Sudhansu R Das
Indian economy continues to shine amid global slowdown. Its GDP growth clocks at 7.4 per cent in 2009-10 which makes Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee optimistic to say that India would hit two digit growth in 2012. India has witnessed 9 per cent growth consecutively for four years from 2004-05 to 2007-08. Thanks to the stoicism of the majority of Indians who cut their food intake due to inflation, breath contaminated air, drink polluted water, eat tonnes of spurious food and medicines, pay exorbitant price for basic amenities like health, housing and education. All for the sake of GDP growth! The economic paradox in the country is due to the majority of Indian politicians and planners’ inability to look beyond a few economic sectors. India’s vast potential in its multiple sectors is not yet explored.
Take for example the handicraft sector. In spite of global slow down, the demand for Indian handicraft is growing due to its high value addition. The Federation of Indian Export Organisation (FIEO) estimates that India’s export of gift items has increased by 20 per cent.
Transparency in handicraft trade will benefit 47.61 lakh Indian craft makers and many more people involved in this profession.
Twenty years back nobody had imagined Indian yoga could become a vibrant economic sector in many developed nations across the world. Today, more than 30 million people practice yoga in US. NAMASTA, the US based organisation for mind-body professionals estimates there are about 70000 yoga teachers in North America. According to a Yoga Journal, Yoga in America, yoga market is worth $3 billion per annum. India can become the outsourcing hub for yoga products.
Similarly, the pilgrim tourism potential of India has not been tapped fully. Nearly 20 crore people visit pilgrim places every year which triggers a gamut of economic activities like transport services, sale of handicraft, hotel and restaurant chains and above all communal harmony. It is the Muslim artisans who make a large number of religious artifacts for Hindu temples and vice versa. Way back in the 12th century AD, the Gajapati King of Puri allotted one village named Pipli to Muslim appliqué craftmen who used to make appliqué umbrellas for Lord Jagganath temple. Today the appliqué work is very popular in international craft bazars. In a recent development, Sri Lanka had sought India’s assistance to develop sites like Warangatota, Sitakotuwa, Sita Eliya, Yudhaganapitiya, Dunuwila, Chilaw, Ramassala and Ramboda which are associated with the epic Ramayana. Integration of Ramayana sites will immensely benefit both India and the island nation.
Forests in India are the biggest livelihood providers. The forest dwellers worship Nature, make all utility and decorative items from bio-degradable material. With the passage of time those hand crafted items have taken the shape of art forms for value addition. The iron and wood craft of Bastar, dhokra craft of Orissa and Chhattisgarh, the bidri craft of Karnataka, Warli paintings of Maharashtra and ragged dolls of Jhabua, etc have good demand in international craft bazars.
The export of natural honey products has increased from Rs 60.92 crore to Rs 93.30 crore in 2007-08. There are hundreds of minor forest products which can improve the living condition of Vanvasis.
Foreign tourists happily pay a wild life package of Rs 2 lakh to Rs 3 lakh for sighting tiger in a forest. Madhya Pradesh government makes arrangement for a trip to the tiger kingdom.
Agriculture has tremendous unseen potential. For example, Seabuckthorn is a kind of shrub which grows abundantly in Ladakh region. Its bark, leaves and fruits have multiple byproducts like medicine, fuel, cosmetic for skin care, soft drinks and jams etc.
Unfortunately, 5 per cent of its potential is harvested every year. There are hundred of medicinal herbs, plants and animals, which have disappeared due to the entry of hybrid varieties. The Nomadic Gujjar and Bakriwala communities in Kashmir have lost at least a dozen rare indigenous species of sheep, goats, horses and almost seven species are on the brink of extinction due to the introduction of cross breed species. A few years back, in Bhadrak district of Orissa, cross breed jersey cows were given to villagers against bank loans. The villagers were not knowing how to maintain those delicate breed. The cows gave less milk due to lack of care and the villagers blamed the bankers for cheating them. Today the indigenous cows return to dry Vidarbha region for their adaptability and less maintenance cost. Planners must take extra steps to discover economic potential, which are lying unnoticed.