Six artisan clusters sanctioned for Shehr-i-Khas

JAMMU-The Centre has sanctioned a project for Cluster Development of six crafts namely Paper Machie, Pashmina weaving, Aari-Crewel Embroidery, Kani Shawl, Sozni Embroidery and Willow Wicker. The State Government is also likely to secure approval for four other crafts namely Leather, Copperware, Walnut Wood Carving and Khatamband. More than 17,000 artisans will be benefited through this project in the next 3 years.

It is pertinent to mention that project was conceptualized during the visit of Central delegation headed by Cabinet Secretary in October, 2011 wherein it was felt essential to adopt a strategy of cluster development, for providing common facilities upgrading skill, and fostering market linkages in order to enhance the substantiality and viability of these handicrafts clusters.

The process of formulation of project was spearheaded by the Chief Secretary Madhav Lal and JKEDI was made nodal agency for coordinating the cluster development efforts for these handicrafts based clusters for their holistic development. The institute appointed IL&FS Cluster Development Initiative Limited as Cluster Development Agency  (CDA) for the project, for providing end-to-end solution ranging from identification of feasible projects, mobilization of funds and implementation of the same for the comprehensive development of the identified clusters.

Before preparing Detailed Project Report (DPR), visits were undertaken to household units to understand the production process and study the technology and product related gaps. Consultations with the artisan unions were held to understand the key challenges and assess the need for intervention in selected areas. The groups represented were exporters, manufacturers, firms, traders, artisans and business development service providers.

One Cluster-level consultation (for each cluster) and one State-level validation workshop was organized post-preparation of the Diagnostic study. It included a detailed presentation on scheme objectives, guidelines, implementation methodologies and findings from the diagnostic study of the concerned Cluster. The cluster-level consultation had the participation of cluster artisans, traders and representation from the State Handicraft Department. 

The State-level workshop, chaired by the Chief Secretary Shri Madhav Lal facilitated discussion and debate on the major challenges in cluster and design interventions to address these effectively. It was aimed at building a consensus among cluster stakeholders and the State Government on the most suitable interventions that would lead to inclusive development of the cluster.

During the preparation of the project report it was also observed by the Chief Secretary that the scope of the project should be extended to certain activities in Down Town Srinagar so that the area be revitalized. Accordingly presentation was made to the  Chief Minister  by the consultant and all the line departments were asked to work in tandem for the development of Down Town Srinagar  with the view to promote craft related tourism and also  to ensure revitalization of Down Town Srinagar. The project mainly focuses on promotion of crafts, natural and cultural built heritage. Development of Cluster Street includes development of crafts tourism trail, up-gradation of the riverfront with improvement of the Ghats as public spaces and development of a riverfront Plaza cum Crafts Bazaar as Hub with decentralized crafts kiosks along the Ghats as Spokes.

The State Government has worked extensively in this field in last six months and with active involvement of District Administration of Srinagar, Srinagar Municipal Corporation and Industries and Commerce Department, it has resulted into convergence of resources and expertise of these and other departments. The ultimate aim to is to honour the contribution of artisans of Down Town Srinagar and to promote the cultural and heritage tourism activities. The boat services in river Jhelum have already been started.    

 The major activities under the cluster development are Skill Upgradation Training, holding of Integrated Design & Technical Development Workshops, Entrepreneurship Development, setting up of Common Facility Centres and Raw Material Bank, holding Local & Nation Level Exhibitions, and those related to Branding & Publicity, Promotion of Producer Companies and Margin Money Support. It is expected that there will be substantial increase in cluster turnover and earnings of the artisans through these efforts.

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