Institutional support for block printing comes under the purview of the handicrafts division of the Textile Ministry. The All-India Handicrafts Board operates under the Minister of Textiles with the Development Commissioner for Handicrafts as the Member Secretary. The office of Development Commissioner for Handicrafts, also under the Ministry of Textiles, works on the promotion and exports of handicrafts in addition to the planning and execution of developmental schemes for handicrafts.
The administration chart from the Handicrafts Government Departments
The government supports artisans, including those in the block printing sector, mainly by providing social security, input and infrastructure support, training and sale of products in cottage emporiums and craft fairs. The Ambedkar Hastshilpi Vikas Yojana (AHVY), in operation since 2001, aims to remedy the disorganised nature of the sector by developing artisan clusters into professionally run, self-sufficient community enterprises through the Self Help Groups (SHGs) concept. In the case of block printing, the major centres for this handicraft are: the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. In these states, the block print clusters are recognised and support is provided through local government agencies.
The design institutes National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and National Institute of Design (NID) also contribute to this area through their projects on product design and development, marketing and promotion.
In addition, the Ministry of Rural Development also has a self-employment program, Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana (SGSY), which provides assistance to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families in establishing micro-enterprises with the help of bank credit. Block print artisans, such as Madhya Pradesh’s bagh print artisans, are supported through this program as well.
Among non-government agencies, several organisations are involved in the promotion and improvement of block printing.
Notable among them is United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) that works on strengthening small and medium enterprise clusters by assisting local communities, firms and institutions in the cluster through the Cluster Development Programme (CDP). They have worked in the under-performing block printing clusters of Rajasthan to restructure and modernise them to suit the needs of the target market, especially exports.
UNIDO works through the Cluster Development Programme
Non-profit organisations and social enterprises have made inroads into this sector to bring more visibility and increase producer-consumer interaction.
The All India Artisans and Craftworkers Welfare Association (AIACA) works in Jaipur conducting research on the block printing industry and contributes to market research-domestic and global-to assist small and medium-sized enterprises in the Jaipur bloc.
Dastkar, a society for crafts and craftspersons, operates a Craft Community Centre in Ranthambore, Rajasthan promoting craft production - block printing, tie and dye, patchwork etc. while also conducting community building, training, production sales and social awareness programs.
A block print craftswoman part of Dastkar in Ranthambore, Rajasthan
Gramshree, a non-profit organisation in Gujarat, works in the slum and low-income areas of Ahmedabad and the rural areas of Patan and Kutch. 500 women have been organised into SHGs and they produce crafts such as block printed textiles, woodwork, embroidery and weaving. The organisation provides them design inputs, fair wages and a marketing platform while also helping women to become ‘change agents’ for their families and communities.
Gramshree non-profit organisation in Gujarat
Images: Institute of Social Studies Trust New Delhi, Centre of the Study of Values