Thursday, December 01, 2005

Real wealth of our poor

Positioning cultural industries with creative intervention
Rajeev Sethi The Hindu Thursday, Dec 01, 2005
India may be considered a poor country in conventional economic indices, but it can be a forerunner in articulating a contemporary paradigm of wealth creation with its heritage of knowledge and culture. Yet its capacity to renew and advantageously position its past in the context of a competitive and fast-changing global scenario will require vigorous support and imagination. Looking at the vast purview of `creativity' and its applicability to almost every human venture or initiative, whether or not in economic pursuit, it is imperative that the very first step the Government needs to undertake is this. It must reposition the largely unorganised micro industry and arts sector as the internationally recognised creative and cultural industries portfolio. This will entail the formulation of a pro-active national policy on cultural and creative industries to leverage the attention they deserve.

Currently, India has no single body that can be called upon to represent creative and cultural industries as a distinct entity. A focal point needs to be established to engage various stakeholders in a productive dialogue, so as to achieve consensus over strategy. We can choose not to address the need at our own peril in a world where more and more governments are setting the required infrastructure. There are unprecedented opportunities for those members of the community who possess the skills and knowledge, the creativity and enterprise and have the spirit to empower themselves. They can deploy their expertise and talents in new ventures to create wealth. Their success, in turn, will further the growth of our society. As industrial production relocates itself in our part of the world, our own corporations and industries will slim down to achieve greater cost effectiveness.

We are poorer if we do not recognise the real wealth of our poor. Their time-honoured and tested skills are our tangible strength. "Hunarmand ka ek din, Behunar ka ek saal." Tradition tells us that a day in the life of a skilled is the same as a year in the life of the unskilled. Most contingent large scale employment schemes devalue inherent skills. A dynamic tradition never stops or slackens. The creative moves, nourishes, transforms, shapes, and furthers. For a while, we may be overtaken by the strident intimidation of powerful western media and homogenous corporate glamour. But we will soon indigenise whatever is thrust on us. We will improvise our own jugaad to be and to feel as international as we want to. Our infectious diversity will proliferate in a thousand creative ways. India's capacity to imagine and its never-say-die dream will enable our spirit to create an anthem from what we are only humming at the moment.
(The author, a well-known designer, is Vice-Chairperson of the Taskforce on Culture and Creative Industries in the Planning Commission, Government of India, and Honorary Advisor on Legacy Industries at the Ministry of Panchayati Raj.)

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