Srinagar: The government had promised last year that a plan will be formulated to revive the Handicrafts industry. For this the state’s finance minister had claimed that a meeting of officials will be held by December 2017 so that a comprehensive plan is put into action to benefit the artisan community.
But the governments assertions it seems has remained confined to papers only. The artisan community which according to rough estimates is numbering 1.5 million people, including young boys and girls belonging to disadvantaged sections of the society, are involved in the Handicrafts sector.
The sector over the past few months has recorded a slump in production due to a number of reasons. One can be the implementation of the new tax regime GST. The new regime has left the artisan community so burdened by the production costs that once a flourishing industry, handicrafts-is fast turning out to be a failure as far as generation of employment and revenues are concerned.
The artisans have been mistreated. Financially, they are hugely underpaid, which has resulted in downturn of the industry. Even some measures like infusion of capital into the handicraft sector has failed to generate any interest among the artisans to invest their time and safeguard their future in the trade.
What has come to light is that more than 2.32 lakh craftsmen in the state continue to be unregistered and as a result they do not receive any benefit from different government schemes.
The government has admitted that out of 4 lakh persons associated with handicrafts in the state only 1.67 lakh (1,67,476) are registered while 2.33 lakh (2,32,524) are unregistered artisans. This huge gap is leading to most of the artisans bidding farewell to the trade that they have been dependent on for centuries.
Even trade body like the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries has made it public that the handicrafts Industry which was once generating Rs 2,800 crore volume of business, has come down to Rs 2,100 crore.
What is worrisome is the fact that the government’s attitude towards the sector has not been so forthcoming. The government which announced a ‘Draft Trade Policy’ of the state expects exports of handlooms and handicrafts to touch a whopping Rs 10,000 crore in 2023 from the present-almost Rs 2100 worth exports.
For this government has established Jammu and Kashmir Trade Promotion Organization (JKTPO) having International Trade Promotion Organization (ITPO) and Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) as equity partners to build, support, maintain, increase and promote trade related activities and infrastructure. But all this needs meticulous planning and execution. Otherwise, the proposals will sound to be just a formality and nothing else.