Srinagar, Jun 15: The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, one of the oldest apex trade body in the country, held an interaction with stakeholders belonging to the Handicrafts Sector. The meeting was presided over by Nasir Hamid Khan, Senior Vice President Parvaiz Bhat, Chairman Handicrafts Sub-Committee and Rauf Ahmad Punjabi, Chairman Trade Fairs Sub-Committee also participated in the interaction.
A statement issued to Kashmir Glory reads that Parvez Bhat informed the members that the KCC&I was fully conscious about the problems being faced by this important sector but the situation prevailing since the last one year had frustrated the revival efforts.
Rauf Ahmad Punjabi informed the members that the KCC&I had been facilitating the participation of it’s members in prestigious fairs and exhibitions and there were many in the pipeline when the disruptions occurred.
He stated that now the COVID-19 situation had also caused major losses to the traditional markets for our products and experts had predicted a period of deep recession. This was now a time to stay together and help each other survive till some market stability is achieved, the statement reads.
Parvez Bhat stated that post August 2019 the handicraft sector had been badly hit due to the internet ban and other restrictions which prevented exporters from shipping of domestic and foreign consignments. In this situation, the KCC&I was doing everything possible to see that the most vulnerable sections of our artisans and weavers were benefited from various enabling schemes announced by the Government.
He stated that, as in other economic sectors, members of the Kashmiri handicrafts sector were also unable to avail benefits due to the previous stressed condition of their accounts. He informed the members that the KCC&I had taken up the issue with concerned authorities for bringing the artisans, weavers and other self-help groups under the ambit of the various packages, the statement reads.
Members raised the losses being incurred by exporters of woollen shawls due to the replacement of the MEIS by ROSCTL from March, 2019. The ROSCTL suffered from discriminatory rates which benefited exporters of low value shawls whereas exporters of high value Pashmina and embroidered shawls were put to a loss due to the disparity in the schedule. This had resulted in a sharp decline in the export of Kashmiri Shawls and other allied products, the statement reads.
Parvez Bhat informed the members that the matter had already been taken up with the Director General of Foreign Trade and had to now be taken up with the Ministry of Textiles for change in the rates of ROSCTL. The matter was also brought to the attention of the Hon’ble Union Minister for Finance in March, 2020.
Parvez Bhat assured the stakeholders representing the dying sectors of Chain Stitch, Needle Point and Crewel Embroidery that the Kashmir Chamber would leave no stone unturned for preserving these traditional arts.
Other issues discussed included the eligibility of members of the handicraft sector for availing benefits of the MSME Packages and extension of dates for export remittances by the RBI due to delays in receipt of payments from foreign buyers, waiver of loans taken by artisans, capital infusion at concessional interest rates, the statement reads.
Rauf Ahmad Punjabi stated that the artisans who were provided loans by the J&K Bank on concessional interest rates were caught in a debt trap because of the delayed reimbursement of it’s share of interest by the Government. This caused spiralling of the bank loans which added to the burden of the artisans instead of providing support to them, as originally intended.
He also suggested that the KCC&I should take up the issue for waiver of the remaining portion of loan amount of the artisans. He also urged that in view of this sector facing imminent recession for the next couple of years, the Government could intervene by activating various Corporations and Boards like the Handicrafts Board, Government Arts Emporium and Khadi Village Industries Board for directly purchasing handicraft products from the artisans and weavers. This would provide critical support to the most vulnerable and need sections of the community, the statement reads.
Nasir Hamid Khan briefed the members about the various initiatives undertaken by the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry and stated that the present crisis had very serious ramifications of the handicrafts sector and the Kashmir Chamber was keeping a close watch to formulate new counter-strategies for tiding over the crisis, the statement further read.