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, March 17, 2009

Global Meltown Affects Yet Another Kashmiri Industry

500 papier-mâché artisans go jobless: No export order since March 2007

Kashmir and Meltdown

Rashid Paul (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: The global economic meltdown has rendered around 500 papier-mâché artisans in Kashmir jobless as the Rs 30 crore industry has failed to procure any major export order during the past year.

As a result of this the craftsmen who were wedded to the art and contributed to the economic growth of the State for years have ended up as rickshaw drivers and vegetable vendors.

An artist considered a master of papier-mâché in the city had ended up surviving on charity. “I would honorably earn Rs 4000-6000 a month. However during the past year, I could not fetch any work. During this period I exhausted all my savings hoping the situation will improve. However no trader or exporter came forward for any consignment. I now live on the charity of relatives and neighbors,” he said.

Iftikhar Hussain Mir, a prominent artisan from old city – the hub of traditional Kashmir art – is cursing the day he chose papier-mâché as his profession. “My father in 1980s cautioned me against choosing papier-mâché as a profession but I insisted and learnt it at a family workshop.”

Iftikhar’s father, Ghulam Hussain was a national award winner in Kashmir handcrafts.
Today Iftikhar is reluctant to pass on the traditional family craft to his children. “I would prefer my children to be government employees and lead a comfortable life.”

Ghulam Safdar, a papier-mâché exporter informed that exports had dipped by 95 percent. “Since there is no demand we do not ask artisans to produce any,” he said. Safdar said Kashmir papier-mâché products used to be exported to England, France, and the US, the countries which are now struggling to come out of economic crisis. Safdar flayed the government for neglecting traders, especially the artisans, who are severely hit in the unorganized papier-mâché sector.

Hassan Ali, a member of Indian Export Promotion Council suggested the government to arrange exhibitions and launch an aggressive marketing campaign to revive the trade.

President of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Mubeen Shah asked the government to come up with inventory financing.

“The artisans and members dealing in the trade should be financed generously so that the production continues and artisans are reemployed. The government should rescue artisans and traders and pay for their bank interest rate till the recession ends.”

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