The Union Ministry of Textiles quietly abolished the 28-year-old All India Handloom Board (AIHB) in the last week of July.
Established in 1992 with the aim to advise the government in formulating policy for the overall development of the handloom sector, the AIHB played a vital role in safeguarding the interests of weavers and SMEs, feel experts.
Signed by the Development Commissioner for Handlooms, Sanjay Rastogi, the notification dated July 27 reads, “In consonance with the Government of India vision of ‘Minimum Government and Maximum Governance’, a leaner government machinery and the need for systematic rationalisation of government bodies, the Government of India has abolished All India Handloom Board with effect from the date of this resolution.”
Reacting to the development, Wahid who owns three handloom units in Rewdi Talab area of Varanasi, says he was disappointed.
“Although the Board was not able to do much for the welfare of the weaver community, there was at least a body which we could approach at the time of need,” said Wahid.
Idrish Ansari, President of Bunkar Dasktar Adhikar Manch, Varanasi said the decision did not come as a surprise. “It was coming…it was inevitable,” he says.
Asserting that the BJP governments at both the Centre and UP have methodically crushed the industry, Ansari noted, “95 per cent units (handloom and powerloom) in Varanasi are shut due to the unplanned lockdown”.
“Increased electricity bills have added to our woes. Earlier we were provided subsidies but the BJP government has stopped it. The electricity department has sent bills ranging from Rs 30000 to Rs 100000. How can a weaver who is out of work for months pay such a heavy bill?” questioned Ansari.
Handloom dealers believe that the shrinking contribution of the handloom industry in the rural economy has provided the Modi government a pretext to abolish the Board.
“Why would the Modi government feed and run an advisory board to run an industry…Minimum Government and Maximum Governance is just a pretense,” said a dealer from Varanasi.
It is important to note here that in the beginning, the Board had the Union Minister of Textiles as its chairman, with members drawn from the Central and state governments and NGOs from the handloom industry, but it was reconstituted later.
As per the website of the Ministry of Textiles, the AIHB was last reconstituted for a period of two years in 2014 and the 1st meeting of the re-constituted All India Handloom Board was convened on 17th February, 2014 at New Delhi. There is no record available on the website after 2014.