Readers familiar with Bengali literature are likely to be acquainted with Manik Bandyopadhyay’s famous short story Shilpi (artist).
The protagonist Madan Tanti (weaver) refused to weave towels and stop producing the famed Benarashi silk sarees as ordered by his Zamindar. The story set in pre-independence India explores the plight of weavers like Madan Tanti who were then forced to withdraw from their traditional craft of weaving Benarashi silk sarees and instead forced to weave towels by their Zamindari lords. The story reveals the conflicts faced by these weavers and was a brilliant representation how traditional artisans were forced out of their trade.
Cutting back to the present, recent government data show a nearly 30% drop in traditional artistry and employment in the handicraft sector. Handloom is an important part of the Indian handicrafts and the segment has been negatively impacted by the recently rolled out Goods and Services Tax (GST). Marking this year as the worst year for his trade in the last decade, Supendra Basak, a textile businessman of Phulia, Nadia district, West Bengal said, “Unfavourable effects of GST can be clearly seen in the handloom industry. GST refunds and hazardous way-bill procedures are delaying our progress. Another problem is that the new tax regime does not distinguish between handmade and machine made products. That is unfair and hampers the growth of the industry.”
Problems of the handicraft sector in India
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