The authorities in Jammu and Kashmir are planning to introduce a legislation to preserve the world famous textile, Pashmina. As there are a rapidly increasing power looms spinning imitation products which is posing serious challenge to the very existence of Pashmina shawls.
Once the legislation is passed and Pashmina is included in the reserved category, the power looms spinning Pashmina shawls manifold but the genuineness and superiority of the product have been compromised will become illegal.
The state handicrafts department is working on a proposal to get Pashmina included in the items reserved exclusively for handloom, by amending the existing Handloom Act. Under the Handloom Act, the definition of handloom is traditional loom other than power loom, said Director of Handicrafts Tariq Ahmad Ganaie.
The raw material of Pashmina, called 'Taar' in local parlance, is very soft and suited for traditional loom. Taar cannot sustain the force in a power loom and as a result nylon and other synthetic fibers are added to make it strong. This is called as fake Pashmina.
At present handicrafts department cannot bar power looms from spinning Pashmina shawls as the power loom users have argued that they have got registration from the industries department for spinning wool and they say that Pashmina is also a wool.
But, the genuine Pashmina should fulfill three main specifications: it should be obtained from under the fleece of mountain goat Capra Hircus, mostly found in Ladakh region; the fibres known as 'Pashm' should have a diameter of 12 to 16 microns; and it should be hand spun.
Hence, there is an urgent need to reserve this item exclusively for handloom and preserve this craft for future, Ganaie said, adding that once the law is in place, its implementation will be the responsibility of his department.
The department has a sophisticated laboratory to check genuineness of the products and label it as pure. Machine-made Pashmina is a fake Pashmina for all practical purposes. Once power looms are stopped then the role of this lab comes into play, said the Director of Handloom.
Last August, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah opened the Testing and Quality Certification Centre at Craft Development Institute here to label genuine Pashmina shawls, after testing originality of the fabric, finesse of thread, spinning method and weaving technology.
Ganaie said that the low production cost encouraged people to use power looms. While Rs 20,000 is the cost incurred on spinning one kg of Taar by traditional methods, the cost comes down to only Rs 2,000 in power looms. In fact, some artisans in Kashmir have started using synthetic 'Taar'.
As an immediate measure, an awareness programme will be launched to educate people about the genuineness of the product. They want to create awareness among people about it because most of them don't know what is being sold to them. At least the seller would have this fear that the buyer is aware for the product.
With such measures put in place and use of power handlooms for weaving Pashmina is stopped, it can become a Rs 2,000-crore industry. During 2013-14, Pashmina products worth Rs 400 crore were exported, if it is protected, the trade can touch Rs 2,000 crore annually.
The director said that they had not labelled any Pashmina product at the Testing and Quality Certification Centre till now. There is a procedural delay as they have not got user identities from the GI registry in Chennai for individual artisans. To get labelled, authorisation by the user identification is a must.
Pashmina does not only come from Kashmir but also from China and Scotland but those are machine woven unlike the Kashmiri product. The uniqueness of Kashmiri Pashmina lies in the weaving process, and not in the material as such.
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