Srinagar: Fifty-five-year-old Nazir Ahmad of Baramulla is a worried man. A devout Muslim, Diwali would be a time for celebration as orders for his exquisite silken carpets and other handicrafts would come thick and fast.
This year, however, he is witnessing a slump for the first time, thanks to pandemic, and lockdown. Idle for over eight months, he has now taken up odd jobs to support his family.
“Diwali always provided us the opportunity to clear our stocks. Due to covid-19, there are not enough orders from our clients this year. Carpets lie in our godowns unsold,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad is not an isolated case. Artisans as well as dealers are facing a tough situation since lockdown. They claim that the relaxation in the lockdown has not helped their business.
Not many vendors’ dealers travelled to other states to sell handicraft products on this Diwali.
“This time scores of the Kashmiris would have traveled to states like New Delhi, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Gujarat to sell shawls and other handicraft products. Knowing there is no demand for such items, the door-to-door vendors and even dealers stayed put in Kashmir,” said Mohammad Yaqoob, a shawl seller from Pattan.
Sheikh Ashiq, a leading handicrafts exporter and member of Carpet Export Promotion Council (CEPC) told The Kashmir Monitor that the handicraft sector continues to be in distress due to the lockdown and suspension of international flights.
“There are no sales reported by the dealers on Diwali. All the stakeholders are currently under heavy stress as the demand for the handicrafts has seen no improvement even after relaxation in the lockdown,” he said.
Ashiq said there is a considerable dip in the production of handicrafts in Kashmir. “Like every other sector, handicrafts are witnessing a slump. No major exhibitions have been held in the country. Dealers are without orders even on the eve of Diwali,” he said.
An official of the handicrafts department said sales of Kashmiri handicrafts are not encouraging this festive season.
“We are still holding virtual exhibitions and allowing artisans and dealers to interact with the dealers. We hope sales will pick up,” he said.