Source: World Bank

"Handmade in India: Preliminary Analysis of Crafts Producers and Crafts Production in India; Issues, Initiatives, Interventions" is the title of a report that the authors of this chapter were commissioned to prepare by the Policy Sciences Center, Inc., under the direction of Frank W. Penna, in 1999. The study and the report were funded by the Development Grant Facility of the World Bank, and were expected to provide an analysis of the crafts sector in India that would be of use to the World Bank in planning future loan programs. The completed report was presented at a Bank workshop in Washington, D.C., in January 2001.Much of the information in the current chapter is quoted from the report or based on it. The full report and transcripts of the workshop sessions are available at

In a world that is becoming increasingly mechanized, increasingly homogenized, and almost completely exposed to the scrutiny of the Internet, it is logical to assume that the unique, the individual, and the culturally resonant will acquire ever more appeal and luster. A recent United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) symposium, in fact, has concluded that "the industries of the imagination, content, knowledge, innovation and creation clearly are the industries of the future they are also important contributory factors to employment and economic growth" (UNESCO 1999). Try telling it to the weavers of Andhra Pradesh. In just one recent month, four skilled and talented traditional artisans in this southern Indian state died from starvation, and two more committed suicide (Gopinath Reddy 2002). They joined the several score more who have taken their own lives in recent years and the uncounted thousands who have not yet been driven to this act of ultimate despair, but whose lives nevertheless have been devastated by financial ruin and by the hopelessness of a world in which their skills and their knowledge, once prized and respected, have become superfluous.

Their stories are harsh and tragic. "My husband begged master weavers for work," says one widow. "But they could not help us. He committed suicide." Another weaver gave up when the last in a long string of creditors demanded payment. "It was the last straw, "comments one of his neighbors." He collapsed, leaving his wife and children destitute. "Still another hung himself the day after a major festival, during which his family could not eat (Gopinath Reddy 2002).

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