For the nearly 35,000 papier mache artisans in and around Srinagar, the past 15 months have been difficult. The revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was followed by a shutdown in the Valley; then came the lockdown and there has been no let up since.
“We have been sitting at home for many months,” said Hakim Gulam, a papier mache artisan from Srinagar.
The art is concentrated mainly around downtown Srinagar and employs around 45,000 artisans — besides 35,000 in Srinagar, there are around 10,000 in Budgam district.
Masrat Ul-Islam, Director-Handicrafts, J&K Administration, acknowledged the setback the pandemic has caused to the art and crafts sector. “All kinds of handlooms and handicrafts have suffered,” he said.
Now, taking cognizance of the difficulty artisans have faced amid the pandemic, the Union Territory administration will, for the first time, create a database of their expertise and help them showcase products to a global audience through the online medium.
Earlier this week, Baseer Ahmad Khan, advisor to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, chaired a meeting of the state Handicrafts and Handloom department, along with Jammu & Kashmir Industries, in this regard.
According to sources, Khan directed Handicrafts and Handloom department officials to take measures for uplifting economic conditions of artisans. He said the department should initiate steps to help artisans increase production and showcase their products. He wanted them to explore possibilities for virtual opportunities for artisans to showcase products. He also asked the department to explore possibilities for convergence with the National Rural Livelihood Mission.
To increase marketing of handicraft and handloom products, the UT administration has directed officials to increase the frequency of fairs and identify locations along Srinagar-Jammu highway for marketing of the products.
It has been decided that the department would compile the number of artisans working in each district so that the department knows about the number of artisans associated with a particular craft, said sources.
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