SRINAGAR — The government of India’s newly created Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has unveiled a new scheme to revive the ailing crafts sector in the region. Known as “Karkhandar,” the scheme seeks to upscale the learning techniques of trainees and help the artisans to improve their standard of living.
The scheme, which was recently approved by the J&K Administrative Council headed by Lt. Gov. Manoj Sinha, would be implemented in the Union Territory of J&K through respective directorates of Handicrafts and Handloom. After J&K’s transition into a Union Territory, the government has taken many initiatives to empower the craftsmen associated with the traditional arts and crafts in J&K.
During the past few years traditional industries of Kashmir like: walnut wood carving, silver filigree, carpet, Kani shawl weaving, Khatamband and Papier Machie crafts are facing human resource crunch, but since Aug. 5, 2019 — when the federal government announced its decision to bifurcate J&K into two union territories and abrogated its special status — the lacunas in these industries are being looked into and efforts are being put to ensure that traditional crafts of Kashmir are preserved.
Handicrafts of Jammu and Kashmir are famous for superior craftsmenship, attractive designs, functional utility and quality making. These are popular at national as well as in the international market. After agriculture, handicrafts is a preferred sector in J&K.
In economic terms it helps in generation of aggregate employment and raising per capita income of state and hence contributes to State Gross Domestic Product (SGDP) and National Income. Jammu & Kashmir handicraft industry facilitates technical know-how between state skilled manpower and international market players through foreign exchange.
In J&K there are about 250,000 artisans who are directly dependent upon handicrafts for their livelihood. Besides, there is great potential in this sector for generating more employment opportunities if its markets are expanded and demand is increased.
As per an economic analysis of the handicraft industry in Jammu and Kashmir, this number is 300,000. The twin sectors handlooms and handicrafts are the major and the oldest in India with about 4.3 million weavers and 6.9 million artisans. Kashmiri handicrafts involve about 350,000 craftsmen and artisans. According to a study the handicrafts is the second largest Industry of J&K after tourism.
Revival process commenced in 2020
In March 2020, the government directed officials to put in place a robust mechanism for ensuring the revival and propagation of traditional arts and crafts, especially Pashmina weaving. The direction was passed by then Advisor to Lt. Gov. of J&K, K. K. Sharma, while chairing the meetings of the Board of Directors of Jammu and Kashmir Handloom Development Corporation (JKHDC) and Jammu and Kashmir Handicrafts Corporation Limited (JKHC).
"Necessary measures need to be put in place so that the traditional arts and crafts of the region regain its popularity at the national and international level," Sharma had said. He had also called for undertaking requisite steps for incentivizing weavers and artisans to increase their income besides ensuring the revival of traditional arts and crafts.
The decision was taken to provide minimum support price for the artisans and craftsmen involved in the making of traditional arts and crafts to increase their profitability and attract youth in these heritage professions.
To attract the youth towards these traditional arts, the corporations were asked to explore the possibilities of tie-ups with Jammu & Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI) so that start-ups can be undertaken by young and aspiring entrepreneurs.
The steps were taken to help young entrepreneurs to setup financially viable and revenue-generating units. The branding, quality certificates, marketing of Jammu and Kashmir based products was also undertaken to ensure that products are sold globally.
Opinions of experts from the National Institute of Design and National Institute of Fashion Technology were sought to infuse new life into the ailing industry.
On Aug. 17, 2021, Lt. Gov.’s adviser, Baseer Ahmed Khan, conferred state awards to the artisans in handicrafts section. The awards were given in different categories that included Sozni, Paper Machie, Chain Stitch, Crewel and Carpet. Khan asserted that the government led by Lt. Gov. Sinha was committed to promote the crafts, especially the Handicrafts sector of Jammu Kashmir.
The Adviser said that conferring awards on the artisans was an encouragement and the recognition of their efforts to keep alive the skills and trade of Kashmir.
While congratulating the awardees, Khan said that the ceremony is to recognize the artisans who represent their respective crafts as no such example of art can be found anywhere in the world and added that various initiatives have been taken to promote and publicize the Kashmir handicrafts worldwide.
Source to empower local women
On the occasion of International Day for Women in 2020, when Prime Minister, Narendra Modi had announced that he would give away his social media accounts to women whose life and work inspires people to help them ignite motivation in millions, a woman artisan from Kashmir, Arifa, while sharing her journey on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s twitter handle wrote that she always "dreamt of reviving the traditional crafts of Kashmir because this is a means to empower local women."
Arifa stated that she started working on reviving Namda craft after seeing the condition of the women artisans in Kashmir. Arifa termed Prime Minister Modi's #SheInspiresUs campaign an initiative that will motivate her to work harder for the betterment of craft as well as the artisans all over the Valley. Her first business activity was participating in an exhibition of handmade items in New Delhi.
Craft fair at Kashmir Haat
In July this year, J&K Lt. Gen. Sinha inaugurated a15-day long craft fair at Kashmir Haat. It served as a boon for artisans and businesses and a breath of fresh air for locals and tourists. Sinha while inaugurating the fair stated that government’s aim is to empower the handicraft, handloom artisans and improve living standards of present and future generations of Kashmiri artisans.
“With endeavors like revamping the Kashmir Haat, we are strengthening our commitment to providing market support to local artisans and weavers," LG Sinha said. He revealed the plans of the government to provide new markets, create sustainable livelihood for the local artisans, besides preserving rich cultural heritage of J&K.
During the past two years J&K administration has taken various steps to support the artisans in J&K. They have been offered financial aid and support to live a dignified life. The craft fair was an extension of the initiatives that the government has taken to give a major boost to PM Modi's "vocal for local" mantra.
Source: Saudi Gazette