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Editorial Articles

Issue no 19, 06-12 August 2022


Promoting Handloom Empowering Indian Artisans

Chhaya Verma

The handloom sector in India is a major economic activity and has large presence in international market. It provides direct and indirect employment to over 35 lakh weavers and allied workers mostly from weaker and backward sections (4th All India Handloom Census) besides contributing to approximately 15% of the country’s total cloth production. The sector is not only supplying cloth for indigenous requirements but also earning through the export of handloom products. The handloom sector is sustained by transferring traditional skills from one generation to another in a very natural environment. The strength of this sector lies in its uniqueness, flexibility of production, adaptability to customer’s requirement and openness to inventions. Since it is an eco-friendly fabric, handloom products are in high demand in the international market as well as in the domestic market.

The Government of India has been promoting and encouraging the handloom sector through a number of policies and programmes. The growing competitiveness in the textile industry both in the national and international markets and the free trade opportunities emerging in the post MFA (Multifibre Arrangement) environment have made the government adopt a focused yet flexible and holistic approach in the sector to facilitate handloom weavers to meet the challenges of a globalized environment. It has also been felt that empowering weavers for sustainable growth and diversification to cope with the everchanging market trends is the need of the hour. Through sustained efforts of the Ministry of Textiles, there has been significant development of handloom sector which is now able to sustain the competition with machine made fabrics.

I. National Handloom Development Programme (NHDP)

The National Handloom Development Programme (NHDP) is an attempt to facilitate the sustainable development of handloom weavers located in and outside identified handloom clusters into a cohesive, selfmanaging and competitive socioeconomic unit. A central sector plan scheme has been formulated for its implementation during 2017-18 to 2019-20. The scheme focusses on a need based approach for integrated and holistic development of handlooms and welfare of handloom weavers within and outside the cooperative fold including Self-Help Groups, NGOs, etc. towards raw material, design inputs, technology upgradation, marketing support through exhibitions, creating permanent infrastructure in the form of Urban Haats, marketing complexes, development of web portal for e-marketing of handloom products, etc.

a)      Handloom Cloth Production and Export

The export of handloom items during 2017-18 was Rs.2280.19 crore which was increased to Rs.2392.39 crore in the year 2018-19. The export of handloom products decreased to Rs.2245.33 crore in 2019-20 which was further declined to Rs.1644.78 in the year 2020-21. India exported handloom products worth Rs. 1693 crore (US$ 229 Million) during April 2021 to February 2022.

b)     Concessional Credit

Handloom weavers are provided with a loan on concessional interest rate of 6% for a period of three years. Besides this margin money, assistance of up to maximum of Rs. 10,000 per weaver and credit guarantee for a period of three years is also offered. Initially, the loans were sanctioned in the form of Weavers Credit Card (WCC) but now MUDRA platform is being used for these services and the scheme is being implemented as ‘Weavers MUDRA’ scheme and ‘Handloom Weavers MUDRA Portal’ has been developed in association with Punjab National Bank for timely transfer of financial assistance and operational since 01.04.2017.

c)      Block Level Cluster Approach

Block level cluster approach is one of the components of the National Handloom Development Programme (NHDP) which is more flexible to suit the requirements of the cluster with higher funding scale by Government of India, discontinuation of state contribution, direct release of funds to the implementing agency, and direct fund transfer to the beneficiary’s account through ECS. A cluster of blocks are eligible to avail up to Rs 2.00 crore for different interventions such as setting up of common facility centre (CFC) with common service centre (CSC), construction of workshed, design development, appointment of cluster development executive (CDE), technological and skill upgradation, setting up of dyeing house, etc.

d)     Bunkar Mitra

A toll-free helpline number (18002089988) was set up to deal with the queries of handloom weavers related to a wide range of issues like technical, supply of raw material, quality control, credit facility, access to market linkages, etc. This Helpline provides single point contact to handloom weavers across the country for addressing their professional queries seven days a week. Services are available through toll-free number in seven languages: Hindi, English, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Assamese and Kannada.

