Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir National Conference on Monday said that handicraft sector has largely been ignored and the people associated with it merit special attention in view of the gravity and scale of COVID-19 crises.

In a statement, former Speaker  Mubarak Gul lamented how last nine months have seen thousands of families associated with handicraft sector in Kashmir struggling to make ends meet and now the same has been aggravated due to the tumultuous situation followed by COVID-19 crises.

“It goes without saying how important handicraft sector is keeping in view the sheer number of work force associated with it. It is one of the largest employers after agriculture in Kashmir. Far from reaching out to them, the administration has shut its eyes towards their sufferings most of whom live by hand to mouth. A sizeable chunk of population in Srinagar and elsewhere is associated with the sector involving Sozni, Aari, Pottery, woodwork, carpet, shawl and other allied vocations,” he said

“Not to speak of their future prospects, the artisans aren’t able to afford two square meals. What little savings they had, have been exhausted.  The hapless people are living at the eye of a storm and the government’s laid back attitude is only adding to their miseries,” he added.

While pressing for a need to have long term and short term strategy to help such craftsmen stand back on their feet, Gul said that it was expected of the government to come to the rescue of people involved with handicraft sector by extending social security measures to them but so far nothing substantial has been done to lessen their woes.

“The long term revival plan of the handicraft sector should espouse bumping up of demand by giving zero interest loans to the people employed in the sector, and waving off all existing loans with immediate effect. The government should also ramp up its efforts by removing bottlenecks in export, and production of the handicraft merchandise. The awareness campaigns, on-line opportunities, haats, fairs should also be carried out across the country and globe to rope in new buyers,” he said.

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