Kanika Gauba here writes about an issue contrasting the Indian garment and handloom industries by criticising our Legislative and Executive inaction.
The textiles and garments industry contributes 16.63 per cent of India’s export earnings; around 45 per cent of this comes from garment exports alone. The garments industry provides employment to around 3.5 million people across the country and is one of the success stories of neoliberal India, but its success is on account of the thousands of garment workers – those working in big and small factories, as well as from their shanty homes. On the other hand, handloom weaving is a part of India’s cultural ethos, and employs the second largest workforce in India, next only to agriculture. However, in terms of State treatment, the two sectors constitute extreme ends of the legal spectrum. Through a presentation of the features, working conditions and politico-economic (in)significance and resultant policy initiatives, it is hoped to place these two sectors in stark contrast against each other – the former, the child of the policy makers, while the latter, the albatross around their neck, while adopting a labour and human rights perspective. In the light of the recent crises of capitalism that have afflicted the world economy, as also the spate of weavers’ suicides, the author appeals to the Government to awake to the consequences of following an export-oriented policy of textile promotion and instead safeguard the right to be human of millions of handloom weavers.