The Jammu and Kashmir administration has unveiled a significant advancement for the region's handicraft industry post article 370. The implementation of Geographical Indication (GI) tags on seven Kashmiri handicraft products has been coupled with the launch of the Handicraft and Handloom Policy in 2020. This dual approach has breathed new life into Kashmiri crafts, propelling them onto both national and international stages. Artisans entrenched in these traditions are reaping substantial benefits from the Handicraft and Handloom Policy 2020, as well as the GI Tags.
Mahmood Ahmad Shah, Director of Handicrafts and Handloom Kashmir, stated that seven iconic Kashmiri crafts, including Pashmina, Kashmir Sozni, Kani Shawl, Papier-mâché, Kashmiri Crafts, Khatamband, and walnut wood carving, have been officially granted Geographical Indication (GI) Tags, firmly establishing their origin in the Kashmir region.
"The GI tags for Pashmina were initiated by our department a few years ago. In the case of Pashmina, 20,000 GI Labels have been issued, along with 9,800 GI labels for carpets," Shah elaborated.
For non-GI crafts such as Namdah, Gamba, crewel, chain-stitch, and copper crafts, QR Code-based labels will be introduced. This strategy aims to enable customers to readily differentiate between handmade and machine-made products during their purchases. The introduction of GI Tags and QR-based labels is anticipated to bolster customer confidence in the authenticity of Kashmiri craft products within both national and international markets.
Shah emphasized, "The GI Tags and QR code-based labels on handicraft products will not only encourage the consumption of local products but also translate into substantial economic advantages for artisans and weaving communities in Jammu and Kashmir."
These initiatives hold the potential to authenticate the origin and quality of crafts, ensuring enhanced quality assurance both domestically and internationally. This, in turn, stands to benefit craftsmen, traders, and exporters alike.
"This marks a pivotal stride in the preservation and global promotion of Kashmiri handmade crafts. The integration of GI Tags and QR-code mechanisms will reinforce product authenticity and quality, fostering heightened global demand for our handicraft products. Ultimately, this will contribute to the expansion of the handicraft industry and boost the income of artisans from the Kashmir valley," he said.
Over the past year, craft exports have surged by an impressive 98 percent in international markets. This surge can be attributed to the growing trust that Kashmiri crafts have garnered on the international stage, consequently driving higher sales for exported products.
Shah revealed, "We currently undertake GI procedures for six craft products at the Craft Development Institute (CDI). Meanwhile, the GI tagging of Kashmiri carpets is conducted at the Indian Institute of Craft Technology."
Handicrafts and Handloom Policy 2020
In the wake of the revocation of Articles 370 and 35A, the Jammu and Kashmir Government has pioneered the Handicrafts and Handloom Policy 2020, marking a historic first for the region. This visionary policy extends a spectrum of schemes tailored for the welfare of artisans in Jammu and Kashmir. Schemes encompass Financial Assistance for Cooperative Societies, the Artisans Credit Card, the Karkhandar Scheme, Educational Assistance for artisans' children, and a notable 10 percent incentive for GI-certified export products.
Craft tourism: A resurgent avenue
Craft tourism has emerged as a significant facet of Jammu and Kashmir's heritage. Over the past three years, the region has witnessed an influx of both national and international tourists, magnifying the prominence of craft tourism in the Kashmir valley. The artisans responsible for crafting diverse handicrafts have benefited considerably from this surge in tourist activity, translating into improved income opportunities.
Kashmiri Handicraft artisans garner acclaim
Kashmiri handicraft artisans have achieved remarkable recognition, clinching two Shilp Guru awards and six National awards across various craft categories in the preceding year, 2022.
Artisan ingenuity adorns New Parliament Building
In a historic achievement, artisans from the Budgam district of central Kashmir assembled twelve Silk Kashmiri handmade carpets. These works of art, crafted by 48 artisans from the Khag tehsil, graced the new parliament building on Rajpath. Prime Minister NarendraModi inaugurated the building this year, spotlighting the artisans' skill and dedication.