e)      Handloom Marketing Assistance

To develop and promote the marketing channels in domestic and export market and bring about the connection between the two in a holistic and integrated manner, the Marketing and Export Promotion Scheme has been merged and Handloom Marketing Assistance, as one of the components of the National Handloom Development Programme. Its main aim was to provide a direct marketing platform to the weavers and handloom organizations to sell their products directly to the customers. The main activities include organization of expos, events and craft melas, export promotion, handloom mark, India handloom brand, e-commerce, marketing incentive, handloom awards and geographical indicators, etc.

a) Expos, Events and Craft Melas: To promote the marketing of handloom products, the NHDC organizes special exhibitions such as silk fabs, wool fabs and national handloom expo. The expenses incurred by the NHDC are reimbursed by the Government of India. Besides these, the corporation also undertakes various programmes to educate the handloom weavers about the latest dyeing techniques and about the on-going schemes of the government such as: Buyer-seller meets, one-day sensitization programmes and programmes on the development of new products using different types of yarns. A total of 181 domestic marketing events were implemented during each year in 2016-17 and 2017- 18 and a total of 165 events were sanctioned for 2018-19. The target for organization of 200 domestic marketing expos/events by the State Government and their implementing agencies and National level implementing agencies during the current financial year i.e. 2022-23 has been fixed by the competent authorities.

b) Export Promotion: Under this component, assistance is given for export projects, participation in international fairs and exhibitions and setting up of design studios with the main objective of assisting handloom cooperative societies, corporations/Apex and handloom exporters to participate in international events, buyer-seller meets, etc. and to make available the latest design trends.

c) Handloom Mark: The handloom mark scheme was launched by then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on 28th June, 2006 for the promotion of the handloom industry and to serve as a guarantee to the buyers regarding the purchase of genuine hand-woven products. The scheme belongs to the office of the Development Commissioner for Handloom and Textiles Committee is the implementing agency for the promotion of handloom marks. Handloom mark was promoted and popularized through advertisements in newspapers, magazines, electronic media, fashion shows, films, etc. Various categories of users are being registered under the scheme and handloom mark levels are being sold to registered users. Since inception the scheme has shown good performance in terms of registration and consumption of labels. Although persistent requests were received from the registered users to reduce the price of the present Taffeta label as well as to introduce designer labels for elite and high-end products. Efforts were taken to identify more sources to supply labels to meet the demands. Textile Committee has succeeded in developing new low-cost taffeta labels and other attractive designer labels to cater the varied needs of the users. Changes have also made in design, coding and numbering of the labels. The users can choose the labels as suited to their products.

Handloom Mark

The Ministry of Textiles has been implementing ‘Handloom Mark’ scheme which provides a collective identity to the handloom products not only for popularizing the hand-woven products but also for assuring the buyer that the product being purchased is genuinely hand woven.

Under the Scheme ‘Handloom Mark’, registration is issued after onsite verification of looms, handloom products produced by the individual weavers, master weavers, apex and primary handloom weavers’ co-operative societies, handloom development corporations, others, handloom retailers and exporters. More than 22000 users under different categories are registered under the Handloom Mark Scheme throughout the country and more than 13 crore products are tagged with Handloom Mark Labels. In total, more than 9 lakh Handlooms are covered in the registration (Textile Committee, Ministry of Textiles). As an enforcement measure, periodic surveillance audit and random verification of Handloom Mark products are also carried out. However, Ministry of Textiles is not maintaining the total turnover in value terms of Handloom Mark products and percentage of handloom products bearing Handloom Marks. For digitalization of Handloom Mark scheme and its further promotion Smt Smriti Irani launched the Mobile App & Backend Website for Handloom Mark Scheme (HLM) on the occasion of the 6th National Handloom Day (7th August 2020).

