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ODOP scheme in Uttar Pradesh | Crafting a revival


Two flower-shaped silver pieces, their simple and elegant central design speckled with lapis lazuli blue—the gulabi meenakari cufflinks and a matching brooch, the latter with a peacock motif, were chosen with care before Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted them to US President Joe Biden and US first lady Jill Biden at the G-7 summit in Germany in late June. Then there were the pieces of black pottery, polished to a subdued gleam and looking as distinguished as objets d’art from the palace of an ancient potentate. The recipient was Japanese PM Fumio Kishida. Others leaders like French president Emmanuel Macron, Italian premier Mario Draghi and German chancellor Olaf Scholz got ornate zari zardozi embroidered boxes, marble inlay table tops and handmade tea sets. The golden thread that stitches these treasures together is that they were all created exclusively by Uttar Pradesh’s artisans, working under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s ambitious programme to revive traditional craft—the ODOP (One District One Product) scheme. It has not only given a fillip to neglected crafts, the scheme has also set the tone for a steady increase in exports from UP. It comes under the MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) department.

Two flower-shaped silver pieces, their simple and elegant central design speckled with lapis lazuli blue—the gulabi meenakari cufflinks and a matching brooch, the latter with a peacock motif, were chosen with care before Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted them to US President Joe Biden and US first lady Jill Biden at the G-7 summit in Germany in late June. Then there were the pieces of black pottery, polished to a subdued gleam and looking as distinguished as objets d’art from the palace of an ancient potentate. The recipient was Japanese PM Fumio Kishida. Others leaders like French president Emmanuel Macron, Italian premier Mario Draghi and German chancellor Olaf Scholz got ornate zari zardozi embroidered boxes, marble inlay table tops and handmade tea sets. The golden thread that stitches these treasures together is that they were all created exclusively by Uttar Pradesh’s artisans, working under Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s ambitious programme to revive traditional craft—the ODOP (One District One Product) scheme. It has not only given a fillip to neglected crafts, the scheme has also set the tone for a steady increase in exports from UP. It comes under the MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) department.

Graphic: Tanmoy Chakraborty

All this activity has seen UP’s exports increase by a whopping 80 per cent in value in the past five years. Traditionally-made ODOP products have played a leading role—70 per cent of the products exported from the state come under its ambit, according to state government information. In 2017-18, the value of UP’s exports was Rs 88,967.4 crore; it is Rs 1,56, 897.2 crore for 2021-22. Even during the pandemic, the state’s exports saw a rise of 30 per cent, largely driven by (both the online and offline) sale of ODOP products. The scheme, started in 2018, has not only protected the livelihood of artisans, but also gave them the reason and belief to revive traditional crafts that were nearing extinction. It also stopped many of their practitioners from migrating to other states.

In Azamgarh’s Nizamabad town, over 200 artisans now make pottery. Their numbers had fallen to 20 before ODOP took effect

Sohit Prajapati, a 42-year-old black pottery artisan based in Azamgarh who earlier sold bhel-puri in Mumbai, returned in 2017 to his wheel. At one stage, Sohit contemplated a move back to Mumbai, but stayed on when demand for his ware, and profits, shot up after he registered with the ODOP scheme. Under it, Sohit got financial aid and help in selling his products on national and international platforms. Sohit says his income has tripled in the past four years. Nowadays, he has orders from several countries, including the US and UAE. In Azamgarh’s Nizamabad town, over 200 artisans are now engaged in making black pottery. Their numbers had dwindled to 20 before the ODOP scheme took effect.

The turning point

Manoj Vishwakarma, a 36-year-old Varanasi-based sixth-generation gulabi meenakari—a GI-tagged art form—artisan tells india today that after seeing many fellow artisans quitting, he almost decided to follow suit. From a nadir in 2018, when gulabi meenakari work almost ground to a halt in Varanasi, the turnaround in the lives of artistes like Vishwakarma was miraculous. Here, too, the credit goes to ODOP. Vishwakarma’s business just took off after he got financial aid and guidance from experts through ODOP. “Earlier, we used to do gulabi meenakari on products like hand-made peacocks, and idols of gods. Through experts, we got to know how to fashion cufflinks,” he says with pride.

