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Govt to focus on promotion, branding of products to save handicrafts sector

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Srinagar, Oct 23: For revival of the handicrafts sector, the government has decided to focus on promotion and branding of the products.

Despite having a rich and diverse tradition of handicrafts and artwork in the valley, the men and women behind such beautiful pieces of work don’t always get their due.

Worse, a few artisans have access to markets or get institutional support.

As a result, many of them are being forced to give up their vocations and seek more plebeian ones. Many traditional art-forms are also at the risk of dying out altogether.

However, the government is now taking steps like branding of handicrafts, organising exhibitions and marketing events in an attempt to revive the dying art forms.

“There has to be policy on how this sector will retain the employment of people associated with it. The carpet industry besides other major crafts are in slump due to multiple reasons,” an official in the Industries and Commerce Department said.

He said the government had earlier allocated a sum of Rs 5 crore for marketing, which was not spent.

He explained: “We have framed a road map and gave it to the government, clearly defining the revival measures.”

President Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Sheikh Ashiq, said they recently took up this issue with the Commissioner Sectary Industries and Commerce Department.

“He assured that there is a special proposal with the government for marketing and branding of handicrafts,” he said.

While it is difficult to distinguish genuine handmade products from those made on power looms or the ones mass-produced by machines, attempts are being made to certify the genuine products and award ‘craftmarks’ to them.

He informed that around 2.5 lakh people are registered with the government who are associated with this sector.

“A proper policy has to be framed for employment of people associated with this sector,” he said.

He said, “Our main focus shall be on quality products so that there is more foreign export. Tourism sector is also facing numerous challenges and needs a special attention of the government.”

While on one hand, the government is trying to promote entrepreneurship, a chunk of the entrepreneurs in this sector are affected due to poverty as well as other social injustices.

“In such scenarios, it is almost impossible for an entrepreneur to take risks. This is a critical reason for them being unable to adopt latest technology or skill-based training to labour in the industry, a vital element of today’s business,” said Hanief Ahmad, a 27-year-old entrepreneur.

The schemes introduced by the Directorate of Handicrafts have been of no benefit to the artisans.

“We have not benefited from any of the schemes from the government. On the contrary, it is the middlemen who exploit us, as we not aware of the market value of our products,” said Bilquis, 27, who has been doing embroidery work on shawls in the last two years.