“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Commentary in the Rising Kashmir addresses the impact on economic downturn on Kashmiri artisans

Kashmiri artisans hit

There is no secret about the fact that the depression in the economies world over is directly hitting businesses dependent on exports. The exports from India have suffered a drop of 22 percent in January this year. Back here in Valley, the sales of Kashmir carpets and other handicrafts that generate substantial foreign exchange earnings for the State are also facing a slowdown.

Reports reveal that the market of carpets is already showing a downturn with international sales getting hit by more than 90 percent during the last four months. Now that is a big problem for the Rs 1500 crore carpet industry of the state as the industry has been trying to get out of the lean cycle for the last two decades. The global financial meltdown has added to its woes with too much dependence on lucrative European markets telling on the employment of artisans and labour force directly connected with the trade. Industry players estimate that more than 20,000 workers handling post production processes have been rendered jobless due to steep fall in carpet demand. Many of the units that handle trimming, washing and stretching have already laid off a sizeable portion of their workforce. Even exporters have signalled that the situation is bound to get worse as consumer spending has dwindled to an all time low in Europe and United States of America.

This will directly have an impact on two lakh skilled artisans that are associated with the carpet manufacturing process. Exhibitions are either witnessing no sales or have been cancelled altogether. Even the payments due from their counterparts in different parts of the world have suffered which in turn has disrupted the production cycle here. Other sectors like paper machie, walnut wood carving, shawl and crewel manufacturing have also got hit. People associated with these activities are bound to suffer and this will have a ripple effect on other sectors as well with more job losses.

The State government was not able to project the huge and recurring losses that export industry of Jammu and Kashmir has suffered during the past year before the central government. This is evident from the fact that no stimulus package for the Kashmir artisan sector was announced in the recent interim budget by the central government. Given the nature of international recession that is engulfing more and more nations with each passing day the downturn is expected to get worse in near future. It will be worthwhile if measures are initiated before hand to tackle the recession so as to reduce the impact of losses to minimum and prevent more job losses.