In the district Ganderbal out of 6773 artisans registered with the department about 1500 artisans are willow wicker artisans. The Handicrafts Department is implementing Artisan Credit Card Scheme since 2011-12, with the objective to provide financial assistance to the artisans at the cheapest interest rate so that they are able to work independent of the middleman and eliminate his role from the trade so that the artisan is able to reap the benefits of their expertise in a particular crafts. During the last five years, out of 6773 registered artisans, 2086 have been covered under the scheme by providing them loan to the tune of Rs. 20.86 crores. Against this bank loan, the Government assistance came by way of interest subsidy of 10% (which is released directly to the banks for a period of five years). This is the biggest intervention as the artisans have to pay interest @2.5% to 3% only which is the cheapest interest rate in the banking sector as on date. During the last five years, the department has released an interest subsidy to the tune of Rs. 2.44 crores to the banks of District Ganderbal against the loans provided by them to the artisan.
In order to give further boost to the Willow Wicker trade, the department has formulated a project of Rs. 4.57 crores and submitted the same to the World Bank for funding. Under this project a common facility centre will be established in District Ganderbal near Achan village where concentration of willow wicker artisans is the most. In the said CFC all facilities like, boiling, drying, dyeing of willow wicks will be provided to the artisans under one roof by using the latest technology. The implementation of the project will be started from next financial year 2017-18. This CFC will be run jointly by the artisans and the Government for at least five years and thereafter handed over to the artisan bodies. The department has already began to organise these artisans into industrial cooperative societies. Besides, in order to provide marketing avenues to the artisans in general and Willow Wicker artisans in particular, the department organizes exhibitions at various places enabling the artisans to interact with the buyers to understand their preferences and demands and thus produce goods as per the requirement. The department is planning to organize an exhibition in Kashmir Haat Srinagar especially for Willow Wicker artisans in the first quarter of next financial year.
In the backdrop of the steps being taken to promote the willow wicker trade, the Director Handicrafts has termed the news report carried by a section of press on 10th March, 2017 as mere imagination and far from truth.
(The author is PEO, Handicrafts Department)