Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Kashmiri Artisans Should Receive a Stimulus Package as Well

Commentary in the Rising Kashmir addresses the impact on economic downturn on Kashmiri artisans

Kashmiri artisans hit

There is no secret about the fact that the depression in the economies world over is directly hitting businesses dependent on exports. The exports from India have suffered a drop of 22 percent in January this year. Back here in Valley, the sales of Kashmir carpets and other handicrafts that generate substantial foreign exchange earnings for the State are also facing a slowdown.

Reports reveal that the market of carpets is already showing a downturn with international sales getting hit by more than 90 percent during the last four months. Now that is a big problem for the Rs 1500 crore carpet industry of the state as the industry has been trying to get out of the lean cycle for the last two decades. The global financial meltdown has added to its woes with too much dependence on lucrative European markets telling on the employment of artisans and labour force directly connected with the trade. Industry players estimate that more than 20,000 workers handling post production processes have been rendered jobless due to steep fall in carpet demand. Many of the units that handle trimming, washing and stretching have already laid off a sizeable portion of their workforce. Even exporters have signalled that the situation is bound to get worse as consumer spending has dwindled to an all time low in Europe and United States of America.

This will directly have an impact on two lakh skilled artisans that are associated with the carpet manufacturing process. Exhibitions are either witnessing no sales or have been cancelled altogether. Even the payments due from their counterparts in different parts of the world have suffered which in turn has disrupted the production cycle here. Other sectors like paper machie, walnut wood carving, shawl and crewel manufacturing have also got hit. People associated with these activities are bound to suffer and this will have a ripple effect on other sectors as well with more job losses.

The State government was not able to project the huge and recurring losses that export industry of Jammu and Kashmir has suffered during the past year before the central government. This is evident from the fact that no stimulus package for the Kashmir artisan sector was announced in the recent interim budget by the central government. Given the nature of international recession that is engulfing more and more nations with each passing day the downturn is expected to get worse in near future. It will be worthwhile if measures are initiated before hand to tackle the recession so as to reduce the impact of losses to minimum and prevent more job losses.

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