A delegation led by theatre director and social activist Prasanna met Pratap Chandra Sarangi, Union Minister of State for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, in New Delhi on Friday over demands of restructuring and refinancing the handmade sector, also making it tax-free.
The delegation included activist Medha Patkar among others and demanded a separate ministry for “sacred economy”. Gram Seva Sangha, spearheading the cause, defines “sacred economy” as a system of production that utilises a minimum of 60% human labour and 60% local raw material.
“The meeting was positive as the Minister supported our demand. He assured of further consultation with the government and getting back to us,” said Mr. Prasanna. Union Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda had assured Mr. Prasanna of a consultation meeting over the demand for restructuring the handmade good sector when the latter had sat on an indefinite fast in October.
“Presently, those parts of the economy that can be termed sacred are under 12 different ministries such as MSME, Agriculture, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj and Textiles, to name a few. Though this sector employs over 90% of the population, it is being neglected as focus is on industrialised economy. The only way to refocus is to bring all the sectors under one ministry,” argued Mr. Prasanna, adding that such a ministry should be given a matching grant corresponding to the population involved.
The ministry should include Khadi and village industries sector as defined by J.C. Kumarappa and Gandhi, farm sector as defined by the Swaminathan Committee, handloom and handicraft sector under the Ministry of Textiles, apart from welfare of labour groups such as garments, pourakarmikas and anganwadi workers, he said.
Mr. Prasanna said they had set a deadline of one month for the Union government to initiate wider consultation.