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Sustainability of Rural Artisans

Often grouped along with agricultural labourers and non-farm workers, the problems faced by rural artisans are often neglected. What are these problems? What steps can be taken to improve their situation?


is also true that not many studies have

Sustainability of Rural Artisans

been conducted to find the causes of the un satisfactory performance of the government-sponsored schemes. Recognising the S S Solanki significant contributions of rural artisans

Often grouped along with agricultural labourers and non-farm workers, the problems faced by rural artisans are often neglected. What are these problems? What steps can be taken to improve their situation?

Thanks are due to Khadi and Village Industries Commission, Department of Science and Technology, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development and district industries centres of concerned states for their financial help and cooperation in identification of different clusters.

S S Solanki ( is at the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, New Delhi.

ndia’s population of over 1,200 million people in the year 2006 has been projected to increase to 1,300 million by 2025 and to 1,600 million by the middle of the present century [Population Reference Bureau 2006]. In this projection, the urban population has been estimated at 29 per cent in 2006 and 50 per cent by the year 2050. These statistics reveal that the current urban population of about 350 million people will rise to some 800 million people by 2050. Thus, around 450 million people will be added to the cities and a large part of it would come by way of migration from villages. In this huge exodus of migrating people, a large portion is of rural artisans – carpenters, blacksmiths, cobblers, potters, weavers, etc, who are being forced to leave their traditional professions and migrate to urban centres in search of better employment opportunities. These artisans play a vital role in the village life by providing a variety of services. Their migration creates a void in the village life and problems of water, housing, sanitation, pollution, etc, in urban centres. Thus, there is a strong need to manage this migration of people from rural to urban areas and sustain them in their traditional professions in their hometowns. Although the problem of rural-to-urban migration has been discussed at several forums and the government of India has announced several schemes for rural development, it is a hard fact that their impact has not been satisfactory. And, it

to the nation and considering the need for finding the actual causes for not achieving the desired goals of various rural developmental programmes, the author has conducted some techno-economic studies on this unorganised sector of rural artisans consisting potters, blacksmiths, carpenters, etc, in the states of Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and West Bengal. The names of dominant clusters of artisans identified in different states of India are depicted in Table 1 (p 25), along with the number of approximate households in each cluster.

Some Insights

The following insights have been gathered from the artisans in different clusters in India. These have been gathered from the artisans through questionnaire mode and the number of respondents from each cluster has been shown in Table 1.

Neglect by State and Central Governments: The rural artisans are being neglected by both state as well as central governments, as is evident from the fact that not many studies on their technoeconomic condition have been conducted. Even their clusters have not been identified in different states as per their trade, viz, potters, blacksmiths, weavers, cobblers, stone-workers, carpenters, engraves, etc. Practically, no records are available on their numbers, clusterwise or statewise.

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Economic & Political Weekly


Non-recognition: Rural artisans, in spite different states have revealed that one of their significant number, have not major reason for the non-achievement of been able to get recognition at the state the desired goals of rural development or central level. They are usually clubbed programmes, is the non-involvement with “non-farm workers” or “non-agri-of rural artisans in these programmes cultural workforce”. No committee has [Solanki 2003a].

Data collected from dif-

Table 1: Clusters with Dominant Artisanal Agglomerations in India

ferent clusters of artisans in

Place of Artisanal State Dominated No of No of Agglomeration Artisans Households Respondents the selected states of India

Loharpura Rajasthan Blacksmiths 500 122 have revealed that there

Ladnu Rajasthan Carpenters 120 55 are several factors that af-
Nawalgarh Rajasthan Potters 189 149 fect the techno-economic
Chhuchhukwas Sampla Haryana Haryana CarpentersBlacksmiths 30101 25 72 development of artisans in the rural areas. These have
Narola Kandawa Himachal Pradesh Uttar Pradesh PottersPotters 71103 36 77 been outlined in Table 2 and
Khadgaon Kalaan Madhya Pradesh Potters 57 39 have been briefly discussed
Ranibandh West Bengal Potters 161 40 in this section.
Thozukkal Kerala Potters 95 74

Kasharipara Meghalaya Potters 246 196 Lack of Skill Improvement

Dundlod Rajasthan Potters 53 33 and Technology Upgrada-

Dhulkari Himachal Pradesh Potters 98 28 tion: On the technology Chhuchhukwas Haryana Carpenters 55 45

front, not much has been

Sampla Haryana Blacksmiths 50 39

done to either upgrade their

Source: Data collected by the author from different clusters of artisans through questionnaire mode .

