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, October 3, 2012

Reviving Handicraft Industry

Commentary in the Rising Kashmir about challenges faced by handicrafts industry in the State

Artisans’ Needs Have to be Prioritized for the Industry to Survive

Even though considered to be the backbone of self reliance in Kashmir, handicrafts and handloom industries have not grown exponentially in the state; beyond state is a farfetched goal thus. Besides, the sector is beleaguered with problems with warnings that if no serious attention is paid, will result in total annihilation of this sector in Kashmir. The industry is facing an all-round assault from counterfeit products within and outside the state.

It has left a serious injury, which continues to get graver, on brand Kashmir. The impact on the lives of local artisans can only be imagined. As per the available statistics, many experts agree that there are around 20 lakh Kashmiris directly or indirectly associated with the trade. The boom in counterfeit Kashmir handicraft products have not only demoralised the local artisans but have given the industry a bad name and has resulted in the reduction of genuine handicraft sale. Reasons cited are many: Kashmir conflict, less remuneration for the local artisans and lack of quality resources, primarily the manpower.

Government on its part has for long considered the handicraft industry as an unofficial ambassador of Kashmir to outside world but has done little to address the lacunae so far. Lately, in order to push the sector out of the deep abyss that the government woke up to find it in, it has been announcing a slew of measures to pull it up. In a recent directive, the state, under its Artisan Credit Card Scheme (ACCS), has decided to cover about 70,000 artisans from Srinagar city. The scheme, intended to alleviate poverty of the target lot, will provide artisans loans at 2 percent interest and is aimed at ‘uplifting the artisan’s standard of living’.

Only time will tell whether this scheme will be able to bring about the desired outcome. The step is nevertheless an important one in addressing the needs of handicraft industry in general and the artisan community in particular. Such measures, therefore, need to be reciprocated at other levels as well. It is also pertinent that awareness be spread among the customers who find themselves duped to pay a genuine price for a fake Kashmiri art piece.

Big business establishments in Kashmir who have made a fortune in this sector also need to chip in as their stakes are much higher. Needless to say, they have a bigger responsibility towards their workforce which for a long time has found itself striving to make a decent living for themselves and their dependents.

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