Post Industrial City, Immaterial Labour And Cultural Industries

Cities in India are gradually accepting their difference and uniqueness and celebrating this as diversity. The global tourism industry is increasingly intrigued by exotic and undiscovered places and attendant cultural experiences.

Cities in India today are centres of production and consumption of the post-industrial variety. Most of this is based on immaterial labour and emergent forms of work that has replaced other forms of work characteristic of erstwhile industrial, manufacturing-based societies. The dispersed and flexible nature of production has actually changed the way cities function with a wide range of employment opportunities in the production of entertainment, advertising, fashion, tourism, hospitality industry, finance, banking and insurance, academia, research and development, information, media and communication. Cities in India are gradually accepting their difference and uniqueness and celebrating this as diversity. The global tourism industry is increasingly intrigued by exotic and undiscovered places and attendant cultural experiences. The growing interest in heritage, intangible culture, tourism and branding around place-specific cultures are the varied responses witnessed in present-day urban India. 

The case of Uttar Pradesh

Taking clues from neighbouring states like Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, the state government of Uttar Pradesh (UP) began to take an active interest in the formulation of aggressive policies and promotional practices around culture, heritage and tourism. Some of the noteworthy policy initiatives in recent years are tax exemptions to filmmakers to shoot in cities like Lucknow and other locations of UP, promoting religious tourism in cities like Ayodhya and Allahabad, the Buddhist Circuit covering cities like Sarnath and Kushinagar, the Chitrakoot circuit covering cities in and around Ayodhya, branding through religious festivals like Kumbh Mela in Allahabad and also secular ones like Lucknow Mahotsav and Gorakhpur Mahotsav and the recently instituted UP Diwas. Besides, investments are also being made in the construction of new places like the Awadh Shilp Gram in Lucknow, centres of learning like the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Varanasi, stadiums, museums, convention centres for city branding. Event management companies, mass media like radio and newspapers, social media management companies have emerged as significant players in these initiatives with elaborate media plans. The state government of UP has been particularly successful over the last few years to attract the attention of the entertainment industry like the Hindi film industry and allied fields. With numerous initiatives like single window clearance, tax exemptions to filmmakers, and tapping on its tucked away from limelight approach filmmakers have flocked to the Hindi heartland to have a hassle-free and budget-friendly film-making experience. The recent surge of realistic movies like Tanu Weds Manu, Toilet Ek Prem Katha, Jolly LLB, Mukkebaaz and many television shows rooted in the Hindi heartland has also helped in shifting the locations of films to rustic countryside replacing fancier and often costlier foreign landscapes.

Another noteworthy policy of the Department of UP Tourism is the Heritage Arc that was institutionalized in 2014, covering the historic cities of Varanasi, Agra, and Lucknow. The three cities of Varanasi, Agra, and Lucknow were chosen to represent the Arc as these cities do form an arc geographically. The rationale was to back the geographical arc with a cultural one. Unlike megacities of Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai that have always monopolized popular representations of heritage in India, cities in UP have always remained underexposed despite having a rich cultural and historical legacy. The Heritage Arc aims at breaking this monopoly of megacities. 

The One District One Product Summit in Lucknow on 29th July 2018  aimed to make Uttar Pradesh a trillion dollar economy in the near future by boosting its micro and small industries. The main focus of the summit was to brand UP’s unique products, culture, and creative industries in the national and international markets that would, in turn, generate employment opportunities and arrest migration to metro cities. In some two-day event artisans from all over the state displayed their artefacts at 268 stalls. These included famous products like carpets of Bhadohi, brassware of Moradabad, locks of Aligarh, black pottery of Mirzapur, crockery of Khurja, leather of Agra and Kanpur, Chikankar textiles of Lucknow, wooden toys of Varanasi, among others. The Summit also selected special food items from eleven districts of UP like pulses from Gonda and Balrampur, rice from Siddharthnagar, Guava from Allahabad, Gooseberry from Pratapgarh, banana from Koshambi, and potatoes from Etawah. The summit mooted the idea of boosting exports from UP. It was proposed that organizations like the APEDA (Agricultural and Processes Food Products Export Development Authority) can help promote local food processed items in national and international markets, setting up mega and mini food parks, and develop elaborate business plans, pick one famous food product from each district and help in setting up food processing industries and create local employment opportunities.

Communities, Creative and Cultural Enterprises 

Cities worldwide respond differently to the homogenizing tendencies of globalization. Cities, especially those of the global South that do not traditionally classify as command and control centres or as cultural capitals in the global cities paradigm (Paris, New York, London, Tokyo), are generating new interest. Global tourists are as much intrigued by the cultural and art districts of European cities as they are by the messiness and chaotic street cultures, bazaars, and neighbourhoods of Varanasi, Lucknow, and Jaipur. 

This is an opportune moment to reinvent traditional arts, crafts and culinary cultures such that they generate employment for local communities especially marginalised ones. Recent examples include the aggressive promotion of Banarasi saree, zardozi, chikankari and Khadi that will help the weavers’ communities’ adept in them in the long run. Communities engaged in traditional occupations like perfume making, saree and carpet making indigenously manufactured in many second-tier historic cities of India are adapting to new technologies and digital platforms to survive in changing times. Online food aggregators like Zomato and Swiggy partner with local food stalls capitalizing on local flavors, promoting them aggressively. Such online services serve as great connects between consumers who get local delicacies served at their doorstep and also help promote the business of local food vendors who were on the verge of closing down.

We need more of these efforts.

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