A number of union ministers have visited Jammu and Kashmir in the recent past as part of the central government’s ongoing mega outreach programme. During these visits, few interacted with the local artisans and made statements related to their respective professions. From the announcement of various schemes to sops for artisans, the centre has also expressed a desire to make the union territory the hub of textile manufacturing. During her recent visit to the Woollen Mills, Bemina in Srinagar Minister of State (MoS) for Textiles and Railways Darshana V. Jardosh said Jammu and Kashmir had ‘vast potential in terms of the textile industry as world-renowned silk having GI mark is being produced here’. She stressed upon the officers to tap this potential of J&K and make it a hub of the textile manufacturing industry. The MoS also visited the Silk Factory Rajbagh and interacted with various artisans of papier-mache clusters, willow wicker clusters and crewel crafting clusters. The MoS directed the officers to tie-up with e-commerce sites for marketing and selling of products and make provision for online selling through websites. As part of the outreach programme, Union Minister of State (MoS) for Electronics and Information Technology, Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Rajeev Chandrasekhar visited Mirgund Baramulla cluster unit of handicrafts and carpets cluster where he promised to revive the handicrafts in Kashmir which have been hit over the years. Other central ministers including Minister of Women and Child Development Smriti Irani too met artisans. During her visit to Central Kashmir’s Budgam district, Irani said, “I was enthusiastic to see the skills, dedication and patience these highly skilled artisans showcased while weaving their high-cost Kani Shawl and other products”. During her interaction, she assured the concerned artisans and other producers that the government is keen to introduce this product internationally so that it has worldwide market availability.
In another development, on the initiative of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India (TRIFED) has kickstarted efforts for extension of various schemes to Jammu and Kashmir with focus on tribal artisans, farmers, artists and other skilled workers. During his visit last week, Managing Director TRIFED Pravir Krishna approved a number of projects and roadmap for infrastructure establishment. He agreed approval for assistance to and empanelment of 1000 tribal artisans, producers and farmers from Jammu and Kashmir to provide them business opportunities at all outlets across the country. He also announced establishment of Tribal Haat at Jammu and Srinagar, opening of J&K Tribal outlet at New Delhi and display of J&K tribal products at more than 130 outlets of federation in various cities which will offer attractive returns. The TRIFED also offered to provide J&K Tribal artisans self-help groups (SHGs) grants of Rs 5 Lakh each for warehouse and Rs 3.25 Lakh for production units. This grant can be availed by tribal SHGs. TRIFED approved 100 Van Dhan Kendra clusters for J&K with funding of Rs 15 Cr for next one year.
Even as more ministers are expected to visit Jammu and Kashmir in the coming days, it is imperative that their promises and announcements are taken to the logical conclusion. It has often been observed that central announcements and schemes are not properly implemented. The artisans’ community has suffered a lot due to the situation in Kashmir during the past three decades and their condition has gone from bad to worse in the wake of the Covid lockdown. Many have this wrong notion that artisans can easily work from their homes during a lockdown. However, procurement of raw material in the lockdown is a challenge just like selling their products. Artisans have suffered a lot during the Covid lockdown especially the ones that live hand to mouth. Therefore, their welfare should be among the top responsibilities of the government. In the meantime, the Jammu and Kashmir government too announced a few measures for the welfare of the artisan community. Recently, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha noted that the J&K government was not only committed to the preservation and development of local art but also for the social and economic upliftment of lakhs of people associated with the handicraft sector in J&K. In this regard, the government also announced the ‘Karkhandar’ scheme started in August this year aimed to create a bridge between traditional crafts and market, besides training the artisans, weavers associated with this rich heritage. Under the ‘Karkhandar’ scheme during the training beneficiaries will be given an honorarium of Rs 2,000 per month and an additional Rs 25,000 to buy raw materials and other items. After the training, all the craftsmen and weavers who want to start their own unit will be provided all possible financial assistance from the administration. And in an effort to negate the role of middlemen and bring local artisans to e-commerce platforms, the government has also waived off registration fee of Rs. 5000 for the artisans that was required to sell their products on the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) platform. The artisans will also be receiving training from the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handlooms, Kashmir with regard to selling their products on e-commerce platforms. All these announcements will help in reviving the traditional crafts and benefit craftsmen. However, the concerned authorities have to ensure that the plans are translated into action and do not remain confined to papers.
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