international groups like the Fair Trade Federation (FTF) for placing a greater value on the work done by community artisans, reiterates the importance of human resource development in these business ventures, especially because a majority of such industries work in disadvantaged rural areas of the country. The leap from informal or semi-formal production processes to a fully-fledged formal enterprise needs as much of expansion of business networks and a revised and more professional look at profit-making as an increase in the work benefits of the workers and the artisans.


Human Resource Development as a newly-introduced concept in cottage industries basically entails the construction of an interface between the workers and the administration or other agencies co-coordinating the production; like a third person who, by the virtue of her impartial outlook, can solve a problem between the two camps. The traditional way of tackling problems between the workforce and administration in the industrial sector is through the building of a workers’ union, something which is often effective, but seldom productive in the long run. Besides, it also serves to politicize the situation to no end. Thus, for a cottage industry, which faces various problems right at the start-up and has to go to considerably great lengths to sustain itself for a long period of time, formation of trade unions does not seem to be a good option. Thus, a greater interest in Human Resource Development (HRD), which provides such conveniences as a counselor at the working area, who works regularly to solve the problems which the workers are facing; and a regular feedback and redressal system through meetings, discussions and dialogue, is an immediate need in this semi-formalized sector.


To cite an example, a prestigious NGO working in Udaipur has recently decided to make its handicrafts project into a formal profit-making enterprise with its own boutiques and showrooms in Udaipur city, and supply tie-ups with well-known enterprises such as Fabindia etc. But the professionalisation of the enterprise, which works with destitute women in rural, semi-urban and urban areas in Udaipur district who do tanka embroidery and patchwork on kurtas, shirts, skirts and other garments stitched and finished in a workshop in the city by other destitute women, has failed to touch upon the securing of greater worker’s welfare. Thus, the women, who have various personal and psychological problems already, being from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, have no one who is appointed officially by the enterprise to take care of their professional problems. The enterprise is hardly to be blamed for this, as they have a hard time raising funds for their various programs, and the prospect of an extra person in office, eating up some money from their salaries, troubles many of the women working in the fields and the workshop.


So, should the conclusion be that since these enterprises cannot afford an effective HRD team, the workers engaged with them do not deserve professional worker-welfare? It is indeed difficult to gather funds for anything, letting aside something seemingly superfluous as Human Resource Development, but the absence of the same often affects workers from disadvantaged backgrounds in terms of fostering a sense of unquestioning inferiority to the administration, however slight, whereas the aim of most of these organizations to begin with, is to promote independence and confidence in the workforce. In this context, the supposed redundancy of Human Resource Development is erased as a myth.


Promona Sengupta

[Image source:]