India@75, Looking at 100: India can be a world leader in the sustainable production of cotton textiles

Source– The post is based on the article “India@75, Looking at 100: India can be a world leader in the sustainable production of cotton textiles” published in The Indian Express on 28th December 2022.

Syllabus: GS1- Economic geography. GS3- Indian economy

Relevance– Issues related to sustainable production by small scale industries

News– The article explains the impact of colonial era economic policies on the handloom sector. It explains the impact of these policies on cotton production in India. It also tells about the future prospects of the handloom sector.

In pre-industrial times, the many varieties of Indian cotton cloth were a source of wealth for India. Until colonial times, the yarn for handloom weaving in India had been spun by hand.

How British colonialism impacted handloom weaving and domestic cotton production?

Spinning machinery was invented in Britain. Since India was a British colony, the latter dictated its economic policies. Machine-woven cotton fabrics began to be imported. The raw cotton was shipped out to supply British industry.

Though Indian varieties of cotton produced the finest fabrics in the world, they were unsuited to the newly invented textile machinery.

American cotton varieties having longer, stronger staple, were more suited to machine processing. So, the hundreds of varieties of Indian cotton had to become uniform.

How has it impacted the cotton farmers?

Cotton in India is grown largely by small farmers. The new practices have changed the nature of farm practices from sustainable, family-based agriculture to intensive commercial farming. Seeds come from large multinationals. They are expensive.

American varieties need irrigation, which increases humidity. Humidity encourages pests and fungi. So, use of fertiliser and pesticide increases the cost of cultivation, but does not guarantee a good harvest. It has led to indebtedness of farmers.

The distress of the cotton farmer has even led to suicides. The introduction of genetically modified seeds has led to more severe problems.

What are the future prospects of the Indian handloom sector?

It will be clean, renewable energy that will make the small-scale environmental Indian industries top leaders of the 21st century.

As fossil fuels deplete, earlier notions of efficiency will change. The low-energy manufacturing processes will gain value.

Markets are becoming saturated with look-alike products from factory-style mass production. There are more customers for the individualised products of dispersed production. Small-batch handwoven fabrics will become desirable in the changing markets.

The world is looking for “green” industries. Over the next 25 years, handloom weaving located close to cotton fields can make it a world leader in sustainable production.

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