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.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lacking Artisans and Raw Material, Walnut Industry Withers

Annual production shrinks to a low of 7%

Raw material shortage hits Kashmir walnut industry

Rashid Paul (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: Raw material scarcity and indifference from youngsters to take up walnut wood carving is pushing the heritage craft of Kashmir on the precipice of disappearance.

Walnut wood items, which contributed more than Rs 375 crore to the total handicrafts of Rs 1500 crore produced annually has shrunk to just Rs 25 crore, says Syed Shakil Qalander, president, Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK). The sector is totally unorganized and none from the younger generation is ready to take up the art of wood carving. “The heritage craft of Kashmir is vanishing fast,” he said.

He is confirmed by Hamid Punjabi, chairman of M Sidiq & Sons, a noted walnut manufacturer and exporter from Kashmir. Hamid said, “The archival laws from the Dogra autocracy continue to regulate the walnut wood extraction in Kashmir.” It is increasingly becoming difficult to acquire raw material for the industry. Instead the police always hunt for walnut wood traders, he adds.

Hamid also the spokesman of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, an apex trade body said many times the issue was brought to the notice of the government, but things remain unchanged till today.

The forest lessees used to provide wood to us but since State Forest Corporation took over the wood extraction the shortage has become a normal phenomenon. The supply contraction has affected wood craft production with exports receiving the most hit. An SFT of Walnut is available at Rs 1600 to Rs 2000.

FCIK president sees light at the end of the dark alley. “The local market for walnut wood items has appreciably surged and manufacturers and dealers are not able to meet the demands due to non availability of raw materials,” he said.

Urging for accessible raw material he suggests organization of artisans so that they are able to establish their own manufacturing units. As most of them are illiterate government needs to approach them and provide them hassle free loans. Training centers should be established to impart training to youngsters along with a stipend, supported by marketing facilities.

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