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.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Kashmir's Struggling Cottage Industry

Traditional heritage crafts and artisans are a dying breed Kashmir

Cottage Industry Struggles For Survival

Rising Kashmir News

Srinagar:The cottage industry in the Valley which employed hundreds of the artisans in the past is on the verge of extinction.

The industry watchers said the official apathy and the mass production in the factories have dealt a severe blow to the industry which produced unique hand-made products craftily designed by the local artisans. The art and the craft of the products in the cottage industry were mostly introduced here by Persian travelers. The experts said about lakhs of people were associated with cottage industries in the past. Now the number of the people earning livelihood from this art has reduced considerably. The demand for the products has also decreased.

Former President Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir Shakeel Qalander said they state’s cottage industry had a great significance representing Kashmir’s history and economy. “The industry provided livelihood to the lakhs of people in the valley. Unfortunately, this ages-old art and craft is diminishing,” said Qalander. He said the less wages given to the artisans has also led to the decline of the industry. “Artisans have opted out of this industry as they don’t get proper wages. Besides, local products are also lacking proper marketing facility. Government is taking little steps for its revival. The cheaper and less quality products from outside the state are sold under Kashmiri brands,” said Qalander. Qalander, however, said the Carpet Technology Centre and Craft Design Institute have provided hope for the survival of Kashmir art and craft. “The craft institutes will also help revive the cottage industry,” said Kalander.

Federation of Commerce and Industries Kashmir (FCIK), Vice President Javed Ahmad Bhat said that the cottage industry has the credit of producing fine quality hand-made products. “Our fascinating craft received a severe blow after the cheap and low quality goods where dumped in the markets in name of quality products. As a result of the lack of patronage, the artistic craftsmen had to wind up the business and work as ordinary laborers,” said Bhat.

Bhat said they have already presented a proposal before the government for the branding of locally produced items to distinguish quality products from the cheep ones. “And if government provides some incentives to the artisans only then this art can be revived,” he said. Abdul Rahim, 58, who had been weaving the carpets since his childhood before switching over to another job for better returns. “Our work demands great amount of hard work and skill. It would take me months to make one carpet and the returns that I would get were not enough to meet both the ends. I have a big family to support, so I had no option but to switch to other work,” said Rahim.

The officials at the Khadi and Village Industries also said illegal and low quality machine made products have dominated the market share hitting the cottage industries badly. He said the owners of the industries are exploiting the workers by providing them less wages which has disgorged artisans to continue with the trade.

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