Reorienting the Traditional Skills

by Mar 15, 2023Welfare0 comments

In the past years, through the Skill India Mission and skill development centres, we have worked to enhance the skills of crores of youth and provide them new employment opportunities. The more specific we are in the areas like skill development, the more targeted the approach is, the better the results will be.

PM Vishwakarma Kaushal Samman Yojana or simply the PM Vishwakarma Yojana is the result of this very thinking. The announcement of the PM Vishwakarma Yojana in this (year’s) budget has led to a widespread discussion over it; and has attracted the attention of the media and the economists. And hence the announcement of this scheme has become a centre of attraction.

Now what was the need of this scheme? Why was it named Vishwakarma? How are you all stakeholders so crucial for the success of this scheme?

As per our beliefs, Lord Vishwakarma is considered to be the controller and creator of the universe. He is believed to be the greatest craftsman and the idol of Vishwakarma has all the different tools in his hands. In our society, there has been a rich tradition of those people who create something or the other with their own hands and that too with the help of tools. Attention has been paid to those who work in the field of textiles, but our blacksmiths, goldsmiths, potters, carpenters, sculptors, artisans, masons also have been an integral part of the society for centuries because of their distinguished services.

These people have also changed themselves from time to time according to the changing economic needs. Moreover, they have also developed new things according to the local traditions. For example, in some parts of Maharashtra our farmer brothers and sisters store the grains in a storage structure made of bamboo. This is called Kangi, and it is prepared by local artisans only. Similarly, if we go to the coastal areas, various crafts have developed to meet the needs of the society. Now speaking of Kerala, the Uru boat of Kerala is completely made by hand. The carpenters there build these fishing boats. It requires a special kind of skill, efficiency and expertise to make it.

Artisans play a significant role in small-scale production of local handicrafts and in maintaining their appeal to the public. But unfortunately, in our country their role was left at the mercy of the society, and their role was reduced. The situation was such that these kinds of works were considered to be small and less important. But there was a time when we were recognized all over the world because of this very thing. This was such an ancient model of export, in which our artisans had played a major role. But during the long period of colonial rule, this model collapsed and suffered a lot.

Even after independence, our artisans could not get the much-needed intervention and help from the government. As a result, today most of the people who depend on this unorganized sector earn their livelihood only by using makeshift solutions. Many people are giving up their ancestral and traditional occupations. They lack the ability to adapt to today’s needs.

We cannot leave this class to fend for itself. This is the class that has been preserving its craft for centuries by using traditional methods. This is the class, which is making a mark with its extraordinary skills and unique creations. These are symbols of the true spirit of self-reliant India. Our government considers such people, such classes as Vishwakarma of New India. And that’s why PM Vishwakarma Kaushal Samman Yojana has been launched especially for them. This scheme is new, but very important.

Usually we keep hearing one thing that man is a social animal. And through the various forces of the society, the social system develops and operates. There are some professions without which it is difficult to lead a societal life, let alone making any progress. One can’t even imagine that. Today those works might have got the support of technology, and have been modernized but no one can question the relevance of those works.

Those who know the rural economy of India are also aware that even though there may or may not be a family doctor in the family, but there definitely is a family goldsmith. That is, every generation of a family buys and gets jewellery made from a particular goldsmith family. Similarly, there are various artisans in the village and the cities who make a living by using tools with the skills of their hands. The focus of PM Vishwakarma Yojana is towards such a large scattered community.

If we look at Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of village swaraj, other systems are equally important in the village life besides farming. For the development of the village, it is essential for our development journey to enable and modernize every section living in the village.

I went to Aadi Mahotsav in Delhi just a few days ago. There I saw that many people proficient in tribal art & handicrafts had come from tribal areas and had set up their stalls. But my attention was drawn towards the people who made bangles from lac. They were the centre of attraction. How do they make bangles from lac? How do they do the printing work? And how the women from the villages are doing it? What technology do they have in terms of size? And I observed that anyone going there was spending at least ten minutes there.

Similarly, our blacksmith brothers and sisters who work with iron, our potter brothers and sisters engaged in pottery, or those in wood work, or the goldsmiths who work with gold, need support now. Just like we formulated PM Svanidhi Yojana for small shopkeepers and street vendors who benefitted from it, similarly crores of people are going to be immensely benefitted through PM Vishwakarma Yojana.

I once visited a country in Europe several years back. And, I met the Gujaratis who were in the jewellery business there. So, I asked them about the scenario back then. They said, despite the availability of technology and machines in jewellery, generally the handmade jewelleries have more demand and there is a huge market for the same. That means this area also has potential.

There are many such experiences and therefore through this scheme the Central Government will provide holistic institutional support to every artisan friend. We will ensure that the artisan friends get loans easily; their skills are enhanced and they receive all kinds of technical support. Besides, arrangements will also be made for digital empowerment, brand promotion and market access of the products. Raw-materials will also be ensured. The objective of this scheme is not only to preserve the rich tradition of these artisans and craftsmen, but also to develop it more.

Now we need to reorient the skill infrastructure system according to their needs. Today, through Mudra Yojana, the government is giving loans worth crores of rupees without any bank guarantee. This scheme also has to ensure maximum benefit to our artisan friends. In our digital literacy campaigns, we now need to give priority to our artisan friends.

Our aim is to turn today’s artisans into big entrepreneurs of tomorrow. For this, sustainability in their sub-business model is essential. Keeping this in mind, we are also working on improving the products they make with attractive designing, packaging and branding. In this, the needs of the customers are also being taken care of. We are not only eyeing the local market, but also targetting the global market.

We can empower artisans and craftsmen only by making them a part of the value chain. There are many of them who can become suppliers and producers for our MSME sector. By providing them the help of tools and technology, they can be made an important part of the economy. The industrial world can increase production by linking these people with their needs. The industry can also provide them skill and quality training.

Governments can better coordinate their schemes and banks can finance these projects. In this way, it can be a win-win situation for every stakeholder. Corporate companies can get quality products at competitive prices. Banks’ money will be invested in schemes which can be trusted. And this will demonstrate the widespread impact of the schemes of the government.

Our startups can also create a huge market for handicraft products through e-commerce model. These products can also get assistance from startups in better technology, design, packaging and financing. I hope that the partnership with the private sector will be further strengthened through PM-Vishwakarma Yojana. With this, we will be able to take full advantage of the power of innovation and business acumen of the private sector.

Most of our brothers and sisters are from Dalit, tribal, backward areas, or are women and other weaker sections. Therefore, there is a need to develop practical and effective strategies through which we can reach the needy and tell them about PM Vishwakarma Yojana and they can avail the benefits of the scheme.

[Excerpts of the Prime Minister’s address at post-budget webinar on ‘PM Vishwakarma Kaushal Samman (PM VIKAS) on March 11]

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