Dr. Banarsi Lal, Dr.Suja Nabi Qureshi
Handicrafts are the products that are produced by the artisans, either completely by the hands or with the help of tools or even by the mechanical means as long as the direct manual contribution of the artisans remains the most substantial component of the finished product.
Handicrafts refer to the man-made products often made with simple traditional tools. In J&K handicrafts have remained the backbone since the time immemorial. Handicrafts played a crucial role in the preservation of traditional art, culture, heritage and skills. The crafts like embroidery, carpets, wood carving, costumes, shawls, jewellery, local grass baskets etc. have a significant impact of J&K across the globe. Special skills are also provided to the new learners to promote the handicrafts in J&K. Handicrafts occupy an important position in the economic structure of J&K. There is huge potential of handicrafts in J&K as this sector requires less capital and more labour. If some innovative strategies are made in this direction then this sector can open new employment opportunities in J&K. Some of the handicrafts of J&K are known worldwide because of their attractive designs, high quality and utility. Handicrafts in J&K are greatly helpful in creating the employment opportunities especially for the weaker sections of the society. There are numerous artisans who are directly associated with the handcrafts sector. This sector has huge potential in J&K and more employment opportunities can be created in the Union Territory of J&K, if proper marketing channels are made available. Presently our handicrafts earn around Rs.1700/- crores annually as foreign exchange. This sector is not blooming fully because of lack of proper branding of the products, attractive designs, low capital, competition with machine made products, poor exposure, lack of market intelligence, poor infrastructure etc. Turmoil in J&K has also affected this industry.This industry is facing number of problems and challenges and there is need to explore the possibilities for its revival.There is need to understand the prospects and challenges of handicraft industry of J&K. Handicrafts provide an immense opportunity with low capital and can become a emphatic source of foreign exchange.This sector is labour intensive and can create new avenues of employment especially for the rural people. The handicrafts from J&K have gained worldwide fame for the high quality craftsmanship. Many women are associated with this industry. Handicrafts helps to raise the per capita income of J&K and thus contributes in the GDP of J&K.It has been observed through studies that handicrafts is the second largest industry in J&K after tourism.
Union Territory of J&K is an abode of vast culture and ethnic diversity. Handicrafts are carefully nurtured here for the centuries as different crafts flourished in this charming land which is visited by the millions of tourists across the globe every year. With time these arts gained more recognisation. Presently J&K is known for woolen textiles, embroideries, Pashmina shawls, hand knotted shawls etc. In 2018-19, the exports of J&K handicrafts was 917.66 crores. Although the handicrafts from J&K face tough national and international competition but still this sector has shown promising results because of its uniqueness and utility. There is dire need to promote the artisans of J&K associated with this industry in order to promote this industry. There is need to work on cluster approach to give a boost to this industry. Technical and financial support is important for the artisans to set up units of commercial level. Special training centres need to be established to promote this industry. More and more Self Help Groups (SHGs) of women should be formed to engage in this sector.
Boosting the tourism in J&K can boost the handicrafts industry as the tourists prefer the original hand made products. The increase in the tourists in J&K will directly increase the demand of handicraft products. There are number of schemes for the artisans launched by the govt.but there is lack of awareness of these schemes among the rural people. Awareness camps should be organized in the rural areas to aware the local artisans on these useful schemes. Also the documentations and studies on rural handicrafts can also give beneficial results. There is need to revive the handicraft industry of J&K with new innovations. For instance new techniques of dying, designing, washing etc. need to be revamped. Geographic Indication (GI) Certification can also be provided to certain handicrafts and proper branding and labeling are also very important. Awareness on such kinds of schemes should be created among the artisans. It is very important to expand the market spaces for the handicrafts products. Special efforts are needed for the packaging purpose so as to make the products of national and international level. There should be the minimum involvement of intermediaries so that the artisans can enjoy the full financial profits. At least one handicraft should be perioritised in one district. The skill development trainings should be restructured and some new modules should be reframed by considering the employability and demands of handicrafts. Facilitation centres can be established to guide the artisans about their rights, insurance policies, welfare schemes etc. Raw material centres can also be established from where the artisans can procure the original raw material to make the quality handicrafts. The handicraft industry has huge potential in J&K as it has universal appeal and environment friendly. It can help to generate new employment opportunities in rural areas of J&K. Strenuous efforts are needed to encourage, preserve and promote this industry. Special exhibition shows should be organized to encourage this industry. Some of innovative technologies should be incorporated so as to reduce the price of these commodities. The handicrafts are time consuming and that’s why their prices are high because the labour cost is included in the products. The innovations can reduce their prices and enhance their quality and demand.
Reasi district of Union Territory of J&K is known for its rich cultural heritage and this heritage is transferred from one generation to another. This hilly district of J&K is known for the grass handicrafts since time immemorial. The grass handicrafts in Reasi distt. have their own uniqueness and are liked by the visitors. The grass handicrafts in Reasi distt. such as Chabadi, Binna etc. were fading gradually but recently the farm women of Reasi district has shown strong commitment to revive this sector. Presently they are making not only the Binna and Chabddi but many other products such as laundry bags, footwears, pen stands, dry fruit trays, jewelry box etc. by using the local grass (locally called as Babiyan) and wild palm tree leaves with the co-ordination of JKRLM.JKRLM should be applauded for its exceptional support to the farm women.KVK, Reasi is constantly guiding and motivating the farm women for the commercial production of these handicrafts so that the farm women can fetch more money and improve their socio-economic conditions. This input material is easily available in the hilly areas of Reasi district. Many Self Help Groups (SHGs) from Pouni block of Reasi district have come forward for the revival of these fading handicrafts. They are making very attractive products which are having durability and are environmentally friendly. Initially the farm women were making these handicrafts in an unorganized way for the local use or for sale at low rate. Govt. and Non-Government Organisations are encouraging these SHGs for making these handicrafts of commercial level and facilitating them to sale their produce at good prices. Their handicrafts are exhibited at different levels and many people are coming forward to purchase their products. These farm women have shown innovativeness in their handicrafts and have given new designs and dyes by which their markets have increased. They are making strenuous efforts to revive these crafts and modernizing them with their zeal and innovativeness. All these products are environment friendly and helpful to raise the income and employment among the rural women of the area. The demand of these handicrafts is increasing day-by-day because of their usefulness and uniqueness. Their innovative efforts are very supportive to protect and preserve these handicrafts. With their endeavors, these farm women have got recognisation and confident. They have developed entrepreneurial skills. This venture can prove as the crucial source of their livelihood and transform their lives.
Dr. Banarsi Lal, Dr.Suja Nabi Qureshi