Kashmir's Ailing Carpet Industry
18 September 2005
Srinagar: Kashmir carpet industry is of Persian origin. The trade, which has been handed down by the great artisans of Iran, flourished during the Mughal rule in Kashmir. However, the Persian culture influenced the Kashmiri carpet for quite a long time. It was only after a long period of time that Kashmiri carpet acquired an indigenous character. With the introduction of the design patterns of shawls, traditional paisley, leaves and flowers the Kashmir carpet attained a high degree of perfection in 16th and 17th centuries under the Mughal emperors. Although in India the origin of hand-knotted carpets can be traced back more than 2000 years, in Kashmir, however, its history begins with the intrusion of Mughals. With the tinge of local artistic magnificence the Kashmiri carpet attained a high degree of perfection and carved out a unique place in the international market. However, a look at the present state of carpet industry in Kashmir makes one highly disappointed with the role of the government. Despite having all the potential for generating huge employment and earning bulk of foreign reserves, the low allocation by the government for this sector has truncated its growth to a limited size and curtailed its reach in the national market. India is a huge market for carpet industry. With the growing demand for the carpet in the country, the outside Kashmir carpet manufacturing units have cashed in on this opportunity by increasing their production. The state governments have also played a significant role in terms of introducing artisan friendly schemes and enhancing the financial allocation for this sector. However, when it comes to Kashmir, the government here has apparently not been so enthusiastic to underpin the industry. The results are obvious: 90 per cent demand for carpets in India is being meted out by the carpet manufacturing units at Amritsar, Agra, Jaipur (Rajasthan), Eluru and Warangal (A.P). The Mirzapur-Bhadohi belt in U.P. has immerged as one of the main carpet manufacturing places in India contributing to a substantial portion in Indian market. Although the countrywide transformation in carpet industry has been witnessed in Kashmir also, government's indifference towards this sector has failed to make it a vibrant economic activity. Though the government is boasting of taking measures to encourage the growth of the handicrafts industry - carpet being one of the essential components of it - with abysmally low allocations for this sector the carpet industry has not grown on the scale it ought to have. Against an allocation of Rs 19.50 crore made for carpet industry in 1974-75, the budget allocation for this sector after 24 years see a meagre increase of 4.5 crores by reaching to Rs 24 crore during 1998-99. Even as the government for the social security of artisans has introduced health and group insurance that provides the family of the artisans a free treatment cover, most of these schemes have remained confined to the papers. The state has failed to sustain its export output growth. In 1973-74 state exported carpets worth 400 quintals. Even as this figure reached to all time high 5750 quintals in 1995-96 it again slashed down to mere 650 quintals in 1999-2000. The fluctuation in export figures besides debilitating the industry has arrested it from tapping the growing market in India and abroad. On the production front although the figures are satisfactory the state carpet industrial sector has failed to keep pace with the growing outside state manufacturing units. In 1974-75 there was an estimated production of Rs 1.38 crores. In 2002-03 it reached a whopping 655.71 crores with 94,400 persons in this trade. During this period the growth in the outside state units has increased mani-fold. Experts believe that the government's failure to provide necessary training to the local artisans is yet another reason restraining many a youth to come in this field. With the result the innovative techniques and new talent has eluded this sector. In 1990-91 the number of training centres run by directorate of handicrafts was 513 where 8000 persons were trained. After a decade i.e. in 2002-03 the number of training institutes increased only by 40 (reaching to 553 training centres) and the number of trainees increased by only 100 (8100 at present). Number of handloom training centres was 58 (handloom weaving) in 1991 and trainees trained were 546 in 2001-003 it was only 59 and trainees trained dwindled to 476. It is high time that the state took measures towards enhancing the budget allocation for this sector which has the potential to absorb thousands and thousands of our youth and earn bulk of foreign money for the state. There is a tremendous scope for the improvement in this sector so that the 90 per cent Indian market that has been taken by the outside state carpet traders is gained. The expertise and excellence in designs we have, the need is the government cooperation and schemes to help the local dealers to grow.