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.