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Promotion of Rural Entrepreneurship with focus on Adivasi , Dalit and Women
Dr S.K.Panda Union Textiles Secretary
Promotion of Rural Entrepreneurship with focus on Adivasi , Dalit and Women
PHOTO : A Tripuri women collecting drinking water at Barmura area. TIWN File Photo

In the 21st Century, India has emerged not only as the largest democracy, with over 1.25 billion people, but also as a young nation with the largest youth population in the world. In the last six decades since independence, the traditional “Bharat” has been getting transformed into a young and dynamic modern “India” looking forward with enormous promises and potentials. Achievements of young Indians in the field of Information Technology has been a matter of pride and reaffirmed the position of India at the international sphere. These developments got new dimensions with the new Government assuming powers under the leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi. However, the challenges ahead continue for meeting the high expectations if the youth. It calls for mobilising the youth with requisite skill, technology and resources for exploiting the market, both within and outside country and making the development sustainable.

Keeping in view the wide diversity of India, Founders of modern India have embedded social inclusion as the fundamental edifice of our Constitution.

This is reflected in the Preamble as well as in the Directive Principles of State Policy with Article 46 of the Constitution of India laying down “Promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other weaker sections.- The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.”  

This has been followed up in various policies and programmes launched for economic development since independence.  However it has been noticed that impact of modern science and while technology to be somewhat neutral to these social issues. While technology led growth brought cheers to those empowered with education and skill, experience with the other half has been different. Those living in the rural areas with relatively less financial resources, lower skill and limited access to market have been left behind.  As a result, the disparity between the rich and the poor, the haves and have-nots, has been increasing which in turn is giving rise to social tension.

This has been the experience in other developing nations as well. In order to tackle this, development of human resources and addressing social exclusion as well as environmental degradation have emerged as the major concerns for making the development sustainable and were covered in the Millennium Development Goal(MDG)s adopted at the beginning of the new Millennium. These have continued further under the Sustainable Development Goal(SDG)s. Social inclusion is a complex process and requires a package of interventions of which promotion of rural entrepreneurship in general and New Delhi, Jan 20 (TIWN/IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday congratulated the scientists of Indian Space Research Organisation on the successful launch of India's fifth navigation satellite into space.

Case study

#1. Empowering the tribal women through sericulture in Tripura
   Sericulture is an agro-based rural industry, comprising of a chain of activities from Soil to Silk” covering  (i) plantation of silk worm food plants,(ii) rearing silk worms to produce cocoon, (iii)reeling of cocoon to silk yarn, (iv) twisting of silk as per requirement and (v) weaving of yarn to silk fabrics.  Sericulture has number of unique features like low capital investment, short gestation, highly labour intensive, good economic return throughout the year at short intervals, the working conditions being less strenuous, good market, both within and outside the country, etc. These make it an ideal tool for empowerment of the disadvantaged segment and poverty alleviation. It also facilitates social inclusion as it involves transfer of resources from the rich (who purchase silk fabrics) to the poor (who produce silk cocoon yarn and fabrics).  Out of the 4 type of silk produced in the country namely, Tassar, Muga, Eri and Mulberry, mulberry silk is economically most important as the rearing is done indoors under controlled conditions, the seed production and technology involved have been standardized. However, in India production of  mulberry silk was confined to some areas  in around Karnataka, parts of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, West Bengal (Malda region) and the Kashmir valley.  These are known as the traditional silk producing area  of the country.  With a view to exploit potential of mulberry sericulture in other areas, commonly known as the non-traditional area,  several attempts have been made in the past decades. However, the results remained relatively poor and uncertain. 

In this background, a special Tripura women sericulture project was launched in 1995 in the North Eastern State of Tripura with only women mainly belonging to tribal community.  Provision of assistance and support over a decade has made Tripura a pioneer in production of not only silk yarn, but also better quality bivoltine silk yarn, which is being imported from China at present for meeting the domestic requirement. The Tripura women sericulture project had components for spreading awareness about the advantages of mulberry sericulture, formation of groups, training, capacity building, financial assistance for plantation of mulberry, rearing house and rearing equipment to be used for rearing silk worm, reeling cocoon along with technical guidance for plantation, rearing and reeling.  The women groups were taken on exposure visit and encouraged continuously for adopting best practices.  As a result of hard and continuous efforts, Tripura has been producing bivoltine silk yarn for meeting its own requirement and sending outside. This activity has been giving each woman a good annual income of about  Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 40,000 from half an acre of land on a continuous basis. This is substantially higher than the income from any other crop under similar conditions.  Apart from sale of cocoon, the women are also getting money by raising kissan nursery and selling mulberry saplings. The entire operation is being done by a cooperative of women members.

