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.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Kashmiri Carpet Trade Takes a Hit

Carpet exports out of the valley may drop by 50% or more

Economic meltdown melts down demand for Kashmiri carpets too

Srinagar: The centuries-old carpet industry of Kashmir is facing a severe crisis in the wake of the global economic slowdown, endangering the livelihood of over 150,000 weavers. Industry leaders are expecting a sharp fall in domestic sales as well as exports this fiscal as demand is falling.

"Last year, the total sales of Kashmiri carpets (including exports) were Rs.500-600 crore (Rs 5-6 billion). This year, it is feared the sales would hardly touch around Rs 200 crore (Rs.2 billion)," IANS quoted Ahsan Mirza, a local carpet exporter, as saying.

"This is a huge slowdown that threatens the very existence of the carpet industry in Kashmir," he said.

Exquisitely designed and handmade, Kashmiri carpets have been the proud possession of many a connoisseur of art and luxury around the world. There are more than 30,000 carpet weaving looms in the Valley from which over 150,000 local weavers earn their livelihood.

"There are 300 to 400 carpet showrooms in the country where the local carpets are displayed and sold. The global economic crisis and the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks have dealt a serious blow to our industry," Mirza said.
Apart from the weavers, nearly 25,000 people are also depending on the industry to find a source of income.

"These people are associated with the industry as dyers, washers and other processing people, who are responsible for bringing the finished product to the market from its weaving stage," Mirza said.

Saying the slowdown in the market would continue for at least two years, Mirza urged the government to help the industry.

"This is the most appropriate time for the government to look into the matter and work out some kind of package to safeguard not only the interests of the weavers but also those of the exporters and local retailers in the country," he said.
Weavers also expressed concern over the worsening economic scenario.

"If the industry fails, I would have to starve since I have no other means of sustenance," said Abdul Rehman, a 46-year-old weaver from Kanihama village of central Kashmir.

Zubair Ahmad, Director of the Indian Institute of Carpet Technology (IICT), said the institute was providing "all technical support" to the industry to weather the crisis.

"While we are there to go all out to provide the technical support to the industry, I would suggest the government should seriously address the problem. The value-added tax (VAT) has already been abolished, now the government should provide soft loans to the weavers, manufacturers and exporters," Ahmad told IANS.

"The state-owned Handicrafts Development Corporation has a network of sale outlets throughout the country. The corporation must also engage itself in sustaining the industry so that it comes out of the present crisis," he added.

(Kashmir Images)

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