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#HandmadeDilSe Telethon: How Can We Support India's Weavers And Artisans?

#HandmadeDilSe Telethon: How Can We Support India's Weavers And Artisans?

More than 160 lakh households are involved in handloom and the art and crafts sector, with over 80 per cent of them living in rural areas. Each region of India has a rich legacy of art and craft that has been passed on from one generation to the other. However, the custodians of this legacy are now in dire straits. The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have caused havoc in the lives of rural artisans and weavers. With no orders, and massive stockpiles of inventory, their livelihoods have come to a standstill. Many in fact, have turned to manual labour to sustain themselves and their families.

#HandmadeDilSe is an initiative by NDTV and Habba, a non-profit organisation to bring back the demand for handmade in India and revive the livelihoods of artisans and weavers. As a part of the campaign, a 2-hour special telethon was also organised to raise funds that will help reach out to these vulnerable people during this tough time of the pandemic. Experts, social workers and celebrities came together to discuss the impact of coronavirus on our artisans and weavers and how we all as a community can come together to protect them during these trying times. 

Joining the telethon with NDTV's Dr Prannoy Roy, Laila Tyabji, Founder, Dastakar highlighted how bad is the situation today and why is it necessary for India to pay attention and protect our rich heritage and certain art forms, which dying out altogether. She said, 


Craft people strength is also their weakness. they are a part of our culture and aesthetic. Most importantly, they are a part of our economy but this slips past. They need to be part of our lives and should be included like every other sector. We tend to take them for granted. Today, economists, bureaucrats, politicians are debating future actions, but craft people are left somehow. Craft and handloom sector are two areas where India is something and no other country has these. We have this wonderful asset and we should be investing in it instead of thinking it will be there.

Talking how Coronavirus and lockdown has affected the work of artisans across the country, Prasanna Heggodu, Theatre Director & Founder, Charaka said,


The people, mostly women, they couldn't weave, dye, print during this trying time, so what they did was, for two months, they did mud work, mud flooring and that is how they bounced back. COVID has actually come at a a right time, today I can say handloom is the fabric of future. If you want good future for society, economy, treat handloom seriously and as a sector which needs to be invested in.

Anita Dongre, Chief Creative Officer at the House of Anita Dongre talked about the role of Fashion Designer and the industry in supporting the artisans and weavers of India and added,

Today fashion designers need to use creativity to support this sector. Design plays a very important role. The artisans and weavers have the skill and craft but if a designer works together with  them it is a win win situation.


Urging people to invest in local products, Ms Dongre said,

The one thing we need to do especially right now, whenever we are go shopping, just try and buy one garment that is either hand woven, hand block printing or anything that is done by rural India. Sustainability lies in our villages, India should be proud of what we have. Usually, we undermine what we have, we should have pride in this legacy. We are always looking to the west, when it comes to fashion, it is time to look within our country. If we all get together this whole sector can see revival which is much needed.

Suggesting how India can uplift the status of these artisans and weavers, especially during the times of coronavirus, Ferose V R,  Senior Vice President and Head of SAP Academy for Engineering said, 


The pandemic is really a marathon. It is very different from natural disaster which starts and end. COVID will be with us for next few months if not years. We have to look at long term solutions. I think, what we all can do is - first start burying local things from local artisans, secondly, we need some big policy changes which helps uplift the status of our artisans and this sector.

Ananya Bhattacharya, Director, Banglanatak.com at the #HandmadeDilSe telethon said that India has traditional skills and knowledge. She added,


We have work with over 25K artists, we saw their resilience during pandemic. Entire market was disrupted, however these artists didn't give up hope, they up-skilled themselves to use digital technology. Artists have created new stories on the impact of pandemic, they have collectivised and taking forward their craft with tremendous resilience. It is time to bust myth that craft is cheap and repetitive. Today we have young artists who are learning from their predecessors and innovating. We need to respect the work of craft and craftsmen.

Malavika Sarrukai, Dancer & Choreographer also joined the NDTV-Habba's #HandmadeDilSe telethon and spoke about the difficulties faced by artists during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdowns that were imposed as a containing measure. She said, 


The campaign Handmade, Dil Se, I think is a wonderful initiative, it says it all. Because what artists do is make it dil se. And I think this just focuses our attention on that very important aspect, which we might otherwise forget.  I think it also focuses our attention on the great difficulties that they have faced during this pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns with the plight of having so much exquisite wonderful products, which they have created over months, to have them unsold.  I think it's also about saying that society has to engage with them and has to not only be appreciative of their skill and the beauty they create, but also, give to them an informed patronage with dignity of purpose because these people are special. They contribute to our lives. It's time we look at them and validate them. It is not about charity to them. It is to validate their extraordinary enrichment of our lives.

