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.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Creating World Class Products for Export Market

Mohi-u-Din believes the success in exports of crewel embroidery and chain stitch rugs over traditional carpets and shawls is due to innovation in manufacturing

(Mr. Ghulam Mohi-u-Din Khan, is a Crewel and Chain Stitch Manufacturer/Exporter. He is a member of Excutive Committee, Chamber of Commerce & Industries, Kashmir - CCIK.)

Kashmir Handicrafts: Declining Markets

Handicrafts of Kashmir that came into existence six centuries back, during the time of Hazrat Amir-e-Kabir (RA) are famous in the whole world. Different crafts of our state J&K developed big market, domestic and international. Among all crafts Carpet Industry alone has a value, in terms of export and domestic market, of about 900 crores annually. Other crafts like shawls, crewel embroidery, chain stitch rugs, paper machie, and wood carving have a value of about 800 crore.

Sad to note that Carpet industry has already declined in export market. These are many reasons for this, particularly in manufacturing of carpets. The manufacturer exporters have failed to develop new designs and color schemes. We have been seeing since decades only traditional designs, copied mostly from Persia. Further, the manufacturers have not encouraged the artisans, with the result the production of carpets has declined to a large extent in Kashmir valley. The grass roots level workers have lost the interest in manufacturing of carpets. Actually, there should have been regular increase in the wages, and quality check should have been put in action also. Just two decades before it was observed that almost every lane in Srinagar had a carpet loom, and same was the case in villages and remote areas. There is a big question mark that why we don’t have carpet looms in Srinagar and in villages. The people who were engaged in this trade, directly or indirectly, have left this job, main reason being the worker does not get sufficient wages. This has resulted in loss of interest and consequently the trend of carpet manufacturing has declined to a large extent. Otherwise a carpet was, and is, considered to be a Royal Product. We see its use in every part of the world. It is used in palatial houses, in conference and meeting halls, in hotels, in world famous mosques; more ever carpet has a domestic use also. When a dignitary visits from one country to another he is first given a carpet reception. Above all the use of carpet is a routine matter in the day to day life.

The carpet exporters and manufacturers are very much worried about its decline regardless of the current recession in the whole world, which can end sooner or later. Therefore we have to examine its root causes. If we want the carpet business flourish, both internationally and domestically, then we have to provide every facility to the artisans in terms of purchase of latest looms, raw materials and more particularly we have to pay them sufficient wages, that too in time, so that a worker gets encouraged and more and more people get involved again in its manufacturing process. The exporters and manufactures have a duty to develop new designs and new color schemes so as to compete with the world market, otherwise Persia, China, Pakistan, Turkey and other countries have gone far ahead in its export market. We have to blame ourselves first. We have to work collectively for uplift of this trade and go beyond paper work; practical steps must be taken.

There are a few carpet manufacturer exporters who exist here since decades. They have put forth their efforts and are always engaged with its uplift in terms of quality and quantity, both Silk and Wool. They develop new designs and color schemes time to time and have kept their market alive. To keep the carpet industry alive every manufacturer and exporter has to set up a new trend and change the modalities. The J&K government also has to come forward to help the manufacturers and exporters, particularly during the times of global recession.

Now if we talk about Shawl industry of Kashmir, this too is witnessing bad times. The big factor in this is the introduction of machine made shawls from Amritsar, Punjab, which has developed a big market though they do not contain 100% wool and last not much longer. The real Kashmiri shawls of Pashmina wool, which comes from Ladakh region of J&K State, is produced only in Kashmir, with hand-made embroideries. The raw pashmina is spun first by middle aged and elderly women on charka, woven by men on handlooms only afterwards. The other Kashmiri shawls made with Raffal Yarn in different counts of wool are very soft and again embroidery done on each item is by hand. To differentiate the Kashmiri shawl from Amritsar shawl there should be quality control and more particularly the manufacturers and traders must insert labels with some trade mark on each product mentioning machine -made or hand-made so that customers don’t get cheated; otherwise the famous Kashmiri Pashmina and Raffal shawls will fast decline in its export market, and also in domestic market. To uplift this trade the J&K Handicrafts Department has to play a huge role in this.

The case of Crewel Embroidery and Chain Stitch Rugs is different. There has been an uptrend in its export market since last two decades. The manufacturers and exporters have brought innovation in these products. It was mostly produced on Handloom Dasuti Cloth with single ply wool only, that too on natural backgrounds. Now, we have developed these products on different base materials like cotton duck fabric normally soft, velvet, linen, fine cotton jute, silk organza, organdhee, tissue, net, glazed, cotton, etcetera. More over the woolen yarn, mostly used in these are 2ply soft and strong wool of high quality. Here, I may mention that like shawls and carpets the stock goods are not possible in these products, the orders depend absolutely on buyer’s choice. More particularly the workers engaged with these products are getting sufficient wages and which get increased almost every year whenever the situation demands. The interest of the workers has developed to a large extent in this activity, though its 90% products are made in South Kashmir only. Here credit goes to our association where we have many manufacturer exporter members, some dealing in this trade since almost six decades.

Same is the case of chain stitch rugs. These products have definitely established the market not only in USA, but Europe, Gulf Countries, South America and even domestic. Everybody knows that recession is a global phenomenon. No doubt crewel and chain stitch rugs have also very slow trend but again it is a matter of time. When business meltdown will be over things will change for better.

Now, it is the duty of the manufacturers and exporters who are involved in different hand-made crafts of Kashmir; they must set up an organization of their own so that they can conduct regular meetings to discuss the difficulties faced by their trade, and only they know better how to keep this trade alive. If exporters care only for export figures, regardless what difficulties are faced by the worker at grass roots level things are not going to change. Government and private agencies have to come forward and manufacturers, exporters, artisans have to put due efforts to better the trends.

1 comment:

Steven Larrie said...

Hi, Thanks for the useful information about the hand woven rugs. Fantastic work.