d) India Handloom Brand: The ‘India Handloom Brand’ was an initiative of the Development Commissioner for Handloom and was launched on 07.08.2015 on the occasion of first Handloom Day to endorse the quality of products in terms of the raw material, processing, weaving and other parameters for earning the trust of the consumers. This brand was launched for conservation and promotion of traditional hand-woven heritage of India, for assuring defect free quality product to the Consumer, for ensuring social and environmental compliances in production of handlooms, for creating a niche market space for high quality handloom products and for increasing the earnings of handloom weavers. This brand is given only to high quality defect free authentic handloom products with the aim to generate a special market space and enhanced earning. ‘India Handloom’ brand caters to the needs of the socio-economically conscious consumers. The branded handloom product is differentiated from other products in terms of quality because of proper use of good quality yarns and non-carcinogenic dyes. It helps the buyers and exporters to source quality products and empowers the women and other disadvantaged sector involved in handloom weaving by getting better earning through production of value-added quality products. The following measures were implemented to promote the Indian handloom brand:

• Comprehensive awareness and brand-building campaign

• Open door policy for e-marketing

• Partnership with 101 retail stores on Pan-India basis The handloom production in India meets the dual objectives of green production and employment generation, which is in tune with the Prime Minister’s inclusive growth agenda of “SABKA SATH, SABKA VIKAS”. All the products under the brand have the benchmarked quality for the raw material, the processing as well as for packing and labelling besides proving the origin from the hand-woven sector.

f)       E-Marketing: E-commerce has been introduced to provide better return of the handloom products because it reduces the transaction cost and make better margin to the handloom weavers. To promote the marketing of handloom products and reach the customers of younger generation a policy framework was prepared to promote the emarketing of handloom products in a transparent, competitive and effective manner. Any ecommerce entity interested to work for the promotion of online marketing of handloom products in collaboration with the Office of DC (Handlooms) may apply for the same. The application would be scrutinized by a specially constituted Committee. An e-commerce entity approved by the office would be required to make a priority display of handloom products on its home page, leading to an exclusive section for branded handloom products carrying either the ‘India Handloom’ brand or the Handloom mark.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 25th August 2014 with Flipkart to provide online marketing platform to the handloom weavers to boost the handloom sector and market the handloom products of weavers and handloom cooperatives through e-commerce eliminating the middlemen. In order to provide more online marketing facility, open door policy was evolved to invite e-commerce entities to sell handloom product. 24 such online services have been engaged by Office of the Development Commissioner for Handlooms, Ministry of Textiles for online marketing of handloom products.

g) Marketing Incentive: Marketing Incentive is given to the handloom agencies for preparing conditions, which are conductive to the marketing of handloom products. The purpose of this incentive was to marginally reduce the price of their products and invest in infrastructure to improve the production and productivity. State handloom corporations, apex cooperative societies, primary handloom weavers’ co-operative societies and national level handloom organizations are eligible for assistance towards marketing incentive. This is given to only those agencies which really need marketing support and it would be given for three years so that the agency could sustain itself on its own afterwards. Societies having more than Rupees 30 lakh turnover or more were not eligible for this marketing incentive.

h) Handloom Awards: Ministry of Textiles has been conferring various awards to handloom weavers for excellent performances in handloom sector such as Sant Kabir Award, National Award and National Merit Certificates.

i. Sant Kabir Award: This award is given to outstanding handloom weavers who were carrying out the tradition and had made significant contributions to the promotion, development and protection of the handloom sector. This award includes a cash prize of Rs. 3 lakhs, one mounted gold coin, one tamrapatra, one shawl, one smart phone and a certificate.

ii. National Award: It is given to handloom weavers in recognition of their outstanding craftsmanship and development of handloom weaving. This award encouraged them to continue with their traditional work in a more enthusiastic and productive manner. This award includes a cash prize of Rs. 1.5 lakhs, one tamrapatra, one shawl and a certificate.

iii. National Merit Certificate: NMC is given to outstanding handloom weavers for their extraordinary skill and significant contribution in handloom product development. National Merit Certificate consists of a cash prize of Rs.0.75 lakh and a certificate.

iv. Kamladevi Chattopadhyay Award: In addition to the above awards, 02 Sant Kabir Award. 04 National Awards and 04 Merit Certificate awards had also been included exclusively for women handloom weavers. This exclusive award to women handloom weavers is named as ‘SKA, NA, NMC (Kamladevi Chattopadhyay)’.

