SRINAGAR: Waking up to menace of Pashmina shawl-weaving on machines, the government on Friday imposed restrictions on machine manufacturing of these shawls for a period two months.
An official statement issued by the District Magistrate Srinagar said that in exercise of powers vested in him under Section 144 of the CrPC, restrictions were being imposed on manufacture of Pashmina and Kani products on power looms within the jurisdiction of District Srinagar for a period of two months.
This ban has been hailed by the Kashmir Pashmina Karigar Union, a body of traditional Pashmina artisans that has been pushing for such a ban. President of the Union Rouf Qureshi told Kashmir Reader that they hope the government has understood that manufacturing these products on power looms was detrimental for the handicraft sector and was ruining the traditional Pashmina cottage industry.
According to the Union, there are 32 such units operational in Srinagar, with many being set up in other districts. Rouf said the Union hopes this temporary ban becomes a permanent feature and is extended to the whole sate.
He also said the Deputy Commissioner (DC) Srinagar Farooq Ahmad Lone, recently met all the stakeholders, besides government officials, on chalking out a strategy for implementing the ban. Rouf said the DC had revealed that a team would be set up under the guidance of Director Handicrafts, Director Handlooms and the police to strictly impose the ban.
Power looms, according to the Union, have been producing inferior quality Pashmina products in bulk. The worst-hit by this ‘machine onslaught’, say Union members, have been the estimated 10,000 weavers.
According to Ahtisham Hussain, another member of the Union and a weaver himself, a machine can make a Pashmina shawl in 10 minutes while a weaver would take a week to finish the same. He said that making a Kani shawl took a weaver three to six months, but a Jacquard loom (introduced specifically to make such shawls) could churn out a piece in an hour. He also hoped the ban would be extended to Pashmina spinning on machines, which has resulted in thousands of workers, mostly women, being laid off.
Rouf added that the influx of machine products has meant dwindling exports, because the ‘original product’ has become rare. In fact, he said that many exporters were now approaching them for handmade products.
Kashmir Shawl exports during the last fiscal have witnessed a sharp decline of 36%, with exports at Rs 368.20 crore while the figure was Rs 579.72 crore in 2013-14. Kashmir Pashmina has been granted registration under the Geographical Indications (GI) of Goods Act of India in 2008. The title ‘Kashmir Pashmina’ can only be used by authorised users – which automatically disqualifies machine products. In fact, the Pashmina Testing and Quality Certification Centre, supposedly set up to enforce the implementation of GI in Pashmina, is alleged to be virtually defunct.