Handloom in West Bengal: Decline or Dynamism?
In India, the relative importance of the handloom sector, one of the largest employers following agriculture, has been declining for the last few decades. The All India Handloom Census data for the year 2009–10, however, showed a rather modest decline in the number of weavers in West Bengal, in contrast to a 33% decline at the national level between 1995–96 and 2009–10. Data from the same Handloom Censuses also point to considerable occupational diversification among weaver households in West Bengal. Based on analysis of the same data, we find that recent history of handloom in West Bengal is not only of exit, but also of entry of labourers into the sector along with acquisition of skills by new entrants. Inter- and intra-sectoral labour mobilities call into question the dominant view of ‘skills’ in this sector, ‘skills’ being the singular lens through which the handloom sector has traditionally been viewed. We argue for a more labour-focused rather than a ‘tradition’-centred approach to the handloom sector.
KeywordsHandloom West Bengal Income diversification Unorganized sector
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