Table : Kamladevi Chattopadhyay Awards



Name of awards


Total no. of awards


Exclusively for women


Grand Total


Sant Kabir

Award (SKA)







National Award







Design Development  for promotion handloom  products  Marketing of handloom















National Meri certificate (NMC)






Design Development  for promotion handloom products




Marketing of handloom
















i) Geographical Indications of goods: The GI of goods (Registration and Protection) Act 1999 provides legal protection to Geographical Indications of goods, etc. and prevents unauthorized use of these by others. The financial assistance under GI Act has been increased from 1.50 lakh to 3.0 lakh. Out of which 1.50 lakh was for the registration and 1.50 lakh was for training and the dissemination of information.

j) Handloom Haat, Janpath, New Delhi: The Ministry of Urban Development had allotted 1.779 acres land at Janpath, New Delhi on 12.04.1999 to the Ministry of Textiles for construction of Handloom Marketing Complex known as Handloom Haat. This Haat provide infrastructure support to handloom agencies for increasing sales of their handloom products by showcasing their unique handloom products. The showrooms/space had been allotted to various National/state-level handloom organizations actively participating in the marketing activities of handloom products.

k) Deendayal Hastkala Sankul (Trade Centre and Museum), Varanasi: Deendayal Hastkala Sankul (Trade Centre and Museum), Varanasi, a complex of trade facilitation centre and crafts museum was dedicated to the public by the Prime Minister of India on 22.09.2017. This project will help the weavers and artisans of Varanasi and nearby areas. This was the first ever such big intervention for exclusively promoting handlooms and handicraft traditions of India uniquely positioned in Varanasi which itself was an unparalleled example of rich traditions of handloom, handicrafts, and handwoven carpets, all in one place.

This project has facilities like a convention hall, shops, food court, restaurants, mart-cumoffice, bank and ATMs, guest rooms, dormitories, stalls/kiosks, space for handloom/handicrafts exhibition, cultural/social functions, craft museum along with Amphitheatre and souvenir shop. It has a parking facility for 500 cars.

II. Handloom Weavers Comprehensive Welfare Scheme:

The Development Commissioner for Handlooms implemented the HWCWS during 12th Five Year Plan to enable the handloom weavers/ workers to avail social security benefits. The scheme had two components. 

·         Health Insurance Scheme: This scheme enabled the handloom weavers to access healthcare facilities by the Ministry of Textiles till 30.09.2014. After that this scheme has been implemented on the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna (RSBY) pattern. RSBY was being implemented by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and continued up to March 2018. The budgetary provision in the present guidelines was only for the reimbursement of the committed liabilities of the GOI up to 31.03.2018.

Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojna (PMJJBY) and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojna (PMSBY) were launched by the Hon’ble Prime Minister on 9th May, 2015 for creating a universal and affordable social security system. PMJJBY provides life insurance cover whereas PMSBY provides accidental insurance cover for accidental death or disability.

For covering the schemes for life and accidental insurance scheme for all the citizens, it was decided that handloom weavers/workers in the age group of 18-50 years would be provided life insurance, accident and disability coverage under PMJJBY and PMSBY. However, the group of handloom weavers/workers in the age group of 18-59 years who had already enrolled under the Mahatma Gandhi Bunkar Bima Yojna (MGBBY) would continue to be covered under the converged MGBBY.

·         Health insurance coverage on RSBY pattern: The health insurance coverage to handloom weavers/workers on the RSBY pattern was available for the year 2017-18. The funding between the centre and the state was shared in 90:10 ratios for the eight North Eastern Region States and three Himalayan States and in 60:40 ratios for the remaining states. For UT’s central government will provide 100 per cent funding.

