On the occasion of International Women’s Day today, the Union Textiles Minister Smriti Zubin Irani has announced ‘Kamaladevi Chattopadhya National Awards’, a new category of awards specially for women handloom weavers and women handicraft artisans. Noting that only one woman has so far received the Sant Kabir Award, the Minister said that the awards are being instituted from this year, so that women weavers and artisans receive due recognition and economic benefits associated with the Awards. This will be a small tribute to recognise the craft excellence and hard work being put in by millions of women working in their homes, carrying forward the torch of India’s proud handloom and handicraft heritage.The Minister also launched a special campaign to provide MUDRA Loans to women handloom weavers all across the country. Smt. Irani said that more than 1,700 women weavers are being given such loans, to start the campaign. Five weavers received MUDRA loans from the Minister, on the occasion.
The Minister also launched a national campaign to eliminate the exploitative and unhygienic practice of thigh reeling in India (thigh reeling of tasar silk is usually practiced by marginal women entrepreneurs, working every day in their homes during spare time). Smt. Irani noted that 30% of the tasar silk produced in India is through the practice of thigh reeling. The Minister said that in order to put an end to this unhygienic and inhuman practice, the Ministry is starting the distribution of woman-friendly Buniyaad Reeling Machines to woman silk reelers. Developed by Central Silk Technological Research Institute that falls under the aegis of Central Silk Board (CSB), Ministry of Textiles, Govt. of India, the Buniyaad machine not only reduces the drudgery involved in thigh reeling, but also improves productivity and income. Appreciating CSB for developing the machine, Smt. Irani expressed the hope that 100% of women silk reelers who produce by thigh reeling, receive the machine and thereby end this inhuman practice. She hoped that the machine becomes affordable for the marginal entrepreneurs, given the 75% subsidy provided by the Government of India. Smt. Irani distributed replicas of the Buniyaad Reeling Machine to three beneficiaries, as a token of the launch of the initiative.
The Textiles Minister also launched an online “Handloom Weaver MUDRA Portal” in association with Punjab National Bank. Smt. Irani said that often, the handloom weavers are not able to know the status of the MUDRA loan application, after applying for the same. She said that the portal will address this gap; the portal will allow weavers and officials to do real-time tracking of the loan application status. Further, through the portal, regional offices of Banks will be able to submit claims and transfer funds electronically directly to the weaver’s loan account. The new system will reduce the delay in disbursement of claims and financial assistance to handloom weavers. The Minister announced that the new system will be functional from April 1, 2017, the beginning of the new financial year.Two MoUs were also signed on the occasion, between the Ministry of Textiles and National Backward Classes Finance & Development Corporation under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, with the main objective of increasing earnings of millions of women handloom weavers & artisans belonging to backward classes, who work in the handloom & handicraft sectors. This will be done by undertaking large number of cluster development projects.