Arts And Culture Featured Featured Videos & Creators Livelihoods

Needle Workers in Kashmir Bearing the Brunt: Demands Increase in Pay

Video By: Rafiqa Bano | Article By: Grace Jolliffe

In Kashmir, needleworkers are selling their shawls at half of its worth. Lack of markets and the role of middlemen, forcing them to work for meager pay. 

Bashir Ahmed is a Sozni kaem (needlework) artisan from Kashmir. When his father died, he took care of his family. Needlework was his only source of income. But what he earns now is not enough for his living. Many other needleworkers like Bashir, demands to increase their wages.

Handlooms are an important sector in our country. Having its own special weave, pattern, and style, they are a product of rich culture and hard work. It is one of the largest employment producing industry. Employing over 6.5 million families across the nation. However, the livelihood of the artisan is often desirable due to many reasons. Needlework artisans from Kashmir are facing austerity due to the wide gap in pay. “We get Rs. 400-500 as wages for 1 shawl and it takes about 15 – 20 days to finish it. We are not satisfied with what we earn”, says a needlework artisan. Most of these shawls, require multiple workers to create a masterpiece. It takes months to complete a shawl, sometimes years. “If we estimate, it costs one lakh, for working on a shawl. It takes us years to complete one shawl”, said Bashir Ahmed. Bashir takes the shawl to the market in Srinagar. He knows no other markets to sell his shawls. His master offers him Rs.50,000 for a shawl. 

The Union Budget 2018-19, reduced the handloom sector budget by 36%. It is less than 2/3rds of what it got in the previous budget. Preserving and protecting the skills of traditional crafts like this is a growing challenge. Urban spaces try to manipulate with the authenticity of the work and labour.  Artisans are often left with no choice but to sell their product with no profit. With no appropriate wage increase, these artisans are breathing in hand-to-mouth conditions. “Government should set up some centers and directly contact the artisans. And if we want to sell our product directly to the customers, such centers should bridge the gap between the artisans and customers”, ideates Bashir. 

To protect this art, Jammu and Kashmir Handicrafts Department started a training programme across 553 centers. Unfortunately, these centers don’t have instructors or masters. Young girls, who come back from school do needlework till night. They seek this as an opportunity and demands employment, to earn a wage and finance their further studies. Being a labour intensive occupation, Kashmir needleworker’s demands raise in their wages. 

Support Handworkers by calling Handicrafts Department, Kashmir, at +0194-2472065.

About the author


Leave a Comment