In a major push for the Indian handloom, handicrafts and rural industry, the Narendra Modi-led government has rolled out a slew of initiatives to double its annual turnover to over Rs 1.7 lakh crore. Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, and MSME, Nitin Gadkari elaborated on the government’s efforts to encourage designers, artisans and craftsmen to increase production besides new research and innovations in these sectors.

Speaking at The Luxury Symposium, Gadkari said that a number of programmes have been launched to make khadi global, given the abundance of raw material and skilled manpower available in the country.  “Our government’s mission is inspired by Mahatma Gandhi…We are implementing the economy on socio-economic thinking of Gandhiji, i.e. to create maximum employment in rural, agriculture and tribal sector,” Gadkari said, adding that the KVIC has been the main agency encouraging production in these areas.

The minister lauded the contributions made by the Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSME) and particularly the rural industries towards India’s GDP. “We are receiving great turnover, to the tune of Rs 85,000 crore from handloom and village-based industries. Our target is to double the turnover. This will ultimately create more jobs,” he said.

The MSME sector, he said, accounted for 29 per cent of the country’s GDP while it contributed to 49 per cent of the total export of India. The target is to increase the export from MSME sector to 60 per cent while creating 5 crore new jobs in the next five years. Gadkari said that in order to promote village industries the government has made kulhars mandatory at 400 railway stations across the country and promised to implement the same at the Indian airports in coming future.

In a rather innovative measure, the government will also promote solar vastra, by setting up 13 clusters with the manpower of nearly 3,500 each. “The government will support all employment generation activities… There is a favourable atmosphere in the country for development of rural industry… At the same time, there is an abundance of raw materials in the country and we need new research and designs to appeal globally,” he said.

Gadkari, who is also the minister for Road Transport and Highways, offered land at cheap prices along the proposed Delhi-Mumbai Expressway for the construction of museum-cum-shopping centres for khadi and other hand-made products to boost the artisans and local craftsmen. “The 1,300km expressway, which passes through the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra, will attract a large number of tourists, particularly foreigners. Setting up museums and shopping centres will be an ideal way of showcasing and promoting our village industry, bamboo-based products as well as handloom and handicraft industries,” Gadkari said. He added that around 150 roadside amenities will be developed alongside the corridor where these shopping centres could be opened.