Editorial: Save handicrafts sector

Srinagar: Handicraft sector in Kashmir has been witnessing a decline. The industry which once witnessed export to the tune of 1800 Crores has been witnessing a decline of more than 60 percent in overall turnover during the past few years.

Though, the reasons are many but the prime being the apathy this sector is facing as no benefits, either announced by the government or some financial institutions from time to time-do not percolate down to the level where they should have been.  

Handicrafts, especially carpet and shawl weaving, were introduced in the Valley by Sufi saint Mir Syed Ali Hamadani (RA), who had arrived here in 1384 A.D from Persia. His followers later popularized the crafts, which gave a boost to Kashmir’s economy.

One of the ills the sector is facing is that the sector is highly unorganized. Therefore, the success or a failure of any scheme is largely being attributed to this factor alone. This is a fact that the sector is being overlooked by the government also. As on date no effort has been initiated to get a survey initiated to ascertain the details about the number of people associated with the trade and measures taken to get the benefits to the ground level.  

Now that the world bank has been forthcoming towards the needs of the artisans it has decided to fund a project to create a database of all the craftsmen involved in production of different kinds of handicrafts in the state.

Part of the 100 Cr fund that the world bank has allotted to the government is now being utilised to conduct an artisan’s baseline survey. As per rough estimates there are around 2.32 lakh unregistered artisans in the state who are still unregistered.

Initially, the government is planning to register 50,000 artisans in first phase on its web portal in one year. Then the mapping of artisan clusters such as Old city area, Srinagar and parts of Budgam district will be done to identify neglected craftsmen.

The fund will also be utilised to boost handicraft and handloom trade as the government is involving various corporations to develop e-commerce platforms for trading products from respective sectors to increase the outreach of local products worldwide.

The e-marketing shall also eliminate mediators and improve linkages between farmers, food processors, small time artisans, manufacturers and retailers directly.

The sector has witnessed a decline owing to the fact that the market requirements have been undermined by the planners. Since the basic market requirements have been ignored from the past many years, it will take lot of time to get things back on track.

For this a well planned marketing strategy needs to be put in place to market the products to those areas where they find ready takers. This will mean involvement of modern technologies to help reach out to people.

Though a beginning has been made by the handicrafts department to train people in the field of present day marketing requirements, it needs lot more than mere trainings.

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