Perishing Poshish

J&K’s oldest Handloom Dev Corporation entangles in administrative inertia, struggles to survive
Perishing Poshish
GK Photo

Srinagar: For decades, Kashmir’s own brand, Poshish created its impactful story in Indian and international markets. However, the brand is hitting its climax due to “faulty” administrative policies, defunct machinery and pilling of long-pending issues.

GK Photo

According to the employees working at the only showroom facility in Solina, in summer capital, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir Handloom Development Corporation was on the last leg of its survival. They say that the necessary and immediate steps were highly needed to bring the lost glory of one of the oldest corporations of the government.

“How do you expect the Corporation to grow when there are only a few windows open for its survival,” asked the employees association of the corporation.

“We have many issues confronting our corporation, administratively and at the same time our employees are suffering a great deal,” they alleged, adding “the productivity of the corporation has gone down, and we are waiting for some administrative relief.”

The aggrieved employees say that due to the “administrative failure”, a lot of its procured raw material, worth crores, was lying unattended. “One really feels bad when you see piles of raw material eating the dust at the factory outlet in Srinagar,” they say.

“We haven’t been able to streamline our workforce. All our employees have been unpaid for the last 13 months. We work for no salary. Every time we knock the doors of our higher officials, we are told that the government has no funds for the corporation,” president of Jammu and Kashmir Handloom Development Corporation, Bashir Ahmad, told Greater Kashmir.

“This development corporation has a long history of working with the rural pockets and artisans of Jammu and Kashmir. However, with each passing year not only Poshish is perishing but we are witnessing a downfall of this corporation,” he says, adding “Imagine, workers and artisans working without salary for over a year. What would be their outcome and how do you expect them to work for enhancing productivity and enhancing quality.”

The Jammu and Kashmir State Handloom Development Corporation (JKSHDC) was incorporated in 1981 exclusively to undertake the promotion of the decentralised handloom sector of the state and to implement centrally sponsored handloom projects initiated by the Government of India.

“There was a time when we used to go into the deeper pockets of erstwhile State’s rural areas and we would ensure that we give betterment and livelihood to the people living in these far-flung areas,” says, Ali Muhammad, an employee.

Jammu Kashmir’s traditional handloom weaving has, since centuries, developed a name for itself across the world. Apart from designs found specifically in the area, the raw materials are also produced within the region be it pashmina, silk or wool.

“Traditional handloom weaving has been a major source of employment for a significant part of the workforce here. However, things have changed to a larger extent now,” he says.

‘Faulty Production’

The employees of the corporation say that the around 11000 mts of tweet fabric was lying unattended at the Solina outlet for two years and administration wasn’t doing anything in this regard.

“This Corporation is falling, and employees are suffering. We have seen how the production has got affected from the last two years and there is no innovation happening on part of the production of the tweet or Poshish products,” the employees, posted at the main Facility centre at Solina, Srinagar.

Importantly, the JKSHDC has two manufacturing units—one at Solina Rambagh, Srinagar and another at Samba where production activities are being carried out under one roof. However, a major portion of the production activities are being carried out in the decentralised sector. Items that are being manufactured in these plants include Tweed fabric, rafal fabric, woollen, cotton fabric etc.

‘Spinning Unit and other sick units’

The officials maintained that the central government has approved the project of WWDDC Phase–II for an in-house spinning unit at Solina-Rambagh, Srinagar and the corporation intends to purchase wool locally, which is in abundance at Kashmir, and process it to make finished yarn of different colours and specifications which is currently being imported from other states.

“This yarn is utilised by the corporation for making its traditional products, including woollen tweeds,” officials say.

However, the workers of the corporation rubbished the claims, saying that the surplus yarn was to supply to the weavers at reasonable rates and at their doorsteps and a yarn bank was to be created. “Our corporation was to serve the society and elevate its resource generation capacity. However, it has defuncted itself. How can it reach out to the general public, especially artisans at large?”

They alleged that the government in an arbitrary decision decentralised the corporation—which affected the projects and the marketing of the handloom products.

“A lot of commissioned agents of the corporation who used to run the outlets also were shut and given an exit after several years,” employees revealed.

Several ongoing projects including Development of Wool and Woollen Design & Development Centre (WWDDC), Solina, Srinagar, Kani Shawl project Kanihama, Budgam, Royal Pashmina Project, Srinagar, Export Oriented Handloom Development Project, Samba, Intensive Handloom Development Project Udhampur, Pashmina Weaving Project Basohli, Kathua, too have witnessed the brunt of the “malfunctioning” of the corporation.

‘Official Speaks’

Managing Director, Jammu and Kashmir Handloom Development Corporation, Hashmat Yauto, told Greater Kashmir, that a lot of efforts were on to streamline the corporation. He claims that the government initiated a process to associate well established fashion designers for its ready-made products which help to establish its brand image in the state and intends to work on the skill development aspect of local artisans associated with stitching, weaving and designing.

“The corporation was aiming to increase the employment of qualified young entrepreneurs as well as artisans, weavers,” he said.

The Corporation has upgraded its showrooms in terms of infrastructure, technology, fabric designs, finishing techniques, presentation, advertisement etc to make it competitive with other brands, targeting high end customers in the process. In this regard, Corporation shall initiate to establish its existing Gandhi Nagar Showroom as model show room for high end woollens as well as cotton products.

He rebutted the claims of the employees over the government withholding their salaries for over 13 months. “We have released their salaries. However, I agree there was a lot of mismanagement as far as the production of the corporation was concerned.”

He maintained that the corporation is in full swing and working towards improving its performance on the financial as well as the service front.

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