As the sun sets on The Boulevard along famous Dal Lake here, tourists throng this road to buy Kashmir's traditional handicraft articles which are cheap but faked as Kashmiri.
The tourists' joy is short-lived as they return home with fake memento which are originally termed Amritsari but branded as Kashmiri.
It all happens under the nose of tourism as well as Handicraft Department who fail to act against these 'unscrupulous traders' who cheat tourists, customers by selling Amritsar made shawls as Kashmiri pashmina shawls.
The modus-operandi of these vendors is that they ferry the cheap imitation stock in their cars, cycles and then pass it to customers as genuine pashmina shawls at tourist destinations.
Irony is such that these unscrupulous traders are selling Amritsar imported machine made shawls at Rs 200 to Rs 1000. It all depends on their sweet will. There is no quality control no price mechanism. What matters is how good they are in presenting their fake articles.
The impact of this unscrupulous trade is that now one of Kashmir's oldest handicraft legends and legacy, the Pashmina, is threatened by its imitations as the high-priced handmade fabric is increasingly being eased out from markets by its cheap, machine-made namesake.
There are laws in JK to protect the Pashmina shawl, which was once presented by Napoleon Bonaparte to his lady love, Josephine. However these laws are only on paper and tourists continue to be cheated by passing fake articles as genuine Kashmir
"I was shocked to hear that a Pashmina shawl is priced at Rs 500. Being a frequent visitor to Kashmir from 90s I know how much effort and hardwork goes into making a fine Pashmina shawl. But these guys are ruining the brand of Kashmiri pashmina," said Jyoti Nair, a Pune- based traveler whose mother had bought Rs 1000 fake Pashmina shawl which lasted only for a month.
The laws protecting the genuine Pashmina shawl are observed more in their breach as the machine-made rival is giving a run for its money to the original handmade Pashmina.
Local artisans allege that nexus between powerful traders and officials is ruining the handicraft sector.
"Despite ban power looms are used for manufacturing shawls which are then passed as Kashmiri Pashmina, similarly outside manufacturers shawls are presented as handmade shawls of Kashmir, both these factors have ruined shawl weavers," said Bashir Ahmad of Artisans Forum.
"It is all because of the failure of the handicraft department. They do nothing. What is their role? I have failed to understand so far what they do for the welfare of handicraft sector or artisans apart from drawing hefty salaries," he added.
Pashmina is a woolen cloth made from the fleece of the "Capra haircus" Himalayan mountain goat, often referred to as the "pashmina goat".
A testing centre had been setup by the union commerce ministry at the Crafts Development Institute (CDI) at the Baghi Ali Mardan Khan here for testing the purity and genuineness of handmade pashmina.
The CDI is an autonomous body created by the central and state governments to promote handicrafts in the state. But local artisans allege that the centre exists only in its name.
When contacted, Director Handicrafts, Mushtaq Ahmad he said "I am in the meeting and concerned official who deals with this subject will talk to you."
But neither have we had a response from director nor concerned official on this important subject.
Station House officer, Tourism, Suhail Ahmad said selling fake article under tourism trade act comes under non-cognizable offence. "We can act only when there is complaint. It is the job of handicraft department to check whether articles sold are genuine or not."