Poor wages received by Kashmiri artisans, which are forcing many to give up the trade, figured in the speech of chief minister Omar Abdullah on Sunday, as he asked big manufacturers to ensure that enough money flows into these "magical hands".
"Ensure that enough money goes down to the artisans whose skill and magical workmanship is responsible for high returns of products like carpet, pashmina shawls, Sozini, wood-carving and papier-mâché," said Omar while addressing the Federation of Indian Export Organisations' (FIEO) meet Srinagar.
The CM's statement has come at a time when traditional artisan families in the Valley are switching to other trades due to poor wages. An independent study claims that production of various crafts and shawls have dropped with many artisans leaving the trade to take up more lucrative jobs.
"Unless you give them the right share of profits that you earn by the sale of these products, I fear that they will lose their enthusiasm and interest in this trade. If an artisan does not earn substantial living from his skill and the product, which fetches handsome amounts at the terminal market, why should he stick to this activity," the CM pointed out.
Admitting that the offspring of master craftsmen do not want to venture into this field, the chief minister said, "They want to struggle and get government jobs rather than taking up the noble activity of handicrafts, which have earned Jammu and Kashmir name and fame since times immemorial."
The government, the chief minister said, had taken a number of measures to ensure smooth inflow of raw material to artisans. A special certificating mechanism was put in place through the Craft Development Institute for certifying Kashmiri Pashmina, and putting an electronic tag to this effect on every handmade Pashmina shawl manufactured here.
"I am aware that the majority of manufacturers are honest and do not indulge in unscrupulous dealings, yet it is their responsibility to identify the 'bad apple' who is responsible for earning the industry and the people associated with it a bad name," said Omar.
Handicrafts, carpets and shawls continue to be the mainstay of Kashmir's economy.