Grassroot need of the hour: No angrezi, please, we’re Hindi!

Indian Express, Lucknow, December 19, 2006

By Tarannum Manjul

“Agar ei seminar hamar waste rahi, toh humka toh babuji kuch bhi boojhat nahin. Sabhi log angrezi mein gitar pitar kari, hum toh bas Hindi hi jaane hain,” said Asma, a chikan craftsperson from Mehmoodabad near Lucknow. Asma was one of the few participants of the national seminar on ‘Globalisation and India: Voices from the ground’, organised by an NGO, Need, but at the end of the day, Asma and many others like her felt that such seminars, which aim at changing their lives, should be in Hindi and not English.

The seminar aimed at sharing experiences in generating awareness on the trade development linkages in different parts of the country and exploring the details of the pro-poor activities. Since Need is actively involved in making self help groups of chikan craftspersons in and around Lucknow, a number of women were also participating in the seminar to share their experiences, at the grassroot level.

But since NEED had invited representatives from other organisations from within the country as well as abroad, including Norway and The Netherlands, the seminar’s proceedings were mainly in English, making it difficult for the craftswomen to understand. And although Asma and other women like her enjoyed the venue, hotel Taj Residency, they felt that for them, coming to the seminar was certainly a waste of time.

“I am sure that inside there, they are talking about us and about our welfare, but then, obviously since we cannot understand a single word, what will we make out?” said another craftsperson Pushpa Devi. Reshma Khatoon, another chikankari craftsperson from Mehmoodabad block, held the same opinion. “We want to know what all these foreigners are talking, because we are sure that they are talking about our welfare,” said Reshma Khatoon.

When contacted by Express Newsline, Anil Singh, the executive director of Network for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (NEED), said that they had to conduct the seminar in English because a large number of people, especially those from other states and the team from Norway, could not understand Hindi. “But we will try to ensure that our workers are briefed about it,” he said.

Meanwhile, talking about the need of the hour to preserve and promote handicrafts, Rashmi Banga, an economist with the UNCTAD India Programme said that it is important to build up competition at the grassroots level, too, for making the market of grassroot products bigger.

Banga said that the Ministry of Commerce is trying hard to include the welfare of the poor in almost all the schemes and policies. She added that even organisations like FICCI and others are trying to promote innovative and contemporary designs for chikan industry.

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