Poor testing of pashmina shawls still poses a problem
- The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), a Valley-based traders’ body, has raised the issue of confiscation and poor testing of pashmina shawls with the Union Minister for Forest, Environment and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav.
Points to ponder:
- The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI) has raised the issue of confiscation and poor testing of pashmina shawls with the Union Minister for Forest, Environment, and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav.
- The Customs Department at international airports in India has been seizing shawl consignments due to the detection of banned shahtoosh guard hair in pashmina shawls, which has a width below 11 microns, while pashmina wool has a width of 13 to 16 microns.
- The shawls are then sent for further testing to laboratories, either in Dehradun or Kolkata, and traders have to wait for months to get a report. Many times, the reports are inconclusive, traders are questioned, and CBI raids are carried out on artisans involved in the weaving of these pashmina shawls.
- The KCCI demands the installation of the latest pashmina testing machine in Srinagar as well as in Delhi for simplification of Customs clearance. The KCCI stressed the need for DNA testing and not basic microscopic testing.
- The Ministry has promised to set up a DNA testing lab in Gurugram, which the KCCI hopes will help in the fast processing of consignments at the Customs Department.
- According to official figures of the Kashmir Handicrafts Department, exports of shawls dipped from ₹305 crores in 2018-19 to ₹166 crores in 2021-22.
- The manufacturing of shahtoosh shawls was stopped in Kashmir since the ban was imposed in 2002 by the J&K government due to the downward spiral of the chiru population in the 1980s.
- The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) says that 537 illegal imports of shahtoosh scarves have been spotted by Switzerland authorities in the past five years, pointing at the continuous illegal trade.
- Traders say only a minuscule section may be involved in illegal trade, but contamination is a reality that the government needs to look into.
- Mahmood Shah, director of the Handicrafts and Handloom Department in Kashmir, said contamination is a “high possibility” and needs to be looked into from a scientific perspective.