traditional technology or ever been set up to look into their prob-improve their skills. It largely remains lems, which are altogether different from a family trade for rural artisans, and is those of non-farm workers or agricultural passed from one generation to the next. labourers. A majority of these artisans have not re

ceived any formal training at any institute. Non-Coverage under Agricultural Relief There are no arrangements for their skill Programmes: Though these artisans are improvement in or around their clusters. part and parcel of rural life and are con-The industrial training institutes (ITIs) do nected to agriculture in one way or an-not offer courses, which are related to the other, they are not included in the relief/ trade of the cluster. A good percentage of support programmes of the state/central these artisans have shown interest in sendgovernment. The artisans in some clus-ing their wards to formal technical trainters, as the ones in Sampla (Rohtak), and ing, if it is useful to their trades [Solanki

Ambla, produce agricultural tools and al-Table 2: Factors Limiting Techno-Economic Development

lied implements and are thus directly re-

Factors Percentage of

lated to agriculture and are affected along Respondents markets are largely local, in and around the cluster. These artisans feel that there should be some “identified” places for marketing their products on the lines of ‘anaz mandies’ (grain markets) for the farmers. Such specialised markets will offer a win-win situation to both artisans and buyers (ibid).

Non-existence of Infrastructural Facilities: Infrastructural facilities like clean workspaces, storage space, safe drinking water, access to roads, supply of electricity, etc, are lacking in these clusters.

Non-Availability of Quality Raw Materials:

Rural artisans do not have access to quality raw materials. They are forced to either buy sub-standard raw materials or pay higher prices. In both situations, they are sufferers. They feel that they should be provided raw materials in the same way that seeds are provided to farmers. Such an arrangement will make them more competitive and productive in the market, and will help them achieve economic sustainability.

Weak Financial Power: The economic condition of a majority of the artisans is not satisfactory. They survive on loans from private moneylenders at high interest rates. Their poor financial power has other implications too: (a) their bargaining power at marketing point remains weak and they are exploited by buyers because they must sell to fill the belly;

  • (b) they are losers at the purchasing point of raw materials because they purchase in small lots, which means higher prices;
  • (c) they cannot create a big inventory of
  • with farm households but they are not Old and traditional technology 85 their products and therefore, their mar

    included in any famine- or flood-related Lack of technical training 87 keting remains purchaser-dominated; and

    relief programme. The country feels pride Non-access to information 78 (d) they are not able to do value addition

    in claiming terracotta figurines as a part of Indian heritage but fails to look into the socio-economic condition of the artisans who produce them, not to talk of upgradation of their skills or innovation of their traditional technology.

    Non-Involvement in Rural Developmental Programmes: Whatever few programmes have been planned or implemented for rural development, these artisans have not been made stakeholders in any of them. Studies by the author in

    Economic & Political Weekly

    may 10, 2008

    Non-availability of finance 72

    Non-existence of marketing network 56
    Poor infrastructure 42
    Lack of policy 68

    Source: Based on data collected by the author from rural artisans through questionnaire mode.

    2007]. These artisans, by and large, have no interaction with research and development (R&D) scientists.

    Lack of Specialised Markets: A major problem being faced by these artisans is the non-existence of proper markets for the marketing of their products. Such to their products.

    Inability to Get Bank Loans: Rural artisans are unable to get loans from banks or other financial institutions due to their inability to furnish collateral securities needed by these institutions. Their inability to mobilise resources has hampered their development process [Solanki 2002, 2006; Jain et al 1995].

    Poor Access to Information: In today’s world, non-availability of technological


    development is a big lacuna. Artisans do not have means to get information about

    (a) new markets for selling their products and remain confined to the traditional one/two markets, (b) rates of their products in other markets, (c) market potential of their products, (d) rates of raw materials used by them in other markets, (e) government schemes instituted for their welfare, and (f) diversification and value addition in their products. A majority of these artisans are not aware about email or fax, though most of them have seen or used a cellphone.

    Lack of Linkages with Different Institutions: In all the clusters studied, there is lack of linkages between rural artisans and different institutions and development functionaries, like R&D institutions (3 per cent), financial institutions (25 per cent), district industries centres (DICs) (5 per cent), agricultural directorates (1 per cent), khadi and village industries (KVIs) (3 per cent), etc. A sufficient broad segment of these artisans is not even aware about the existence of institutions, which could provide help to them. They are almost totally ignorant in this respect and have no access to newer developments in their trade.

    The establishment of linkages, however, is an important aspect for the economic and social development of the rural artisans and for taking the achievements of R&D to this “unreached” section of the society.

    Social Security: Considering the nature of job and livelihood of these artisans, there is a dire need to provide social security to them. There are three different categories of rural artisans: (i) those who own small workshops and manufacture various types of agricultural and allied tools and implements, (ii) those who work as con tractual workers at these workshops, and (iii) those who are casual workers. The economic conditions are far from satisfactory for the three classes but are awful for the last two categories. There is hardly any provision for social security scheme for rural artisans. The plight of these artisans becomes dreadful as they become senior citizens.

