An innovative cluster development programme is changing the lives of weavers of Dunda in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. Shishir Prashant writes about the initiative.
Neena Rawat looked more than just happy when she recently purchased a Dunda shawl from an exhibition in Dehra Dun. Rawat felt proud taking the prized shawl with her because Dunda is one of the most backward regions of her state. The significance of the shawl lies in the new handloom products of Dunda, a predominantly Bhotia tribal area in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand.
Only a few years ago, the weavers of Dunda started adding colours and new designs to their otherwise dull craft under the aegis of a cluster development programme. And now, the demand for the colourful and well-designed Dunda products is slowly picking up in the market.
The Dunda cluster covers 381 weavers and provides direct and indirect employment to about 2,000 persons, according to Poonam Sinha, the regional head of the National Institute for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development (NIESBUD), an organisation under the union ministry of MSMEs. She says that the NIESBUD has developed the cluster from scratch.
From embroidery and block printing to other local crafts like aipan, all are being weaved into a tapestry of colours. The weavers of Dunda mostly show their sleight of hand on shawls, loi (a kind of blanket), muffler, carpet, chutka, sweater and other winter clothes. Only recently, they added new products like Kashmiri phirans and stoles. Thulma and churka are special blankets that are used during the biting cold of the Himalayan winters.
After a baseline survey and diagnostic study, the NIESBUD formed 35 self-help groups (SHGs) of 381 craftspersons, including women. A common facility centre (CFC) was established with the state government providing land free of cost. The CFC has facilities like a water treatment plant, showroom, studio, carding/quality testing laboratory, godown, training centre and designing rooms. The weavers get their new designs with the help of CAD (computer-aided design).
Besides, buyer-seller meets are organised at regular intervals, and a new designer has been appointed to enhance quality. Additionally, weavers are provided with benefits like various insurance schemes being offered by government and private companies.
“It is interesting to note that the turnover of the cluster has increased by 33 per cent after the implementation of soft and hard interventions,” said Sinha. The average income of the weavers has also increased, she claimed. The average income of a weaver now is around Rs 350-400 per day.