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Artisans expect better future as exports of Kashmiri handicrafts go up

SRINAGAR, SEP 19: Three consecutive years between 2019 and 2021 were tough for thousands of artisans of Kashmir like Bashir Ahmad, a 45-year-old shawl maker, from Srinagar. First Kashmir remained shut for weeks post abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, and then Covid-19 which crippled the economy across the world. However, a smile has returned on his face as there has been a growing demand for Kashmiri handicraft items across the world.

The situation had been really bad for artisans according to Bashir as they were struggling to feed their families.

“After 2019, me and my son were sitting idle for months as there was no demand for Kashmiri handicrafts. But during 2022, we received several orders and made good earnings. For the last 12 months, we earned around Rs 4 lakh from shawl making as there has been good demand for Kashmiri shawls in international markets which also increased our income,” he said.

Official figures reveal that goods worth over Rs 1000 crore were exported in the fiscal 2022-2023 of which exports of Kashmiri carpets were over Rs 500 crore to various countries. The other handicraft items were shawls, paper machie, wood carving, and crewel/chain stitch.

In 2021-22, handicraft products worth Rs 563.13 crore were exported to different markets. Carpets topped the list with exports touching Rs 251.06 crore.

During 2023-2024, the handicraft export is expected to reach over Rs 1200 crore.

Kashmir’s handicrafts are famous across the world due to their quality and are man-made. Gulf and European countries form a major customer base for Kashmiri carpets and Pashmina shawls.

The iconic Kashmiri carpets are known for their exquisite designs and intricate workmanship.

Over the period of time, world-class masterpieces have been created particularly during the Mughal-Afghan and Sikh-Dogra period. Some of these masterpieces are displayed in renowned museums across the world.

However, Kashmir’s art according to artisans has suffered due to it being unorganized, poor exposure to newer technologies, absence of proper marketing and then Covid. Even products produced in other parts of the world are branded as Kashmiri handicraft items.

At least 3 lakh people are associated with handicrafts including carpets, papier-machie, shawls, and wood carving, who over the years have been finding it difficult to feed their families. However, they expect better days ahead in view of increasing demand for handicrafts in several countries.

A senior official said the administration has taken several important steps to boost the handicraft and handloom sector.

 “We are committed to providing training, design, technology, financial and other infrastructure support that will significantly contribute to the growth of this sector and earnings of artisans,” he said.

The GI tag has also been started on various handicraft items to save the industry from fakes and counterfeits.

The QR code-based Geographic Indication (GI) tags are indications which identify a product as originating in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its geographic origin.

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