Handicrafts have been the main-stay of the State’s Economy since Centuries. The dawn of modern era of industries least affected the viability of the crafts that always had the capacity to hold sway in even International Markets. Conscious of this colossal potential for economic activity of the sector, the Government has ever been according priorities for it’s over all development. A full fledged Department for projecting the crafts on wider scale was established on 1972-73. Prior to this establishment however, the department used to be a part of the Directorate of Industries and Commerce. The Department of Handicrafts so constituted, begun to operate with its main thrust on the following:
- To identify and eradicate the problems faced by the Industry.
- To provide artisans force to the sector in place of the ageing and proficient artists.
- To mobilize the poor/small artisans for formation of co-operatives.
- To create markets for sale of the craft produce of the State.
- Creating craft awareness at the places where it is least introduced.
- To keep tab on consumer preferences by way of designs and
- To eradicate the middle-man-ship by way of direct liaison between Buyers and Sellers.
- Above all to help maintain qualitative image of the crafts.
PROBLEMS IDENTIFIED – With the advent of mechanized World, in 19th Century, the problems that had not hitherto surfaced, begun to emerge, though marginally as elucidated already. The aesthetic appeal of export oriented crafts of Kashmir albeit, still had the alluring effect for buyers and as such continued to hold good in markets. In terms of problems therefore, it can be said that these were identified and proper measures for their resolve sought as per the points enunciated from B to H above.
PREPARING/ TRAINING OF THE ARTISANS – A massive training programme for preparing the artisans was initiated in 1972-73. The programme was initially confined to valley only but was stretched to farer areas of the State in 1974-75. As many as 553 Training Centres were established for training of the pupils in different skills at elementary level. The youths having attained the age of 14 are admitted for training. Trainees are provided the monthly stipend of Rs 100/- each. After completion of their first course of training at the elementary level, the trainees are further coached for higher skills in Advance Training Centres. In fact there is a programme to convert the whole elementary training course to advance training, though in the phased manner. Out of the total lot of 553 Elementary Training Centres, 104 stand already converted into advance training centres, wherein a stipend of Rs 200/- is given to each individual per month.
Since 1974-75 over 200,000 youngsters have been imparted training in various craft skills. Of these, 40,000 are those who have received training in Carpet Weaving. Craft training centres have been setup in area far off like Gurez, Tuleal and Chuchot in Kashmir, Shama, Yogma and Chitken in Ladakh and backward areas of Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu.
Advance Training Course in Carpet Weaving has been introduced to coach candidates in Weaving Carpets in higher knott-age, that of 24×24 to a square inch, notwithstanding the fact that this has already been started in Crafts such as in Papier Machie and other crafts like Sozni, Wood Carving, Chain Stitch and Staple Embroidery. This is to benefit those who have received preliminary training in these crafts. The idea being to expose the trainee artisans to intricacies of workmanship.
With a view to rejuvenating the traditional craft like Kani Shawl Weaving, Copper Ware, Silver Ware and Khatumband (wood mosaic joinery), the Directorate of Handicrafts has opened training centres in these crafts. Promising youths are imparted training from one to two years at the centres.
COOPERATIVES – Artisans are brought within an ambit of Cooperative movement so as to find smoother ways for their progress. So far 2600 Craft Cooperatives engaging over 9000 craftsmen have been organized through out the State. The Cooperatives are extended regular assistance in the shape of managerial subsidy. Craft wares worth Rs 500.00 lacs were produced at these Cooperative societies during the Cooperative year of 2007-08.
APEX MARKETING FEDERATION has been formed with the sole purpose of providing market facilities to the Cooperatives. There are 713 societies registered with the federation. The sales to the tune of Rs 4.00 crores have been recorded through different kinds of exhibitions held since 1990 to 2007.
One of the major thrusts of the department is to help artisan’s community to find markets for selling their Art Products. This is done by organizing Craft Bazaars in almost all commercially viable cities of India. Launched in 1991 the Scheme has so far benefited hundreds of artisans and Small Scale Unit Holders to bag lacs of Rs in terms of sales. Each Craft Bazar has the capacity to accommodate/ provide stalls to 25 participants for 15 days. There are plans to hold the Craft Bazars in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Udiapur in the current financial year.
EXPOES – Are yet another important feature of the Department with the same objective of finding markets. These are organized on bigger scale with comparatively of longer duration. The Eight Expoes held in Delhi so far since 1991 have yielded the sales to the tune of over Rs 70.00 Crores.