The ODOP scheme was launched by Yogi Adityanath on January 24, 2018 to make product-specific traditional hubs in each of UP’s 75 districts. Its objective is the protection, growth and revival of local handicraft and expertise, thus preventing migration to urban centres because of the lack of employment. In all, 62 traditional crafts were identified.

According to Navneet Sehgal, add­itional chief secretary, MSME, “ODOP is reviving traditional handicraft and has helped increase the state’s exports. We have the largest number of MSMEs in the country, the majority in the unorganised sector.” Sehgal adds that whether it is carpet weaving, wood carving or leather work, artisans working in these old industries are being encouraged to get on board online platforms in order to gain exposure to a wider market. Common Facility Centres (CFCs), which provide workers with a range of help, are to be set up in all districts.

Sunil Kumar, joint commissioner, ODOP, explains: “The government provides a 25 per cent subsidy on loans distributed under this scheme and trains artisans. CFCs are playing an important role in the development of these products. A CFC has all the facilities required for grading, packing and storing ODOP products under one roof. We have five centres, 28 more are sanctioned. Ernst & Young are project consultants of the scheme and have conducted studies of all districts/ products. They suggest innovations to artisans so that their products gain traction on international platforms.”

The state government signed an MoU with e-commerce website Flipk­art in 2020 to sell ODOP products on the website, having earlier tied up with Amazon. ODOP officials say that products worth Rs 1,600 crore have been sold through Flipkart in the past two years. ODOP also has its own online platform to sell products. The UP Handicrafts Dev­e­lopment and Marketing Corporation has launched an e-marketplace,www.odopmart.com, to sell them. ODOP has tied up with the Quality Council of India to standardise quality as well as with the National Institute of Fashion Technology to improve design. For Yogi Adityanath, “ODOP is a symbol of UP’s heritage.” The chief minister makes it a point to give gift hampers of ODOP products to special guests as far as possible.

The ODOP scheme is a success, but some districts need a leg-up. The up leather industry’s problems must be fixed too

Ashfaq Ali, a resident of Sitapur, who works as an artisan at a CFC, talks of how he was earlier in Panipat, making cotton dhurries. But after getting a job here, he is staying put. His colleague Karimullah, who spent eight years in Panipat, says, “I came to Sitapur during the lockdown. After a few weeks, I got the same sort of employment here.” Hayat Kausar, secretary of CFC Sitapur, claims that such centres are helping artisans to stay on. “Sitapur is famous for dhurries. For making dhurries, we now have advanced machines like the twister for doubling the threads, Jacquard for designing and tufting for the final design,” he says.

Though the ODOP scheme has taken off splendidly, it’s not an unqualified success, since some districts still need a leg-up. Then there is UP’s all-important leather industry. Though export of leather goods is projected as an important part of ODOP, the industry based in and around Kanpur is facing multiple challenges. These range from a paucity of skilled labour to lack of design capabilities and the unavailability of quality and cheap accessories. Sehgal says, “We are solving the issues of tannery owners and connecting them more with ODOP buyers. As leather is in huge demand, they can make up for the losses during the pandemic.” Seh­gal also mentions the newly launched OSOP (one station one product) plan on the lines of ODOP. Under this, railway stations across UP will serve as promotional hubs, showcasing the state’s ODOP scheme. As part of this initiative, ODOP products of respective districts will be displayed at the most-visited platform of all railway stations in that particular district. For example, if a train is passing through Ayodhya district, all its railway stations will display the ODOP products of Ayodhya. In this way, those districts that still need help in the promotion of their products will be covered, adds Sehgal. The exquisite craftsmanship on display in ODOP products deserve every support. n