SRINAGAR: The government’s move to streamline the purchase of pashmina from Ladakh region of the state is expected to bring a major relief to the otherwise suffering artisans in Kashmir Valley.
Last week, the Jammu and Kashmir Small Scale Industries Development Corporation Limited (SICOP) entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with All Changthang Pashmina Growers Cooperative Society (ACPGCS), which is based in Ladakh’s Leh district.
Under the MoU, SICOP will directly purchase raw pashmina from ACPGCS to sell it to the artisans.
Prior to the MoU, the artisans were “strangulated for supplies” as most of the prized wool, produced mostly in Ladakh region, was falling into the hands of traders who produce shawls with machines, according to the Kashmir Pashmina Karigar Union (KPKU).
“Many artisans who were skilled in making hand-woven shawls shifted to other businesses because they didn’t find access to raw pashmina. On the other hand, machine-made pashmina yarn and shawls were being produced in abundance,” President of the Union Rouf Ahmad Qureshi told Kashmir Reader Monday.
With the first consignment of pashmina expected to arrive soon in the Valley under the new agreement, Qureshi said the “streamlined purchase and distribution mechanism” will help in reviving the craft of weaving shawl with hands.
“Besides the government, KPKU will also keep a check on possible sale of raw pashmina to machine-driven units,” he said.
From producing yarn to weaving of the shawls, around 1, 50, 000 women spinners and nearly 40,000 weavers had been associated with the pashmina craft industry in the Valley, according to figures maintained by KPKU.
However, most of them, Qureshi said, were rendered jobless with the introduction of machines during the past two decades.
Most machine-driven units operate in the industrial area at Baghi Ali Mardan Khan here, he said.
“We want the government to introduce the new Act we call Reservation of Articles on Pashmina Traditional Handloom. The Act will safeguard the interests of traditional pashmina artisans,” Qureshi said.
As per the KPKU President, the “unique place” that pashmina shawls from Kashmir enjoyed in the international market was due to the craft of the artisans.
“Machine-made pashmina products are made elsewhere in the world too,” Qureshi said, adding that “the sustained supply of the raw pashmina might prove to be the key for regaining the space we once had in the international market.”
The official data shows that the export of pashmina shawls and rumals from the Valley touched Rs 579.90 crore during 2013-14.
Apart from boosting the exports, Qureshi said the new process of purchase will encourage the rearing of pashmina goats in Ladakh.
“The traders here have been importing inferior pashmina wool at lower prices from Magnolia and China via Nepal, ignoring the raw pashmina produced in our own state. But that trend will be discouraged now,” he said.