The heart of India lies in her villages, as Gandhiji pointed out many a time; and if her heart is strong and healthy the whole body would be naturally so.
Although today India maintains some of the largest industrial plants of the world and is marching ahead towards her goal of industrialization, the country is much in need of cottage industries in the rural areas.
The need of Cottage Industries in India is immense. According to an Indian economist, ‘In India, more than 74 per cent of the total population lives in the villages where their lot is linked with agriculture. They have to live in the villages as they cannot leave their fields which give them their ‘living’. Side by side they must be provided with some kind of cottage industries upon which they can depend during that period in which they remain idle and unengaged’.
After independence, our country has been taking gigantic strides towards industrialisation. Cottage industries can become and alternative means of employment for the people living in the rural areas. Cottage industries will be of benefit for our villages, which form the back bone of the nation.
The place of cottage industries in the national economy in the country has been unique since time immemorial. India was famous, in the past, for the wealth of the land and for the high artistic skill of her craftsmen. India was exporting wonderful jewellery and superfine embroideries to Europe. European merchants were attracted towards India more by her craft and industry than by the rich raw material.
Cottage-industries declined with the downfall of the Mughal Empire under whose benevolent patronage they had reached their point of perfection. The up-to-date fashionable people of India motivated by the Western culture preferred the well-finished products of Lancashire and Manchester and treated it as beyond their dignity and prestige to embrace the home-made goods. The cut-throat competition was a harmful detent to the Indian craftsmen who could not keep pace with the foreign machine-made articles. Thus the foreign goods began to be sold at cheaper rates compared with the home-made goods. That was decidedly in the best interests of the foreign rulers whose chief motive was to enrich their country at the cost of India.
It was then that Mahatma Gandhi came on the Indian scene and infused new life and vigor into the decaying limbs of our home industries. The clarion call for swadeshi and benefits of ‘economics of Khadi cloth’ together with the ‘charkha’ campaign launched a crusade against mill-made foreign goods. Since then cottage-industries have been receiving good attention from the government and the people alike. The Central and the State Governments have established separate departments for the encouragement of cottage industries.
It must not be forgotten that cottage industries are the back-bone of our rural economy and no rural uplift is possible without the protection of and encouragement to these small-scale industries. Apart from all other considerations, small-scale or cottage-industries are essential for providing employment to our tillers of soil in their leisure time or when they remain idle.
To improve and encourage the cottage-industry in our country we have to change the views of the general public. The people should be made interested in patronizing home-made goods. A ready market is a further urgency in this direction.
Rural Co-operatives and Rural Banks should be established and stabilized by the Government for advancing short-term loans on nominal interest.
Lastly, adequate marketing facilities should be arranged for them, as sale of goods has now-a-days become as complicated an affair as production itself.
Hence, the artisans must be helped to get the best price of their goods. Frequent exhibitions should be organized to enable the artisans to show their art and industry and give them impetus and inspiration to create still better patterns of handicrafts.