·         Education of handloom weavers and their children: Ministry of Textiles has signed Memorandums of Understanding with Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) to secure educational facilities for the weavers and their families. NIOS offers Secondary and Senior Secondary level education with specialized subjects on design, marketing, business development, etc. through distance learning mode for handloom weavers, whereas IGNOU offers continuing education programs through accessible and flexible learning opportunities relevant to the aspirations of handloom weavers and their children for career progression. Apart from this the Ministry of Textiles was providing reimbursement of 75% of the fee towards admission to NIOS/IGNOU courses in case of SC, ST, BPL, and Women learners belonging to handloom weavers’ families.

III. Yarn Supply Schemes (YSS)

 In order to facilitate the regular supply of basic raw material to the eligible handloom weavers, GOI has implemented the YSS throughout the country through NHDC (National Handloom Development Corporation), Lucknow. NHDC was set up in February, 1983 by the GOI as a public sector undertaking under the companies’ act, 1956 with the objectives of supplying all types of yarns, quality dyes and materials needed by the handloom sector at lowest competitive rates and promotion of marketing of handloom products. The purpose of this scheme was to utilize the full employment potential of the sector. The freight was reimbursed and depot operating charges @ 2% was given to the depot operating agencies.

IV. Comprehensive Handloom Cluster Development Scheme (CHCDS)

The main objective of the CHCDS was to develop a Mega handloom cluster located in clearly identifiable geographical locations that specialized in specific products. As per the scheme, there should be at least 15,000 handlooms in a mega handloom cluster and the maximum permissible central cost for each cluster would not exceed Rs. 40.00 crore for five years. The purpose of the assistance was to improve infrastructure facilities, with better storage facilities, technology up-gradation in pre- and post-loom operations, construction of workshed for weaving, skill up-gradation, design inputs and health facilities in order to meet the changing market demands in national and international markets so that the millions of handloom weavers could improve their living standards.

 Implementation of Handlooms (Reservation of Articles for Production) Act, 1985

The aim of the Handlooms (Reservation of Articles for Production) Act, 1985 was to protect millions of handloom weavers and the rich cultural heritage of the country from the encroachment on their livelihood by the power-looms and mill sector. Under this Act initially 22 textile articles with certain technical specifications were reserved for exclusive production by Handlooms vide S.O. 459 (E) dated 04.08.1986. Subsequently, based on the recommendations of the Advisory Committee, these were reduced to 11 articles vide Reservation order Notification No. S.O. 557 (E) dated 26.07.1996. At present only 11 textile articles with some specifications are reserved for production as handlooms under the Act. There are three enforcement offices at Delhi, Chennai and Ahmedabad which ensure strict implementation of the Handlooms (Reservation of Articles for Production) Act, 1985. The GOI was providing central assistance to the states/ UTs for establishment of the enforcement machinery for the implementation of the handlooms (Reservation of Articles for Production) Act, 1985. The 11 articles which were reserved for exclusive production by Handlooms are as follows:

Table : The items reserved for exclusive production by handloom sector

S. No.







Towel, Gamchha, Angavastram




Khes, Bedsheet, Bedcover,  Counterpane


Jamakkalam Durry/Durret


Dress material






Woollen tweed




Indian handloom has its unique place because it nurtures and preserves our traditional weaving craft besides providing employment to a large section of rural population, although it is facing deep crisis with low productivity, limited earning, obsolete technology, low literacy levels, firmly ingrained middlemen and inadequate financial support from banks. Looking at the problems faced by the industry it seems that it is declining. The decline can be accredited to the external factors to some extent such as economic recession, tough competition from power loom and mill sector, globalization, changing choices of customers, global pandemic and to the internal factors such as inability of handloom weavers to produce new products, new designs and market-oriented production. However, the ability of handloom weavers to recover quickly from the difficulties and potential to innovate indicates that this sector can still be revived. Various government schemes have the potential to improve the present situation of the handloom sector.

(The author is Associate Professor, Clothing and Textiles, Government Home Science College, Chandigarh. She can be reached at chhayaghsc@gmail.com)


View expressed are personal