Kashmir Arts Emporium crumbles under losses
Key Showrooms Closed; Govt Refuses Bailout
Srinagar, Feb 10: Established as a platform for taking Valley art and craft to the outside world, Kashmir Arts Emporium is gasping for survival with financial losses incurred by the once booming corporation having grown up to crores of rupees.
Official apathy and 2 decades of turmoil in J&K have contributed to its downfall, officials said. The immediate threat staring the corporation is cumulative losses and liabilities towards its employees. While the former has piled up to more than Rs 10 crore for past two decades the latter including payment of CF Fund and COLA stand at more than Rs 15 crore.
The wide gap in the annual revenue generation and establishment cost is another worry. The corporation generates around Rs 4 crore revenue annually but the establishment cost including the salary stands at Rs 6 crore, implying a deficit of Rs 2 crore.
In comparison, the sales registered for last year have been Rs 10.45 crore.
In an indication to indifferent attitude of the Government, the emporium is functioning without General Manager and Accounts Officer for past two years and one year respectively. The post of Managing Director is being looked after as an additional charge by Director Handicrafts.
During early ’80s the emporium had more than 25 showrooms in different States with employees strength of over 600. However, today there number is only 19- 11 in outside States and 8 in Jammu and Kashmir. They too are being run by low rung employees as the posts of Managers and senior employees have been winded off. Not only this, its employees are without salaries for past three months.
Officials argue the emporium had a flourishing past. It had two production units for carpets and other handicraft items at Namchibal and Nowshera here. “These were financially vibrant. However due to lack of financial support from the Government the production was hit and ultimately the units were shutdown,” said an official.
Though State Government has been providing budgetary support to the emporium, it is far off from the requirement with annual allocations having fallen from Rs 2.33 crore in 2002-03 to Rs 1.20 crore in 2010-11.
Officials said the emporium functioned as a unit of JK Industries till 1970. It was set up soon after 1947 to allow the artisans who had established their market base across LoC to have a platform for selling their art and craft to Government directly.
Functioning as a corporation under the administrative control of Industries and Commerce department since early ’80s, the emporium is an integrated place for sale of all kinds of handicraft items like shawls, crewel fabric, chain stitch fabric, cushion covers, carpets, wood carvings and paper machie.
Officials said the conversion of emporium’s oldest showroom at 5-Prithivi Raj Road New Delhi into JK House after 1996 was a major set back to its growth.
“Top dignitaries and officials from outside countries would make purchases from this showroom and its annual earnings would run into crores,” sources said. The JK House serves as office/residential house for Resident Commissioner.
Another of its potential revenue earning branches at 25-B Connaught Place New Delhi was winded off for unknown reasons followed by closure of another outlet near Ashoka Hotel in Mumbai. The closure program continued in Amritsar and Chennai. Another Bombay branch was closed down following serial blast there in 1993.
Sources said during early ’80s Government would provide financial support to the emporium for direct purchases from artisans and the supplies would be rooted to the showrooms from the main branch near Zero Bridge here.
“But these days the purchases are being made by the outlets independently on sale/return basis and that too at higher rates due to lack of advance payments,” sources said.
To meet the establishment requirements particularly salary component of the employees, the purchase made are sold at higher rates in the market.
“It is a compulsion. But it is one of the reasons which has led to the downfall as a buyer gets same quality product from private market at cheaper rates,” sources said.
Role of the employees who served the emporium from time to time is also being questioned for leading to its debacle.
Employing more than the required manpower was another reason for its downfall.
An official said though several proposals for revival of the emporium have gone to the Government, there has been no response.
Acting on recommendations of a committee, Government instead has extended Voluntarily Retirement Scheme and Golden Handshake Scheme to the emporium employees.
Around 31 employees have applied for retirement under the schemes and 18 cases have been cleared.
Even though Prime Minister’s job panel on JK, led by DR C Rangarajan, had recommended that State Government should come up with a financial package to revive the corporation, Minister for Industries and Commerce, SS Salathia, said Government cannot bear the emporium’s financial burden.
He said the corporation will have to stand on its own by increasing sales to meet establishment costs and salaries of employees.
The minister evaded a direct response to a question on Government’s policy to close down several of its showrooms.
“Government provided financial assistance to the corporation for renovation of a showroom at Arvin Road in New Delhi. The sales have picked up there. We are also encouraging the corporation to participate in exhibitions,” he said.
About vacant posts in the corporation, the minister said, “It has no qualified cadre to take top slots.”
Lastupdate on : Fri, 10 Feb 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 10 Feb 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 11 Feb 2012 00:00:00 IST
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