Srinagar, Oct 9: Parvaiz Naqqash, a papier mache manufacturer used to employ 100 artisans in his manufacturing unit before 2019, now he is the lone person working in his once busy workplace.
Kashmiri handicraft artisans are fighting for survival as the slump in business has resulted in losses with a result many are being forced to do menial jobs to earn their livelihood.
“The situation has reached a point where I’m the only one today at my unit. I used to give employment to over 100 artisans who would be working at my unit in a single shift but now most of them had to give up following losses in this business. It is not possible for manufacturers like us to employ anyone when the business is hit badly,” Naqqash said.
He said many of his artisans have switched their line of work and are doing menial jobs to feed their families.
“There are many who are working as laborers. Number of artisans are working as ATM guards for a few bucks while others are doing private gardening works,” he added.
In order to know the plight of handicraft artisans, this correspondent spoke to several artisans during which it came to fore that in addition to being left without jobs, these artisans are failing to repay the loans which were given to them under artisan credit card by the government. They said they had repaid most of the loan amount but they failed to continue following joblessness and the loan amount accumulated with huge interest.
Several Kashmir handicraft traders, manufacturers said that as the business was hit, they were unable to hire artisans. "We are not getting orders and that is why they don’t require services that have affected everyone."
President of Kashmir handicraft Alliance (KHA),Parvaiz Bhat said that as the industry is running in losses, every person related to it has suffered. He said that the handicraft industry employs people for various aspects of trade and if one part is affected, the repercussions are faced by everyone.
“Artisans are the most important part on the ground level, they will only get jobs if the business of manufacturers, stockists, wholesalers and exporters is good. We are at a place where our accounts have turned into NPAs. Our own capital has also depleted and that is why there is nothing which we can pay to artisans. Moreover, when there is no work, why would a manufacturer hire anyone? We are all in huge problems and we hope the government will take special interest in taking care of the centuries-old industry,” Bhat said.