Carpet manufacturing that once fetched Kashmir money and fame is losing its artisan base fast, as the weavers does not want their next generation to go for a 'low-paying backbreaking job'.
The carpet industry in Kashmir is facing a number of issues including the competition in international market, cheap machine-made carpets in the name of Kashmir carpets, lack of innovation and new design but the main setback is due to disinterests of the weavers.
While the new generation, particularly the educated ones, is not at all interested in taking the traditional profession, even those who are associated with it from many years prefer manual labour instead of carpet weaving as that earns them more money.
"Why should our young generation be involved in this when it doesn't even fetch us even two meals a day despite working for long hours? At least, I will not allow my children to become weavers. I have suffered all my life and I don't want them to suffer like me," says Naseer Ahmad Baba, who became a carpet weaver, when he was barely 15-years old.
"Yes, there is a severe shortage of skilled carpet weavers these days," says 60-year-old weaver Mohammad Amin of Koolipora, Khanyar. "The craft is dying. The new generation has no interest in this craft. There was a time when we used to export our carpets to the whole world and it made us famous in the world but I see a bleak future for this craft now".
These weavers say this is destined to happen, as they cannot remain associated with a profession and live a life of misery, where as the middlemen and traders will keep reaping benefits without providing for the basic needs of the people, who basically do the main job.
These weavers equally blame government for their plight saying that it has failed to provide the artisans support and means for sustaining the profession. "Despite tall claims from the government to ameliorate the trade and provide support and welfare to the artisans, they are practically doing nothing to help us," said another weaver, who does not want to be named. "I am going for pillar to post to get an artisan loan from last one year but am yet to receive it."
However, Jammu and Kashmir Directorate of Handicrafts claims that government has taken a number of steps to revive carpet weaving and support the weavers.
Reyaz Ahmad, Publicity and Exhibition Officer (PEO) of the directorate said that Craft Development Institute (CDI) and Indian Institute of Carpet Technology (IICT) is in process to revive this dying craft and is providing free training to artisans.
He said directorate is playing a vital role in promoting handicrafts products in rural as well as in urban areas by providing financial and technical assistance to unemployed youth and artisans of the state for setting up micro and small units in industrial sectors under various schemes.
"We have established around 550 training centers in every district and around 8500 persons are trained through these centers annually. We are providing them mechanized looms free of cost," PEO said.