TRADE FAIR – Is organized as an annual feature in Pragati Maidan New Delhi. The Trade Fair is of International Status and is participated by building a pavilion every year with the capacity to accommodate different departments for display of the art, Horticulture and other produce of the State. Live demonstrations too are held by artisans of various crafts to create better craft awareness among the visitors. In the recently concluded Trade Fair sales to the tune of Rs 150.00 lacs were recorded during the 15 days Fair. Keeping in view the importance and stature of the event, the State Government has now decided to construct a permanent pavilion in Pragati Maidan, New Delhi during 2008-09.
To project on wider scale the unsurpassed appeal of Kashmir Handicrafts, the Directorate has initiated a full Publicity drive since 1979. In addition to Seminars and Conferences that were organized and Exhibitions held, the Magazines and Folders in multi colour were also brought out. The scheme has the specific purpose to provide right information to the persons interested.
Appropriately it can be said that the middle-man-ship is largely eradicated by creating the direct liaison between the buyers and sellers through exhibitions as enunciated and Conferences held on International Level between them at Srinagar. The views they share contribute for betterment of the Trade. The recent one was held at SKICC in June 2007. Suited to the occasion is the fact that the participant firms received orders worth millions of Rupees, thus pointing to success of the Meet.
The Directorate had also plans to make foreigners understand our crafts better. A 20 minute colour documentary dubbed in foreign languages was prepared for show in Europe and elsewhere in 1984. This has so far been shown several times on National hook-up of Door Darshan.
Live demonstrations of craft skills are held in exhibitions that are organised in India and abroad with the same purpose of Craft Awareness at the places where the crafts are least introduced. The latest such demonstration can be quoted to be that of Telaview, Israel.
DESIGN DEVELOPMENT – With an aim to keep tab on consumer preferences in International Markets, a School of designs was setup by the Govt. in 1957. Initially the school used to be the separate entity but was later clubbed with this Directorate for better Administrative Control. Manned with the experienced and technically qualified designers, the school has been making designs and disseminating them free to all those manufactures who are desirous of making their products competitive. To revamp the school further, Research and Development facilities (R&D Wing) is proposed to be set up with an initial cost of Rs 10 lacs.
For up keep of the standard of goods, the department had embarked upon an integrated system of Quality Control. Originally the quality checks so introduced, where confined to Namdhas only because of the complaints received from European buyers about cheating in quality in 1952. This State of affairs continued till 1977 when ultimately a comprehensive “Quality Control Act” was passed in the State Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, covering thereby all major crafts. These include Carpets, Shawls, Chain Stitch, Wood carving and Crewel Embroidery Goods. Some administrative reasons however, impede the implementation.
The budgetary allocations specified for the development of the handicrafts, keep enhancing every year right since its inception in 1972-73. It has touched the figure to over Rs 51.00 crores in 2007-08. As a consequence, the study head way has been registered in different spheres of the handicraft Industry. Results are showing. Production of Handicrafts has crossed Rs 1500 crores during 2007-08. Performance on export front too has been creditable. Despite a fall in the Country’s over all exports, there has been notable growth in the State’s Exports to Rs 850 crores in 2006-07 against a meager amount of Rs 16.50 crores in 1972-73.
Keeping always vigil on how best can the Carpet Industry be developed, the Department of Handicrafts has been taking steps to facilitate manufactures with the basic requirement of raw material. As a sequel to this the case was recommended to the Govt. to arrange for the Silk Waste on comparatively the cheaper rates. The State Govt. has very recently sought out a promising solution with the Govt. of Karnataka that brought down the rate from Rs 1650 per Kg to Rs 1350 per Kg. This indeed shall enable the manufactures to go for more purchase of the Silk Waste and hence spur the growth of World famous Carpets.
We have recently launched a comprehensive scheme to register the artisans craft wise. Till date however, we have registered 15,000 proficient artisans in different crafts in Srinagar only. The volume of registered artisans of other districts is under evaluation but optimistically can be asserted that it is almost on the same lines as in the capital city. The number should have been very high but for the practical tests that have been fixed as pro-requisite for registration of genuine artisans. As a follow up measure of this requirement having been fulfilled, the department remains in a position to recommend proper individual to banks and other financial institutions for raising loans in their favour.
The schemes shall also help us in recommending proper persons to minority Commission Govt. of India as from there onwards they shall be able to raise suitable loans for upliftment of their trade. The scheme is economically viable and is hoped to invigorate the artisans community.
