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Wicker Artisans of Kashmir Tell Me Why They Worry the Skill Will Die in Silence

They are scared that their skills will die in silence as there's no one left after them to continue.

Published
My Report
4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Wicker work artisans in Kashmir.</p></div>
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Kashmir is known for it's handicrafts. From paper mache to shawls and carpets, you can find everything here.

One such artwork is wicker craft. I visited Shallabugh area in Ganderbal district, which is known for its wickerwork. Upon visiting the place, I spoke to the craftspeople there about their work.

As many as 4,000 people are involved in the production and their day usually starts around 9 am and ends around 4 pm in the evening. The villagers here are mainly dependent on wickerwork for their income.

Many of these workers told me that their craft is now dwindling as many craftspeople affiliated with the sector are forced to seek alternative sources of income.

These workers told me that they don't earn enough as much as they invest. For instance, they usually invest around Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 and the labour charges are about to Rs 6,000 to Rs 10,000.

Later, they go to sell these items in the city by going door to door. The prices of the items vary from Rs 100 to Rs 1,000.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Artisans working in&nbsp;Shalbugh.&nbsp;</p></div>

Artisans working in Shalbugh. 

(Photo courtesy: Faisal Malik)

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<div class="paragraphs"><p>Women working on wicker art in&nbsp;Shalbugh.&nbsp;</p></div>

Women working on wicker art in Shalbugh. 

(Photo courtesy: Faisal Malik)

"We make small and big fruit baskets, but now that a lot of plastic basketers are available in the market, it has affected the demand for the baskets we make."
Abdul Karim, Artisan

The workers feel that the government is not doing enough to help them as there are no schemes for them and it's impossible for them to take a loan from the bank as well.

"Whatever our employer decides to give us, we have to take it, but its bare minimum. I have two kids, and I hardly make Rs 100 to 200 a day, which is just not sufficient for us. We cannot survive on this," said Karim.

Karim later added that nobody ever made progress with this work even though they are skilled at what they do.

"If the government wanted to help us they would purchase the materials or the baskets from us directly. If we go to the bank for loan, we're asked to bring a guarantor. How are we supposed to survive with such low income and also look after our families?"
Gulzar ahmad Khandey, Artisan

The artisans feel that the government should come up with the job policies and accommodate them as they are skilled workers.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>The process of making a wicker basket.</p></div>

The process of making a wicker basket.

(Photo courtesy: Faisal Malik)

The workers told me that their work has been affected after the pandemic. Before 2020, their children used to travel to other places outside of Kashmir to sell these baskets but COVID restrictions and the lockdown made it worse for them.

"I have been in this business since 40 years now. We were doing okay but in the past couple of years this business has been worst hit. COVID-19 remains the main reason of our business being affected. Our children used to sell these items outside Kashmir but COVID has ruined everything."
Ghulam Mohammad, Artisan
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Man making  wicker baskets.&nbsp;</p></div>

Man making wicker baskets. 

(Photo courtesy: Faisal Malik)

The artisans further shared that they feel their skills and the work they do will disappear as their upcoming generation doesn't want to take this up due to various reasons like low income, mismanagement, and being neglected by the government. There's no scheme or policy for the craftsmen involved in this.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Artisans working in the field.</p></div>

Artisans working in the field.

(Photo courtesy: Faisal Malik)

Poor infrastructure, no help from the authorities, less returns has made it difficult to produce traditional wicker work of Kashmir.

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(The author is a freelance writer. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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