Act, Not React

It was part of idea cellular’s multi-crore ad campaign that irked people in Kashmir and made them react. The ad showed two women customers telling a bemused shopkeeper, on the banks of Dal Lake, that can his Pashmina shawl pass the ring test! The shopkeeper scratches his head while the catch line – No Ullu Banving (don’t make fool of us) plays in the background. Within no time Chief Minister Omar Abdullah reacted and said that the ad campaign is wrong and misleading. It encouraged Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) to send a legal notice to Idea cellular company, which is owned by Aditya Birla Group, and demand damages worth 400 crore rupees. The notice demanded immediate removal of this ad campaign and telecast an apology instead. KCCI feels that the campaign has adversely affected their trade. The losses which according to KCCI are recurring and cannot be quantified should be compensated by the idea cellular company.

The controversy has once again put spotlight on Kashmir’s ailing handicrafts industry which is struggling to shun ‘fake’ tag from its shoulders.

Every year, with the start of tourist season in Kashmir, the focus is on how fake handicrafts’ find their way into valley market and end up in visitor’s luggage.

Every year, before the start of tourist season, department of tourism vows to take strict measure to take care of such duplications that swarm the local market. But hardly anything happens on ground. One does not need to be a genius to figure out what is wrong with the handicrafts industry in Kashmir as lack of will to curb flow of fakes is slowly killing the once famed brand Pashmina.

Almost everybody knows where these fake Pashmina shawls come from and how they are transported into valley despite check posts in place at state borders. If idea cellular ad can make Omar Abdullah react so sharply then why can’t he genuinely take measures to put the house in order?

It won’t take much effort to rid Kashmiri handicraft industry of ‘fake’ tag that has got attached to its name since last few decades. Just small interventions at right places and corruption free vigilance will work wonders in restoring the brand Pashmina.

The introduction of Geographical Indication (GI) registry tagging has given some hope to the artisans as it will help buyers chose wisely.

But the process of using GI on a large scale is still in its infancy.

Till then we must accept that there are more fakes flooding the market then the genuine ones. And only after accepting the loopholes we can be in a position to manage them properly.

Hope the idea ad campaign and the controversy it created helps the handicrafts sector in a positive manner. And the people at the helm of affairs act rather than just react.

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