Our youth make a hope of its revival
WHATS UP BY SAJAD BAZAZ
A few days back I had an opportunity to attend one of the sessions of Youth Leadership Summit 2011 organised here at Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre by a non governmental organization, One Young Kashmir and supported by Mercy Corps. The theme of Summit – Lets learn and live our culture, preserve our identity… and save ourselves from extinction – was aimed to mobilize Kashmiri youth to protect and promote the rich values of Kashmiri culture. A photo exhibition was also organized at the venue in which the indigenous work of young and budding photographers and other artists was displayed extensively.
Even as the exhibition was to display the skill of young participants, it was a line ‘endangered craft’ captioned on a photograph showing art of pottery which reflected the maturity level of our young ones. Showing concern about traditional crafts which are on the verge of extinction by these young ones is appreciable under the given circumstances.
The skillful craftsmanship of Kashmiri artists has made Kashmiri handicrafts as prized possession over the years and has captured the hearts of people across the globe. But the Kashmir’s crafts sector has lost sheen owing to neglect and lack of organized effort to keep up with the changing market dynamics. This sector provides employment to around 5 lakh people with an annual turnover of over Rs.2,000 crore. Today this sector is full of challenges, as the craftsmanship has failed the artisan community to even feed their families. We have a huge chunk of our population associated with tiny, cottage and village industries sectors who have been struggling for support to their craftsmanship. Even as our craftsmen have a capacity to generate an income of Rs1000 per week for himself, the lack of financial resources has restricted his income to Rs.1000 per month. The lack of financial resources has crippled their golden hands and they have been even struggling to meet their day to day needs.
Take the case of our carpet industry. The industry has a glorious past, pitiable present and uncertain future. Even as the trade was handed down by the great artisans of Iran and the Persian culture influenced the Kashmiri carpet for quite a long time, it was only after a long period of time that Kashmiri carpet acquired an indigenous character. The Kashmiri artisans introduced the design patterns of shawls, traditional paisley, leaves and flowers. With the touch of local artistic magnificence the Kashmiri carpet attained a high degree of perfection and carved out a unique place in the international market for itself.
Even as the industry is ailing for the past few decades, it still contributes Rs.1000 crores (25%) to the country's carpet export trade of Rs.4000 crores. Almost 40000 carpet looms are currently in the state and over a lakh artisans are involved in the trade.
But with the passage of time, the industry lost its shine. This happened despite the fact that carpet industry in Kashmir having all the potential for generating huge employment and earning bulk of foreign reserves. Kashmiri carpet has lost its space in the national as well as international market. Since India is a huge market for carpets, the growing demand during these decades has been met by the carpet weaving units outside the Kashmir valley. In fact these manufacturing units have cashed in on ailing Kashmir carpet industry by increasing their production manifolds. It is interesting to note that almost 90 per cent demand for carpets in India is being meted out by the carpet units located at Amritsar (Punjab), Agra (Uttar Pradesh), Jaipur (Rajasthan), Eluru and Warangal (Andhra Pradesh). With a low level presence of Kashmir carpet in the national and international markets, the Mirzapur-Bhadohi belt in Uttar Pradesh has taken lead as one of the main carpet manufacturing places in the country.
Some time back, the central government had announced a project of Rs.85 crores for bringing the Kashmir carpet industry back on tracks, with 75 per cent contribution to be borne by the state and the central governments and 25 per cent to be contributed by the beneficiaries. The project envisaged replacement of these traditional looms by new improved looms to increase productivity and quality of the carpet. These new looms have been developed by the Indian Institute of Carpet Technology (IITC). These new looms were supposed to phase out the old looms over a period of 5 years. But nothing happened so far.
Meanwhile coming back to the concern shown by young ones to the dying craft of Kashmir pottery, we see a huge potential to revive the craft in Kashmir. Kashmir pottery has its own space in the history of Kashmir. The demand for home and garden pottery products is tremendous as people, on an average, have relatively spacious houses and gardens. We have observed that when pottery products from Delhi and Rajasthan were on sale in a handicraft fair, it was sold out in less than a week.
The artisans associated with this craft are not today inclined to the craft as they have failed to carve out their living out of this activity. So the first thing would be to organize and facilitate the artisans to organize themselves in to Self Help Groups and guide them to have access to financial and marketing support. The artisans should be encouraged to have a few products like the candle holders, salt and pepper sets and the lamps with wicker shades and seek the market feedback. This exercise would help in defining subsequent interventions, particularly technology interventions, for improvements. The craftsmen should be guided to explore design exploration and shortlist potential products, upgradation of the traditional glaze in terms of composition, for consistent quality and wider colour range, to increase marketability like making coordinated sets, label and packaging, identify and facilitate of appropriate technology and infrastructure that may be used for better quality production.
Notably, J&K Bank under its CSR initiative has undertaken a project to revive Dalgate pottery. The project aims towards the revival of pottery through design exploration and skill development.
We have a scenario where our artisan community is suffering for want of adequate and timely financial assistance. It is worth mentioning that social security of artisans too has remained a distant dream. On papers some health and group insurance schemes that provides the family of the artisans a free treatment cover, were introduced. But these benefits were never passed on to them, as the schemes were never implemented. Examples galore where a craftsman became victim of some dreaded diseases like tuberculosis etc. because of the conditions in which he was working. They were also underpaid and couldn’t bear the expenditure to fight out these diseases.
Here Craft Development Institute has a role to play. The institute has a primary responsibility to protect and these golden hands. The positive thing is that our young ones have indicated their interest in the revival of our traditional crafts. So the institute should capitalise on the interest of the young ones and see that its activities of research, training and consultancy successfully bring back the glory of Kashmir’s endangered crafts. Crafting prosperity for craftsmen will lead to vibrancy in our economy.
Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lastupdate on : Sat, 26 Mar 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 26 Mar 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 27 Mar 2011 00:00:00 IST
- MORE FROM OP-ED
DRAFT GATHERING DUST IN POWER CORRIDORS
Srinagar, Mar 26: Even one and a half year after preparation of draft drug policy for improving healthcare in Jammu and Kashmir, the state Government is yet to implement it evoking widespread resentment More
- Srinagar City
DEMOLITION TRIGGERS RESENTMENT IN KHAYAM
GK NEWS NETWORK
Srinagar, Mar 26: The residents and traders of Khayam area in Shahr-e-Khaas on Saturday expressed resentment over demolition of shops there before “completion of the compensation process to pave More
Srinagar, Mar 26: The written examination for the posts of District and Sessions Judges was conducted in both wings of High Court today. The examination for (Paper-1) was conducted in Srinagar wing More
GK NEWS NETWORK
New Delhi, Mar 26: Asserting that J&K is on fast track to minimize its fiscal deficit, Minister for Finance A. R. Rather has urged the Centre to release to J&K all the resources agreed at the time More