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Power looms threaten pashmina trade

Pashmina shawl weaving, an ancient cottage industry of Kashmir, provides livelihood to thousands of families from both urban and rural areas. While women do the basic processing of dusting, combing and spinning, men weave the yarn into elegant shawls which are in high demand at the national and international level.

Presently there are around 20,000 weavers involved in shawl making. But power looms are souring the picture. When a hand spun pashmina shawl costs around Rs 10,000 in the market, the one blended with silk or other fibers and made on a power loom is priced between Rs 3000 to Rs 3500. A weaver normally earns about Rs 800 to Rs 1000 from handloom and weaves up to six shawls a month. However hundreds of the shawls can be woven in a month with power looms.

The introduction of power looms has affected thousands of pashmina artisans. They are now either shifting to other jobs or are compelled to work for lower wages. Over three lakh women have been hit. To help women, the backbone of the Kashmiri pashmina industry, a foot driven spinning wheel has been introduced for them.

Normally, a woman spins 2.5 grams to three grams of pashum a day but this spindle enables her to spin up to 10 grams a day. Though the spinning wheel costs Rs 5000, it is being provided to women for Rs 1000.

 
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