Talking about Handmade Dil Se initiative, Smita and Ram NK Co-founder, Habba said,

Habba came from our own journey of working with weavers and artisans through rang de. We would support them with capital. But soon we realised we were only fixing a part of problem. Despite loans, life of weavers remained same. Many of them had access to market and that raised question how are we actually impacting them. Habba let people make conspicuous decision of buying handmade. It has been most enriching part of our lives.


Further talking about the idea of this whole initiative, Ram NK added,

Especially today during COVID, it is important to support craft persons. They are not getting business, it is tough for craft to survive in this period. We should do whatever we can. Corporates don't have a gifting policy, we thought of making a policy, which can dedicate their gifting budget to handmade in India. Our request was in this new normal was appreciated by many corporates.

Sharing snippets of work of artisans from Channapatna  - town of toys in Karnataka, Atul Johri, Founder, Atul Johri Designs said, 


You know Channapatna never got a chance to show their excellence, products were replaced with chinese products. One call from Habba and I was very sure we could gather the momentum back. We started with 6 artisans and within 3 days we had 50 artisans working day in day night. We are sitting on a billion dollar economy in Channapatna. we can cater the world, that's the potential this town has and this is the story of every craft pocket. We have to create market for new age sector, you don't need infrastructure or anything that is the potential of art. Artisans have the potential but we never gave them respect, and what they deserve, all this while artisans have been working for survival. We have to bring their pride back rather than giving work in the sense this is what you earn. Once they start taking pride, money becomes secondary. 15 years ago when I went to Channapatna, no one could taught me what this town is known for, there is no book written on it and it is the town that is famous for its history and its uniqueness..

Actor Vidya Balan also joined the telethon and lent her support to the #HandmadeDilSe initiative. Sharing how she is making a difference and supporting artisans across India, she said, 


You know when I started promoting my movie Shakuntala, I decided that I'm actually going to try and do my bit. I don't know how much that will contribute, or to what extent, but I decided that I'm going to use this platform that I have to try and help smaller brands and weavers from across the country. So my stylists, actually sourced clothes from all over the country. Of course today more and more designers are going the hand-woven way. But those clothes tend to be far more expensive. And when you don't have a big designer attached to your name, then to get your product out, your creation out to people gets very, very difficult. I heard about how a lot of them were having to shut shop. And that was very-very heartbreaking. So I decided I'm going to do this in my own little way. And I'm happy to see that my stylist shared with me that sometimes these weavers have gotten orders of 55 saris, sometimes 20 saris and even outfits and it feels so good.

Talking about big changes that government should undertake in bid to uplift the status of our artisans and weavers, Vinita Bali, Former CEO & MD, Britannia Industries Ltd., Former Vice President, The Coca-Cola Company, Board Of Directors, Cognizant Technology Solutions added, 


Make in India is not just about setting up factories, it is also about supporting the millions of families of the artisans. Industry has to be empathetic towards the artisan so that they get rewarded with empathy.

At #HandmadeDilSe telethon, Gita Ram, Chairperson, The Craft Council Of India calls for improved marketing for artisans and said,


There is a need to address the issue of marketing for artisans and craft persons to grow. The artisans have always been dependent on Bazaars and Hatts to sell their art but with the Coronavirus pandemic, there is no season for the market. I think, Habba initiative has brought a silver lining to heavy clouds as artisans are getting work.

Lending support to the initiative, Dr Ashok Khosla, Founder, Development Alternatives said, 


One has to go back to Mahatma Gandhi era to understand the insight and perspective of the problem and device solutions in terms of improving a large number of lives. In the past 75 years, we have been concentrating on providing for Sensex, the corporates etc and have forgotten the artisans. We also have to understand that in this process we have not only destroyed the job of many people, we have also destroyed the environment. We have to redesign our jobs and future in such a way that it also helps the environment.

Stressing on the point of digital technology and how it can help uplift the craft in India, Sanjay Purohit, Chief Curator, Societal Platform said, 


We have to see how digital technology can help create such infrastructure so that various actors of the society like the government, consumers etc can connect with the artisans in a unified way like Uber App. So we need to create a unified environment for our artisans. We have to focus on the idea of embracing the 'handmade'. On the last mile, handmade is very important.

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About The Campaign

The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have caused havoc in the lives of rural artisans and weavers. With no orders, and massive stockpiles of inventory, their livelihoods have come to a standstill. Many in fact, have turned to manual labour to sustain themselves and their families. Our artisans and weavers do not need handouts. They need work and orders for them to continue their craft. This festive season, we invite you to stand in solidarity of our artisans and weavers by buying handmade in India.