Empower Artisans

Empower Artisans
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In the entire value and supply chain of Kashmir’s handicraft infrastructure and architecture, artisans constitute the centre of gravity. Yet, the irony and the paradox is that these hapless people are neither valued to the extent they should be nor are they accorded much respect. Generally speaking, value and respect should not be merely notional but substantive and these should mean something real and tangible. In the entire schemata, the artisans get milked and exploited and it is usually the middlemen who take the cream of their back breaking hard work and sweat, so to speak. There then is almost a Dickensian aspect of exploitation involved here. It must change, radically so. If this condition does not change, then the day will not be far off when Kashmir’s handicrafts will be a dead letter( Already, much damage has been done to this key sector by unethical and dishonest practices). The revival of Kashmir’s handicrafts, a much needed one, is basically contingent upon the empowerment of artisans. The question is how? The answer is multipronged but the first step should be to restore dignity to them, socially, financially and culturally. ( That artisanship is viewed with jaundiced eyes here often means that the new generation of these or their children are loath to take up these crafts. The consequences of this will be that Kashmir handicrafts will die). Dignity can be accorded to artisanship through and by altering its wage structure. That is, the wages accruing to artisans must not only be decent but they should be at par with other professions. This will take care of the economic and financial side of the equation and incentivize people to take to artisanship by virtue of the pecuniary incentives. The second measure must be to generate appreciation and value for artisanship , socially and culturally. Third, educational programs must be instituted wherein artisanship is rendered more sophisticated and extant techniques refined. Last, but not the least, what must be taken recourse to is ethical shopping where the end consumer or customer must be made aware of the key and central role of the artisan in the product. Moreover, middlemen must and should be eliminated from the supply chain. The list of measures delineated here is not exhaustive. There’s more that can be done but these would constitute a good starting point to empower Kashmir’s artisans and accord them their rightful due.