Traditional artisans in India were people who made things like clothes, leather items, pottery, glassware, and metal objects. In the 17th and 18th centuries, India was known as a major industrial hub in the world, with a strong connection between farming and crafting in its villages. Colonial rule, which lasted for nearly two centuries, brought about significant changes in the economic and social structure of India, and the decline of traditional artisanal industries played a key role in crippling the rural economy for several reasons as follows:
The colonial policies favoured British industrial products over locally produced goods which led to a decline in traditional Indian artisanal products, as British goods often flooded the Indian market, resulting in stiff competition and a loss of livelihoods for artisans.
England pursued a biased policy to de-industrialize India. Indian goods were subjected to high tariffs in the European market, the British goods gained duty-free access to the Indian markets.The colonial economic policies, such as heavy taxation and the export of raw materials to Britain, led to a significant drain of wealth from India. As artisans and their industries declined, it further exacerbated poverty in the countryside.
British factories often produced products cheaper and in larger quantities, which made it difficult for local artisans to compete. This led to the deindustrialization of rural areas. The decline of artisanal industries resulted in the loss of specialized skills and craftsmanship that had been passed down through generations. This not only eroded cultural heritage but also made it difficult for rural populations to transition to alternative livelihoods.
As traditional artisanal industries dwindled, many artisans were forced to migrate to urban areas in search of employment. This rural-urban migration put pressure on the already overpopulated cities, leading to slums, unemployment, and other urban issues. With the decline of alternative economic opportunities, rural areas became increasingly dependent on agriculture for livelihoods. This put additional pressure on the already overburdened agricultural sector, leading to soil degradation and overuse of resources.
As traditional industries declined, many rural households fell into poverty. This often forced them to borrow money from moneylenders at exorbitant interest rates, resulting in a cycle of debt and financial exploitation.
In conclusion, the decline of traditional artisanal industries in colonial India resulted in economic dislocation, loss of skills, rural-urban migration, and increased poverty.