The Govt. has also announced two insurance schemes for benefit of the artisans. Up till now 1600 artisans have been brought within the ambit of these schemes. Titled health and group insurance schemes, shall provide the facility of treatment and replacement of any defective organ to the artisan and shall provide him Rs 10,000 in case of death. The premium for both of the schemes shall be shared by the Central and State Govt. with artisans having to pay only Rs 400 per annum in case of 1st scheme & Rs 120 only in case of 2nd scheme.
In addition to what has been divulged in details, the role of the Directorate is sprawled over;
- Awards for exquisite Craftsmanship.
- Training Cum Study Tour.
- Establishment of Wood Seasoning Plant.
- Washing and Drying Plant.
Right since its establishment in 1973 the Directorate has been awarding “State Level” Awards to Craftsmen for their best skills. There are almost 430 artisans who have so far benefited by the Awards in different Crafts. The awards conferred are of three categories, First, Second and Third. Merit certificates are also awarded as recognition of the talent of the craftsmen. There has however, been a lull in the process for nine years of turmoil since 1989 due to the obvious reasons. A step taken towards this direction has begun to thaw the ice. The system has been revived and the entries being received from artisans for proper selection over the last 11 years. We have even awarded 17 craftsmen during the year of 1999-2000 with the first award having been taken up from Rs 5,000/-, to 15,000/- the 2nd from Rs 2500/- to 10,000/- 3rd Award Rs 1500/- to 5,000/- respectively. During the successive years till date 92 other craftsmen have been awarded for their exquisite craftsmanship in different crafts.
To keep pace with the changing World, the Directorate has been organizing study tours of the craftsmen to different States of India whereat they would imbibe the new intricacies touched by their fellow colleagues. Financial strains have not allowed continuing this process for the last decade. It is hoped that such tours shall be revived again at its appropriate time.
FUTURE PREFERENCES – Include the much desired washing and drying plant for Carpets. This has not so far materialized because of some impediments that range from non-availability of land and equipment to scarcity of funds. This is the urgently needed structure and requires priority to be accorded. Wood Seasoning plant is yet another requirement for further upliftment of Wood Carving Craft.
The seasoned Walnut Wood shall eradicate the problem of non-availability of raw material. Reports suggest that the spade work in this behalf has already been initiated and other steps to make it happen are afoot.
EXPORT PROMOTION – a sparkling feature of the Directorate is looked after by an Assistant Director. It controls the ingenuity of exporters and allows those traders only who are genuine by all angles. Export permitting certificates are issued by this Section.
Export Promotion has the vast scope. It could over-see the markets in India and abroad and suggest appropriate measures that would fillip the exports in a big way.
Tourist Trade, handed over the Directorate a few years ago, forms a part of the duties of Directorate of Handicrafts. Presently the assignment is controlled by the Development Officer, (NT) Handicrafts Department.
Government Central Market is a permanent show window with 128 stalls, providing facilities to reputed art dealers for selling their craft products. This is a pioneering feature of the directorate and has been under operation since 1952. The Stall Holders are charged a nominal rent of Rs 15/- per month with all facilities available.
The latest addition being Kashmir Haat to the Directorate of Handicrafts. Exhibitions at local level are organized in the area. Primarily as the name suggests, the area is meant for providing opportunity to the Handicraft Dealers only, but some times the Exhibitions of national repute too are organized in the recently established Haat.
EXTENDED ROLE – The role of the department is further extended to collaborate with the Craft Development Institute (CDI) and Indian Institute of Carpet Technology (IICT) for embellishment of the oriental designs having been in use in Kashmir crafts since almost 400 years.
The Craft Development Institute has the wider role to play. It is an institute that trains the promising young men and women with modern facilities in all crafts. The institute has been doing well in its task of making the designs competitive in World Markets. Being careful of its effective role, the Government of India has appointed an entirely dynamic artist of World repute as its head.
The IICT is the first of its kind in Kashmir. It has a special role to play for making Kashmir Carpets more competitive and alluring with change/ modifications in designs. It also provides help to the local Carpet Manufacturers by training them to use new equipment/ tools having been evolved by the institute. An interesting fact of the institute is the introduction of Steel Looms. This is hoped to replace the old fashion wooden looms in the immediate future, as its quality being the durability and light weight too. Both of the Institutes are situated at Bagh-i- Ali Mardan Nowshera Srinagar..