Artisans of J&K in dire need of assistance for a sustainable future
The thousand year old legacy will be lost forever if the govt does not respond to the difficulties that artisans of J&K working in the industry face.
The government, both in the union territory and the Centre, has failed to offer assistance to Jammu and Kashmir’s craftsmen in their efforts to create a sustainable future for themselves and for the industry, at large.
The government’s indifference towards the plight of these uniquely-skilled craftsmen has thrown the whole community into despair.
COVID-19 and resultant lockdown made craftsmen cash-strapped
With fewer sales during the last two years, especially after the pandemic, the artists and craftsmen in the handcraft industry have become cash-strapped and voices of concern have been raised about their condition by social activists and political leaders alike.
Because of the continuous clampdowns and lockdowns due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the governing administration has left the craftsmen high and dry by failing to address their real concerns about the drop in supply and sales cycle.
Artisans of J&K largely ignored in post-COVID rehabilitation effort
The whole sector has been overlooked in the local administration’s post-COVID-19 lockdown rehabilitation effort. The struggling sector has received no significant financial assistance in order to recommence its business.
The government hasn’t come up with anything concrete to secure universal interest subsidies on loans to persons involved in the sector.
In recent years, artists practising diverse crafts such as Khatamband, Pashmina, Copperworks, woodworks, paper mâché, and other such crafts have been living in a bleak and resource-poor environment.
Many craftsmen switching to low-paying jobs
The predicament of craftsmen has reached an all-time low as a result of the COVID-19-induced economic recession.
The lockdown drained the vitality out of an industry that was already struggling due to the adoption of GST. With little help from the government, craftsmen are turning to other low-paying employment opportunities.
The craftsmen have totally depleted their money, and with no way to resume production, the entire community is forced to change careers.
In the long term, this scenario may result in the extinction of whole craft clusters and the migration of third and fourth generation artisans of J&K to new occupations.
Measures like interest-free loans and debt forgiveness needed
As a response, the administration should assess the situation and devise a short- and long-term economic revival strategy for the ailing handicraft industry, failing which the viable sector would not be able to survive in the next decade.
There is an immediate need for simple access to two to three months’ worth of operating capital, either in the form of a grant or zero-interest loans that may be returned as cash flows.
Apart from that, debt forgiveness might go a long way towards assisting the entire community in overcoming the current economic downturn.
The artisans of J&K limp towards revival can only be aided by prompt intervention from the Central government. If the government does not respond to the issues that those working in the industry confront, the thousands-year-old legacy will be gone forever.