The board was set up in 1981 and advised the government on the development of powerlooms, their efficiency and welfare of workers involved.
The Centre said that the boards have been scrapped with a view on achieving “minimum government and maximum governance”. It also said that it is aiming that the moves are aimed at a “leaner government machinery and for systematic rationalisation of government bodies”.
It has also changed the status of Textiles Research Associations (TRAs) to ‘approved bodies’. Earlier, the TRAs were recognised as ‘affiliated bodies’ of the Ministry of Textile.
According to the government notification, this would mean that “any disposal, sale, transfer of assets created out of central government grant will require prior specific approval of the ministry of textiles.”
The eight TRAs with altered status are the South India TRA in Coimbatore, Ghaziabad based Northern India TRA, Ahmedabad Textile Industry Research Association, Bombay TRA, Synthetic and Art Silk Mills Research Association in Mumbai, Man-made TRA in Surat, World Research Association in Thane and Kolkata-based Indian Jute Industries’ Research Association.
The Centre has said that the recent scrapping of the three boards and the change in the status of TRAs have been done because they did not impact policy-making in any major way, the Times of India reported.
‘Government sources’ also told TOI that the boards became spaces for ‘political patronage’ and led to the creation of ‘middlemen culture’ and were of no real benefit to weavers.
The moves of the government have been criticised by activists working in these fields. Laila Tyabji, chairperson of Dastakar, said that the scrapping of the All India Handicrafts board will mean that weavers and craftspeople will not have a platform to raise their concerns.
“All these years on, it remained the one official forum, however watered down, where the voices and views of weavers and craftspeople could be expressed directly. One place where representatives of the sector were present in considerable numbers, and were actually empowered to advise the government in policy and sectoral spending,” she said.
The Centre’s argument of ‘minimum government’ to defend the move has also been criticised. “Expenditure on this (handloom) Board is hardly Rs 1,00,000 per year. One would wonder what made the managers of ‘Minimum Government and Maximum Governance’ programme to pick up to reduce their expenditure, where no expenditure has been happening,” public policy expert Narasimha Reddy wrote in the Siasat Daily.