The handloom industry has been one of the oldest industries of India. Although the industry was reduced to ashes during the colonial rule but it got tremendous boost up after the Independence during the planning era. The industry today provides employment to about 10 million people and contributes over 23 per cent of the total cloth production of the country.
The production of handloom and power loom cloths has increased from 5,085 million square meters in 1990-91 to 10,381 million square meters in 1997-98, exhibiting more than two-times increase during the last seven years.
The number of handlooms is estimated to be about 38 lakhs and of power looms 3.4 lakhs. The industry provides employment to over 60 lakh workers and produces Rs. 1,000 crores worth of goods annually.
The handloom industry is widely distributed in the country, mostly concentrated in small towns and rural areas. Five states like Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Andhra Pradesh account for over 50 per cent of the production capacity. Among other states Manipur, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Nagaland, West Bengal, Kerala, Rajasthan, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are important for handloom industry. The power looms are mostly concentrated in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu which are also important for textile mill industry.
In order to give boost up to the handloom industry, a scheme was introduced in 1992-93 to develop 3,000 handloom development centers and 500 quality dyeing units which will benefit 30 lakh
weavers. During the year 1997-98, 260 handloom development centers and 78 quality dyeing centers have been sanctioned. An integrated Village Handloom Development Scheme, project packaging scheme and National Silk Yarn Scheme were launched between 1991-95 with an outlay of Rs.63 crore and Rs.20 crore respectively for the Eighth Plan period.
A project of development of handloom products using jute fiber titled 'Development and Transfer for Technology for use of Jute Fiber in Handloom Textiles' was sanctioned by die Government during 1993-94 wide an outlay of about 10.30 crore. Besides, a scheme for setting up jute handloom development centers was introduced in January 1995.
The decentralised power loom sector plays a pivotal role in meeting clothing needs. It contributes about 72.6 per cent (including hosiery sector) of total cloth production in the country as against 5.5 per cent by mills and 21.7 per cent by handloom sector.
In order to develop this sector, the Government has launched various schemes like setting up of Power loom Service Centre (PSC), Computer Aided Design Centre (CAD), Power loom Workers Insurance Scheme, Power loom Development Export Promotion Council.