On the eve of #NationalHandloomDay on 7th August, founder of Dastkar and textiles Prima Donna Laila Tyabji chose to rant about this govt’s decision of scrapping of the Handloom Board.
In her long, tedious rant, Tyabji alleged that the decision of scrapping the Handloom Board was taken by the Modi government in the ‘quiet of COVID times’, implying that the govt had something to hide. She mentioned in the passing how she ‘would have secretly loved to be on that board’ and how it was a great institution full of ‘representatives of the sector empowered to advise the govt on matters of policy’.
But was the Handloom Board such a great institution? Did it really make an impact in terms of policy change?
Let us examine the facts. Truth is, this board met precisely SIX times in the 11 years between 2005 – 2016. Four of these meetings took place in New Delhi and one each in Chennai and Mumbai. Between 2008 to 2013, the board did not meet at all. The meetings didn’t last for more than a day and there is no evidence of any policy decision being made in any of these meetings.
It is obvious that the Handloom Board was another Congress era relic, a white elephant created to be a watering hole to accommodate Nehru-Gandhi family loyalists at taxpayer’s expense. It was created by Pupul Jayakar who cemented her position as the Prima Donna of Indian Textiles, thanks to her proximity with the then PM Indira Gandhi.
Laila Tyabji is in many ways, a worthy successor to Pupul Jayakar. She is a part of the old Lutyens elite who acquired tremendous clout in the power circles thanks to their proximity to the Nehru-Gandhi Khandan. By her own admission, Laila Tyabji was a personal saree shopper for Sonia Gandhi, just as her mother was Indira Gandhi’s saree shopper! Tyabji has written a gushing, sentimental ode about Sonia Gandhi’s saree wardrobe in the past.
Now we come to another curious incident, in her FB post, Tyabji laments that with the scrapping of the handloom board, ‘the spaces where people can interact directly with the government’ are shrinking.
It is interesting to note that Laila Tyabji does not mention the fact that the Minister for Textiles, Smriti Irani had formed a committee in 2016 to revamp Weaver Service Centers, the first point of contact for weavers in their own weaving clusters.
Laila Tyabji was invited to be a part of this committee along with the founder of Dastkaari Haat Samiti, Jaya Jaitley and designers like Gaurang and Sabyasachi. The committee first met in November 2016. Members were asked to choose any two WSC of their choice, visit them and prepare a full report giving a strategic plan for the revamp of the WSCs.
The committee met once again in March 2017. Till April 2017, only Jaya Jaitley had visited a WSC in Kanchipuram and written her report. For all her vocal love for weavers, Ms Tyabji did not bother to visit a single WSC in five months, let alone write a detailed report.
When I questioned her on this, she replied saying she had prepared a ‘strategic report’ without visiting a single WSC, coz the ‘dates didn’t suit her’.
Imagine the arrogance and the sense of entitlement that made Laila Tyabji say that the ‘strategic report’ she wrote without visiting a single WSC had to be accepted as a policy document by the textile ministry because the Great Laila Tyabji had written it!
When I called her out on this, she restricted the reach of her original post. But her poisonous whispers are being amplified by people on social media with added insinuations that this government is planning to scrap weaver service centres next, when only yesterday, there were announcements of NIFT staff and students being given the task of revamping WSCs, the task that Tyabji was supposed to do, had she really cared for the weavers.
Question is – the notification to scrap the Handloom Board came out on 27th July. Why did Laila Tyabji wait till 6th August, the eve of #NationalHandloomDay to schedule her meltdown?
The answer is there for everyone to see, she wanted to use this day to launch her misinformation campaign against the government. As an old Lutyens elite Prima Donna, Laila Tyabji feels the old order change, and she cannot bear it. And that is the reason behind this intriguing cocktail of lies, omissions, half-truths and insinuations.