The decline of Pashmina craft can be credited to a number of factors. The first of them is the emergence of power looms and other types of machines which deprived artisans of their livelihood. If a shawl would be earlier made in one month, with the help of machines, it would be crafted in less than half an hour. Hence the worse that could happen to the age old craft of Pashmina was that it was no more handmade - a quality for which in the first place it was cherished all over the world. The second reason to which can be attributed the devastation caused to this once blooming industry is low wages. Artisans are paid less than what is sufficient for basic needs and there is no contentment whatsoever. The third reason is delay in payments. Even after working for almost 10 hours a day, there is no guarantee that payments will be made in time. When an artisan completes an assignment, he or she gets paid a month or two months after. This behavior discourages artisans more and more each time and they want to switch to other jobs, which would lead Pashmina industry to devastation. Nazir Ahmed, a 65 year old weaver from Kathi Darwaza, narrates the same ordeal. "If the artisan complete an assignment on time, he still has to wait for 2 or 3 months before receiving the payment. At times this payment is paid in installments", he says. "We have simply been considered as laborers, not artisans or craftsmen. There is a long chain of money making middlemen in between and the real money is made by them - most of it by retailers. And us - the real makers of the shawl - are paid a meager amount of Rs 100 per day at the max", he adds. While a Pashmina shawls sells for thousands of dollars in the west or even locally, the makers of it get the least of what the shawl earns. And while a hand artisan makes at the most 4-5 plain shawls a month (one in a week), machine made shawls can be produced 4-5 in a day to say the least. The artisans often complain of the indifference shown by the government towards the issues they have often raised about poor wages. A hand loom costs them Rs 10,000 and to earn this amount, they have to wait for at least 6 months. "The main issue is wages", says Nazir Ahmed. We are being paid the same wages which our grandparents got 20-30 years ago, which is not fair at all. The machine-made products are also becoming common, which is destroying the real craft. And we are helpless. All we can do is watch the world of Pashmina perish and cheap machine made fake shawls circulating in the market. I wish I am not alive to see those times, says a broken-hearted Nazir.
Nazir and Pashmina.com
Nazir is one of our oldest weavers and the most skillful one. He appreciates our ethical working and fair trade model. We respect Nazir more than any of the weavers, owing to his modesty, hardwork and honesty, and wish to work with him for a hundred years to come.