    Policy Implications

    To bring rural artisans into the mainstream of development and make them partners in the development process, the government should intervene to provide policy support to them on the following fronts:

    Training: “Training camps”, based on the predominant trade in a cluster may be organised with the association of government R&D/training institutions and local artisans in each cluster to upgrade their traditional skills. Training has emerged as a strong need of these artisans and a positive contributor to the economic development of rural areas [Solanki 2007].

    Interaction: “Interaction meets” may be organised periodically in collaboration with financial, marketing and R&D institutions to provide artisans the latest information on techno logy-related issues, and market-related issues. These “meets” are a platform for artisans to discuss their problems directly with the concerned developmental functionaries.

    Collateral-Free Loan Facilities: Mechanisms need to be evolved to provide collateral-free loan facilities for low asset-based borrowers like rural artisans by banks and other financial institutions, at least up to a certain level of loan.

    Artisans Credit Cards: These artisans feel that they should also be issued artisans credit cards (ACCs) to get benefits of financial loans, etc. The need for ACCs was stressed by Ram Niwas Mirdha, ex-central minister, government of India, also at the interaction meet of unorganised sector of artisans held at New Delhi recently [Anonymous 2007].

    Participatory Approach: Local artisans should be made partners in all rural development programmes, particularly in those that introduce new/modern technology Most of the rural development programmes have not been able to achieve the desired goals due to the non-involvement of the concerned rural people [Solanki 2003b].

    Cluster-based Technical Education:

    Educational institutions like ITIs and community polytechnics should be directed to introduce cluster-specific technical courses for these artisans as early as possible. For example, ITIs at Rohtak (Haryana) and Loharpura (Rajasthan) could start a dip loma course on agricultural engineering, which is the main market in this area.

    Marketing: To extend marketing facilities to the artisans, specific markets may be established on the lines of grain markets (anaz mandies). It will not only help the artisans but purchasers too. Necessary infrastructure (roads, electricity, etc) will help in providing better marketing facilities to them. Availability of quality raw materials to them at their door-steps on the lines of supplying seeds to the farmers, will make them more market competitive.

    Easy Access to Information: Information technology kiosks may be established in clusters of rural artisans to provide them the needed market-based information. These could be initially instituted under the public sector. These would also provide employment to rural youths.

    Social Security Needs: Appropriate provisions need be introduced to cover these economically-vulnerable artisanal households in social security schemes. A measure of social security would help develop a healthy and contented artisanal force capable of enhancing its contribution to the national income and preservation of national heritage.


    The study has outlined certain measures for upgradation of technology and skills of rural artisans. It would lead to the upliftment of their economic and social status. These measures would generate employment potential in the rural areas, particularly for the young rural artisans and would check their migration towards towns and cities in search of their livelihood. It would help in the transfer of the state-of-the-art techno logy to the user groups. Based on these interventions, some model plans may be formulated involving gover nment machinery, financial and marketing institutions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and local artisans.

    The need for social security benefits to rural artisans is immensely pressing as their economic status is not only poor but highly vulnerable. The absence of self-help groups and NGOs in this sub-sector of rural

    May 10, 2008

    Economic & Political Weekly


    artisans makes their plight more miserable and limits their access to the benefits existing government schemes.

    The measures suggested in this article will lead to the sustainability of rural artisans and will provide income and job opportunities to them in rural areas.


    Anonymous (2007): ‘Interaction Meet of Unorganised Sector of Artisans with S&T Institutions and Rural Development Agencies’, CSIR News, Vol 57, No 17, pp 272-75.

    Jain, Ashok, M A Qureshi and Subhan Khan (1995): CSIR and Rural Development, Deep Publications, New Delhi.

    Population Reference Bureau (2006): World Population Data Sheet, Population Reference Bureau, Washington DC, USA.

    Solanki, S S (2002): Report on Techno-Economic Study on Pottery and Ceramic Goods in Unorganised Sector, submitted to National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (NABARD), Bombay.

    – (2003a): Report on Techno-Economic Study of Artisans in Unorganised Sector, submitted to Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi.

  • (2003b): ‘Reaching the Unreached: The Missing links – A Case Study of Rural Artisans of Haryana and Rajasthan’, Man and Development, Vol XXV, No 2, pp 33-47.
  • (2006): ‘Modern Technology and Indian Rural Artisans’ in Rajeshwar Prasad (ed), Social Development – Role of Science and Technology, Y K Publishers, Agra, pp 286-93.
  • (2007): Report on ‘Technology Upgradation of Traditional Skills of Rural Artisans through Information, Training and Adaptation of Science and Technology in Sampla, Dist Rohtak, Haryana’, submitted to department of science and technology, New Delhi.
  • Economic & Political Weekly

    may 10, 2008

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