Dr. Banarsi Lal, Dr. Suja Nabi Qureshi
Artisan products are products made by artisans, either entirely by hand, or using tools, or even by mechanical means, as long as the direct manual contribution of artisans remains the most important component of the finished product. .
Handicrafts refer to man-made products, often made with simple traditional tools. At J&K, craftsmanship has remained the backbone since time immemorial. Craftsmanship has played a crucial role in the preservation of art, culture, heritage and traditional skills. Crafts like embroidery, rugs, woodcarving, costumes, shawls, jewelry, local grass baskets, etc. have a significant impact on J&K around the world. Special skills are also provided to new learners to promote crafting at J&K. Craftsmanship occupies an important place in the economic structure of J&K. There is huge potential for craftsmanship at J&K as this sector requires less capital and more labor. If some innovative strategies are developed in this direction, this sector can open up new employment opportunities for J&K. Some of J&K’s handcrafted products are known around the world due to their attractive designs, high quality and usefulness. J&K craftsmanship is very helpful in creating employment opportunities, especially for the weaker strata of society. Many artisans are directly associated with the craft sector. This sector has enormous potential in J&K and more job opportunities can be created in the Union Territory of J&K, if proper marketing channels are made available. Currently, our handicrafts earn around Rs.1700/- crores per year in foreign currency. This sector does not fully flourish due to lack of proper product branding, attractive designs, low capital, competition with machine-made products, poor exposure, lack of market information, poor infrastructure, etc. The industry is facing a number of issues and challenges and there is a need to explore possibilities for its revival. It is necessary to understand the prospects and challenges of the J&K cottage industry. Crafting offers a huge opportunity with low capital and can become an important source of currency. This sector is labor intensive and can create new employment opportunities, especially for rural populations. J&K’s craftsmanship has gained worldwide acclaim for its high quality craftsmanship. Many women are associated with this industry. Crafting helps increase J&K’s per capita income and thus contributes to J&K’s GDP. It has been observed through studies that craftsmanship is J&K’s second largest industry after tourism.
The Union Territory of J&K is an abode of vast culture and ethnic diversity. Craftsmanship has been carefully nurtured here for centuries as different crafts have flourished in this charming country which is visited by millions of tourists across the globe every year. Over time, these arts have gained recognition. Currently, J&K is known for its woolen textiles, embroidery, Pashmina shawls, hand-knotted shawls, etc. In 2018-2019, J&K craft exports were 917.66 crore. Although J&K craftsmanship faces tough domestic and international competition, this sector has nevertheless shown promising results due to its uniqueness and usefulness. There is an urgent need to promote J&K artisans associated with this industry in order to promote this industry. It is necessary to work on the cluster approach to give a boost to this industry. Technical and financial support is important for artisans to set up commercial level units. Special training centers should be created to promote this industry. More and more Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) should be formed to engage in this sector.
Boosting tourism in J&K can boost the handicraft industry, as tourists prefer original handcrafted products. The increase in the number of tourists to J&K will directly increase the demand for handicrafts. There are a number of programs for artisans initiated by the government, but there is a lack of awareness of these programs among rural people. Awareness camps should be organized in rural areas to sensitize local artisans on these useful devices. Also documentation and studies on rural craftsmanship can also give beneficial results. There is a need to revive the J&K cottage industry with new innovations. For example, new techniques in dyeing, design, washing, etc. must be rearranged. Geographical Indication (GI) certification can also be provided to some artisanal products and proper branding and labeling is also very important. Awareness of these types of projects should be created among artisans. It is very important to expand market spaces for handicrafts. Special efforts are needed for packaging to make the products national and international level. There should be minimal involvement of intermediaries so that artisans can fully benefit from the financial benefits. At least one craft must be perized in a district. Skills development trainings should be restructured and some new modules should be reframed taking into account employability and craft requirements. Facilitation centers can be set up to guide artisans on their rights, insurance policies, social protection programs, etc. Raw material centers can also be established from which artisans can source the original raw material to make quality handicrafts. The craft industry has enormous potential at J&K as it has universal appeal and is environmentally friendly. This can help generate new employment opportunities in J&K’s rural areas. Strenuous efforts are needed to encourage, preserve and promote this industry. Special exhibitions should be organized to encourage this industry. Some innovative technologies should be incorporated in order to reduce the price of these products. Handicrafts are time consuming and that is why their prices are high as the cost of labor is included in the products. Innovations can reduce their prices and improve their quality and demand.
The Reasi District of the Union Territory of J&K is known for its rich cultural heritage and this heritage is passed down from generation to generation. This hilly neighborhood of J&K has been known for crafting weed since time immemorial. Grass crafts at Reasi distt. have their own uniqueness and are appreciated by visitors. Grass crafts at Reasi distt. such as Chabadi, Binna etc. were gradually disappearing, but recently women farmers in the Reasi district have shown a strong commitment to reviving this sector. Currently, they not only manufacture Binna and Chabddi, but many other products such as laundry bags, shoes, pen holders, dry fruit trays, jewelry box, etc. using local grass (locally called Babiyan) and wild palm leaves with the coordination of JKRLM. JKRLM should be applauded for their outstanding support to women farmers. KVK, Reasi constantly guides and motivates women farmers for the commercial production of these items handicrafts so that women farmers can earn more money and -economic conditions. This entrance material is readily available in the hilly areas of Reasi district. Many Self Help Groups (SHGs) in the Pouni block of Reasi District have come forward to revive this declining craft. They make very attractive, durable and eco-friendly products. Initially, women farmers made these handicrafts in an unorganized manner for local use or for sale at low prices. Govt. and non-governmental organizations are encouraging these self-help groups to make these commercial-level handicrafts and help them sell their products at good prices. Their handicrafts are displayed at different levels and many people show up to buy their products. These women farmers were innovative in their crafts and gave new designs and dyes through which their markets increased. They are making strenuous efforts to revive these crafts and modernize them with their zeal and spirit of innovation. All these products are environmentally friendly and useful for increasing the income and employment of rural women in the region. The demand for these handicrafts is increasing day by day due to their usefulness and uniqueness. Their innovative efforts are very conducive to the protection and preservation of these handicrafts. Thanks to their efforts, these women farmers are recognized and confident. They have developed entrepreneurial skills. This business can turn out to be the crucial source of their livelihood and transform their lives.