STATE TIMES NEWS
SRINAGAR: Various prominent Panchayat representatives from various areas of Dangerpora-Sonawari district Bandipora on Monday joined the Apni Party at its office in Lal Chowk Srinagar.The new entrants to Apni Party–Manzoor Ahmad Kawa, Sarpanch Dangarpora, Block Ganastan, Bilal Ahmad Rather, Ali Mohammad Sofi and Nazir Ahmad Sofi Panchs from Dangarpora Sonawari-Bandipora district were welcomed by Noor Mohammad Sheikh, party District President Srinagar, Irfan Naqib Incharge Zadibal Constituency, Ajaz Ahmad Rather Zonal President Amirakadal Constituency and Social Activist Sajid Bhat from Indira Nagar. On this occasion, the former legislator and Apni Party district president Noor Mohammad Sheikh appealed to Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha to address the sufferings of artisans associated with the Handicrafts sector in district Srinagar.“While the civil society organizations and the government have stepped in to provide some relief to the urban poor and migrants, Handicrafts artisans have been largely ignored. Especially the workers aligned to artisans who, like migrant workers in construction, live hand-to-mouth. Because they do not fall in the essential services category, they have had to stop production,” Sheikh observed.The Apni Party district president said that the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) spring fair 2020 (the biggest platform for artisans to get overseas orders) has been canceled. “EPCH estimates an Rs 8,000-10,000 crore loss to the sector and closure of 60-80 percent units this year. While bigger artisans use other retailers and exports to reach their markets, cancellation of regular, scheduled exhibitions by the government, Crafts Council of India, Dastkar, Dastkari Haat, and private players have taken away the primary sales channel of numerous small artisan units,” he added.Sheikh said that in the month of March, weavers and printers were ready with their summer lines to catch the season’s demand. “However, the sudden lockdown necessitated by the COVID-19 has resulted in the piling up of this summer stock with no immediate avenues to reach buyers. Adding to their woes, business to business orders have either been canceled or deferred and payments have not been released. All of this has led to cash inflows down to zero, and funds blocked in stock,” Sheikh opined.He said that with near-zero sales now for over a month (since March), artisans currently have no savings to restart production, and also face other production challenges like unavailability of raw materials or access to water. “This would result in their not being able to service orders and customers even when the lockdown is lifted and demand slowly starts to pick up,” he added.Sheikh said that like any other sector, handicrafts artisans are over a year into the lockdown and are still awaiting an acknowledgment of the crisis in this sector. “The plight of the craft communities needs much more attention and urgent intervention,” he demanded.
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