Status Quo of handloom definition under Handloom Reservation Act

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2014-01-10 16:15:00 – New Delhi

The apprehension of a change in definition of ‘handloom’ has triggered speculation and insecurity amongst a section of weavers and handloom activities and given a mistaken impression on handloom activists that Government has taken a decision to allow the introduction of automatic machines to replace handlooms and that the Government intends to change the definition of ‘handlooms to include such mechanized looms’.

In this regard, it is clarified that no change is contemplated by Ministry of Textiles, in definition of ‘handloom’, which has been defined as “any loom other than powerloom” under the Handlooms (Reservation of Articles for Production) Act, 1985.

Handloom weaving constitutes one of the richest and most vibrant aspects of the Indian cultural heritage. As per handloom census 2009-10, the handloom sector provides employment to 43.3 lakh weavers and allied workers whereas the number was 65 lakh in 1995-96. The reduction in number of handloom weavers has been a cause of concern for Government. The sector is facing constraints such as lack of technological upgradation, inadequate availability of inputs, non-availability of adequate and timely credit, lack of contemporary designs etc. Further a trend is noticed that the younger generation is not willing to continue with this profession or be attracted to it owing to low generation of income and hard labour required to operate looms whereas easier earning options are available.

The Government has been considering various ways to arrest this decline and has been implementing various developmental and welfare schemes to sustain the handloom sector. To improve the productivity and reduce the manual labour on loom, the Advisory Committee on Handloom Reservation Act, in its meeting held on August 10, 2012 had recommended the modifications in definition of handloom as“handloom means any loom, other than powerloom; and includes any hybrid loom on which at least one process for weaving requires manual intervention or human energy for production’.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour also supported the amendment in definition of handloom in various meetings. However, the amendment of the definition has since been re-considered by the Government. It has also been opposed by handloom experts and civil society members who have said that this change in definition of handloom would gradually eliminate the difference between handloom and powerloom and lead to cornering of benefits meant for handloom weavers by the powerloom sector.

Various aspects pertaining to amendment of the definition and other incidental issues has recently been studied in greater detail by a sub-committee of the Advisory Committee which was constituted for the purpose. The committee of officials comprising of representatives from various states, Textile Committee, Textile Commissioner, Powerloom division and Development Commissioner for handlooms have studied the matter in depth and submitted a report.

The Sub-Committee while visiting different parts of the country examined various issues including different types of looms being operated by handloom weavers in handloom clusters across the country, the extent of modernization/mechanization being carried out in different parts of the country, scope for further improvement /upgradation of looms mechanically without use of power to reduce manual labour and to improve productivity without compromising the quality of handloom fabric and the possibility of replicating such interventions in other handloom clusters/pockets.

The Sub-Committee submitted its report on 29th October, 2013 to Government. The Sub-Committee has recommended that in the process of weaving, the weaver does not use power and hence definition of handloom need not be changed and it should remain in the purest form.The Ministry of Textiles has accepted the report of the sub-committee and no amendment in the Handloom Reservation Actto change the definition of handloom is contemplated.

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