Ajay Ray

    Tripura is considered as one of the industrially backward States of the country. Its geographical location, topography and population pattern are some of the hindrances in setting up big and medium-sized industries. With the discovery of abundant natural gas in the State hopes have emerged for setting up industries there. But so far the response from big industrial and business houses has been lukewarm. Tripura is endowed with natural resources and by exploiting agricultural and forest resources small scale industries could be set up. Setting up small-scale industries in Tripura’s rural areas will bring about prosperity and employment opportunities for its people.The basic idea of rural industrialisation is creation of potential self-reliant entrepreneurs - thus lessening the burden of unemployment in the State’s economy . The basic tenets of the strategy for rural industrialisation programme demand the maximum utilisation of locally available human and material resources, demarcation of spheres of production in large and small sectors, emphasis on production by the masses and not on mass production which, in turn, means adoption of small technology wherever possible, proliferation of employment opportunities, taking industry to the people, descaling the technology for wide application in rural areas and ensuring that agriculture and industry are complimentary to each other.

    But in reality the rural artisans of Tripura are neglected and are languishing in the once vibrant villages. After Partition, the traditional weavers of the erstwhile East Bengal and craftsmen took shelter in the State. Besides, the tribal weavers were also very rich in their trade . The tribal life of Tripura is interwoven with the use of bamboo and the tribal weavers had their own tradition. In course of time the tribal economy was shattered. Poverty and negligence were rampant in the hills and plains. In spite of these constraints the rural artisans are still surviving. The potters, the weavers, cobblers, ghaniwalas and fried rice sellers are the backbone of rural industries. They are yet to be brought out in national lime light .Work has started in this direction. The village industries sector has been revitalised. The khadi movement has taken a new turn keeping in view the global demand and market. The traditional notion about khadi has undergone a sea-change. New innovations have been introduced in this sector along with demand . Khadi is eco - friendly and is competing in the world market. The government has adopted a strategy for improving the lot of rural artisans. The earlier planned pattern approach could not attract and enthuse the village artisans in becoming self-reliant. In fact, it had a negative effect on the economy of the villages. Now this approach has been replaced by the project approach. The same ills have also plagued the project approach. The funding pattern of the project documentation system of economic viability has also come in the way of entrepreneurs in taking initiative to set up village industries. The thrust was to find out either the road side villages or the suburb-related villages for setting up industries to pass the test of economic viability. But in this process the casualty was the rural development programme.

    What are the ills of khadi and village industries movement ? Absence of a long-term policy, lack of marketing infrastructure, poor design and quality, shrinkage of markets, inadequacy of working capital and poor initiative are mainly responsible for the downward trend of this sector. A new Rs. 125 crore five-year package with special attention on the North-Eastern States has been unveiled by Union Minister of State for Small Scale Industries, Smt.Vasundara Raje Scindia. Khadi has been designated as a heritage product. Besides, an insurance scheme for workers and a Rs. 390 crore budgetary support apart from an institutional finance of Rs. 825 crore have also been launched. Marketing strategies have been revamped. Quality assurance of khadi is stressed upon. Besides, the Khadi & Village Industries Commission (KVIC) initiated the Abhyudaya - Moving Forward - scheme during the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the country’s Independence to reach out to certain segments of society normally outside its fold. The programmes under Abhyudaya took KVIC out of the typical Government department mode of functioning.

    There is a wide scope of employment opportunities - rather self-employment opportunities - through KVIC in the State. Rural industrialisation is possible through KVIC’s Margin Money Scheme (MMS). This is a bankable scheme. Only enterprising entrepreneurs should take the opportunity of MMS. The Government of Tripura and the Tripura Khadi and Village Industries Board have taken steps to introduce MMS among the rural artisans of the State.

    But much work remains to be done in the formation of clusters of handicrafts and pottery. The sense of loan repayment is gradually coming to the actual entrepreneurs. KVIC’s schemes are best suited for industrialisation of rural Tripura. The approach to the KVIC is changing to ensure full utilisation of the schemes.