Kashmir Pashmina Gets Geographical Indication

25 September 2008
The Times of India

New Delhi: Kashmiri artisans, who perfected the art of making handmade Pashmina for years, will now have exclusive rights over the Kashmir Pashmin a brand, with the central government declaring it as Geographical Indication (GI), an intellectual property right. GI is a name or sign used on certain products that corresponds to a specific geographical location. Handcraft shawls, stole and scarves, made from the fine wool of Pashmina goat, are sought after by buyers in India as well as abroad. The Sep 12 notification of the central government would ensure bigger profits to Pashmina workers. The announcement came following an agreement between Kashmir Handmade Pashmina Promotion Trust (KHPPT), Crafts Development Institute (CDI), Tahafuz, an association of Pashmina workers, and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI). Experts said traditional Pashmina workers who developed the Kashmir Pashmina brand had got a raw deal, as they were shunted out of the market due to stiff competition from mill-made Pashmina goods. Low-priced machine-made Pashmina outweighed the expensive and limited number of handmade Pashmina products in the markets, while the rift between traditional Pashmina workers and mill owners widened over the control of larger market share and profits. 'We pointed out (to the government) that over 600 years of goodwill created by Kashmir Pashmina workers was being used by those who had nothing to do with the product.' said Aniruddha Mookerjee of WTI and trustee of the KHPPT. 'The very basis of traditional Pashmina in Kashmir is hand cleaning and hand spinning, two activities that are run entirely by women. 'If machines are used to carry out these works, thousands of women workers will be out of jobs,' Mookerjee said. The Pashmina shawl was promoted as alternative to Shahtoosh shawl that is made from the wool of the endangered Tibetan Antelope, also known as Chiru. This high-altitude dwelling animal is mainly found in China's Tibet region. Although the Shahtoosh trade was banned in India, the illegal trade continued for a long time, threatening the existence of the Chiru. In India, the Tibetan Antelope is protected by Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. In 2001, WTI conducted a census of Shahtoosh workers in the Kashmir valley which found that the trade was still active there. In response, a campaign was launched to sensitise people to give up Shahtoosh trade and switch over to Pashmina.