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Spare a thought for Pashmina weavers

Rachna Sharma.

Rachna Sharma.   | Photo Credit: 23dmcpashmina1

A new initiative to spread awareness about the Pashmina weavers’ struggle.

Pashmina shawls and outfits are much sought after. But rarely do we see someone paying attention to the hardworking Kashmiri weavers who do the job of painstakingly collecting the discarded wool of a special variety of goat, then hand spinning and hand weaving them. The magic they create with their hands produces Pashmina which has the unique capacity of accentuating the beauty of any cloth which is worn with it.

With their perseverance, these weavers make sure that the rare and exorbitantly priced Pashmina products are out in the market but the grim reality is that they themselves live in abject poverty. Rampant production of fake Pashmina outside Jammu and Kashmir, involvement of middlemen and other factors are making the sustenance of weavers difficult. Taking it into account, Rachna Sharma, a Kashmiri who was an entrepreneur earlier, is creating awareness about the need to work for the betterment of the weaving community.

As the goodwill ambassador, Rachna recently conducted a workshop at Harvard Business School which saw participation of students of 45 nationalities. “There are multiple factors why these weavers now find themselves struggling to live a decent life. First and foremost, they are up against climate change and this rare specie of goat is on the verge of becoming extinct.

People need to understand that Pashmina is part of our heritage. If this goat becomes extinct where will these families of weavers migrate?

Luckily, we have people like Babar Afzal, an engineer who voluntarily decided to become an educated shepherd. I saw vision in what he is doing and he is working right with these weavers.”

The general perception is that India produces a lot of Pashmina but in reality this is not the case.

“Indians have an incorrect assumption that we produce bulk of Pashmina. We produce only seven per cent of the global consumption. It is China which is producing 70 per cent. Secondly, only in certain portions of the mighty Himalayas do we find a special variety of goat from whose wool Pashmina is made. These weavers show a lot of patience and perseverance as they wait for the goat to shed its hair and then they collect it. But this trade has been badly hit by climate change.”

People outside the Valley only know that the State is battling terrorism but nobody spares a thought for the plight of the thousands of weavers and their families.

“For the betterment of these weavers, we plan to build strong houses and enable their children to reap the advantage of modern education. We do not want them to be dependent on us but have a self sustaining system.”

Apart from climate change, the weavers’ business has been affected due to fake Pashmina coming in from Punjab. “In Ludhiana fake Pashmina is being made.” But Rachna is only the face of the brand. The initiative is the brainchild of Babar Afzal.

Since Babar stays in the remote region of Ladakh, he could only send a small note on email, saying “I envision a world where animals are protected and celebrated and their living space is harnessed to a high quality eco-system that is based on the solid foundation of love.

A worldwide celebration of love and the greatest spiritual revolution will be experienced when animals will feel as joyous as humans or children.”

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 5:59:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/spare-a-thought-for-pashmina-weavers/article7252196.ece

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