        The salient features of the experiment taken up in Tripura are covered in the book “Mulberry Sericulture in New Areas” and film “Soil to Silk” made by the writer.
#2. Promotion of Women Self Help Groups for handicraft exports

Export of Indian handicrafts and handmade carpet accounted for Rs. 28,000 crores and Rs. 7,000 crores respectively, total Rs. 35,000 crores during 2014-15.  This marked an annual growth of 18% over the previous years.  Similarly trend of growth has been noticed in the first six months of the current financial year 2015-16 as well.  This is likely to continue, as there is a demand for hand-made products in USA and European Union  all over the world and India has hands( youth/manpower) to make it.  Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Ministry of Textiles, has been encouraging Women Self Help Groups to identify items, which have export potential and can be made with available raw material.  Such groups are being assisted for
(i)    Training and design development;
(ii)    Development of Common Facility Centre with facilities (a) Office with Internet facility,(b) Godown, (c)Shed for training and bulk processing and (d) a Guest Room with attached toilet;
(iii)    On line financial assistance to the trained artisans; and 
(iv)    Involving private entrepreneurs for marketing the product.
A beginning has been made in exploiting the potential of handicraft market by empowering the women Self Help Group.  Two special products for promotion of handicrafts were sanctioned for Uttarakhand and Jharkhand in 2014-15.  The National Centre for Design and Product Development (NCDPD) has been entrusted with the responsibilities of developing these clusters. Similar projects have been sanctioned during 2015-16 for the J & K and the North-eastern states.  The Central Cottage Industries Corporation has been involved in developing the cluster in the North Eastern Region.  Specific thrust have been laid on encouraging Women Groups to assess the market potential and produce goods with quality, in bulk for meeting the demand. Design development and training is being given specific attention in this regard. Setting up of Common Facilities Centre at the block level has been another important component of this exercise.  Private entrepreneur and exporters dealing with handicrafts are being encouraged to avail the advantages of undertaking intervention for developing the production base which is the key requirement for boosting exporters.
The entrepreneur are being encouraged to avail credit support along with guarantee from the Mudra Bank, set up recently with specific focus on promotion of rural entrepreneurship.  Members of the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) are being encouraged to provide market information, design support and handholding the women self help groups for production along with marketing facility for the items produced.  This new approach to development of handicraft has shown encouraging result in different parts of the country and is required to be pursued vigorously.  Once the Women Self Help Group get conversant with the market, they will interact directly with the exporters/bulk buyers and operate on an IT based platform, where they will get the market information directly and procure raw material and sell products with internet based banking.
It is expected that with the financial support and attention from the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), these projects will play a meaningful role in empowering women.
Lessons learnt
The above cases of promotion of sericulture in Tripura and handicraft in other parts of the country, as indicated above, provide deep insight into the scope for empowering the women as well as the Scheduled Tribes (Adivasis) and Dalits (Scheduled Castes) and Other Backward Classes (OBC). The main factors behind success of these interventions lie in the facts that these were undertaken with the women primary producer as the focus and providing them requisite with training, capacity building, technical and financial assistance over a long period on a sustainable basis. Thus it was different from the earlier practice of taking up such activities by Government Officers and staff.  In the cases cited above, the beneficiary herself has been the main player. Special efforts have been made for generation of awareness and passing on appropriate technology. In due course, the beneficiary appreciated importance of technical issues on increasing productivity and quality and getting a higher return for their produce from the market rather than looking for Government assistance and subsidy. Access to market and running the enterprise on cooperative basis gave the beneficiary the confidence, sense of owning the project and getting actively involved in the production process which was primarily responsible for the success.

Challenges Ahead
    The fundamental issue in promotion of disadvantaged segment and rural entrepreneurship lies in the mindset of the implementing agency, as they feel that the target group is weak and need support on a continuous basis. Accordingly, the first and foremost requirement in development of the disadvantaged segment on a sustainable basis lies in changing the mind-set and undertaking interventions on an Empowerment based approach rather than a charity based approach.  Once the disadvantaged segments are given the support, confidence and handholding, they will be able to produce and market it directly.  This new approach, based on a paradigm shift along with assistance under the modified schemes will open a new chapter in promotion of rural entrepreneurship.
     Welfare of all based on the principle of “Bahu Jana Hitaya – Bahu Jana Sukhaya” forms the cornerstone of inclusive development and is essential for peace in the society and prosperity of the country.  It is beyond doubt that working in a team with a positive mind set and use of appropriate technology will enable the primary producers to produce goods with quality and access the market, which will ensure success of the enterprise. Provision of required support with sincerity and commitment will empower the disadvantaged groups and make the development process participative, inclusive and sustainable “Sabka Saath – Sabka Vikas”, as stressed by Hon’ble prime Minister.

Dr Panda worked as the Chief Secretary Tripura from May 2010 to July 2014 and has a doctorate in Economics for his study on the potential of mulberry sericulture in Empowerment of Tribal women in Tripura, .a publication and a film “Soil to Silk” on the subject in You-tube:


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