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Kashmir Valley Craftspersons Get Helping Hand

Hailing from troubled Baramullah district of Kashmir Valley, Zahida Amin comes from a traditional Kashmiri artisans' family.

Working for women empowerment, she had formed a group and trained over 30 women in traditional craft like Zari, Soz, and Crewel embroidery. Then came along the way a little known non-governmental outfit known as Commitment to Kashmir (CtoK).

It gave her a soft loan and helped her group market its products through Dastkar, a Delhi-based NGO which works nationally with crafts and craftspeople.

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Hailing from troubled Baramullah district of Kashmir Valley, Zahida Amin comes from a traditional Kashmiri artisans' family.

Working for women empowerment, she had formed a group and trained over 30 women in traditional craft like Zari, Soz, and Crewel embroidery. Then came along the way a little known non-governmental outfit known as Commitment to Kashmir (CtoK).

It gave her a soft loan and helped her group market its products through Dastkar, a Delhi-based NGO which works nationally with crafts and craftspeople.

Like Zahida, Arifa Zan is another beneficiary of the CtoK, which is proving to be the friend, philosopher and guide for many crafts men and women, belonging to the valley.

One of the few girls to successfully graduate in Craft Management and Entrepreneurship from the Crafts Development Institute in Srinagar, Arifa's diploma project was on innovations from traditional Numda rugs of Kashmir, made from felt wool.

With a CtoK loan, she started her own workshop with her innovative Numda designs becoming a huge hit at the Dastkars Nature Bazaar in Delhi, where she sold 80 percent of her durries.

Arifa was later also selected by the Indian government for an international craft exhibition in Italy. Working with an objective to provide multi-pronged help and support to traditional craftsmen and women from the Valley, CtoK was first conceived by the late LC Jain, an ex-Planning Commission member, during the 2011 and 2012 unrest that gripped the Valley, paralysing livelihoods of thousands of craftsperson.

"Kashmir has incredible skills and potential. Yet its young artisans are crippled by their social circumstances and lack of opportunity. CtoK tries to give them both the opportunity and the hands-on assistance in the field," Laila Tyabji, one of the trustees of Commitment to Kashmir told reporters.

CtoK is organising an event here to exhibit its support to the cause and raise funds to help enterprising young craftsperson from the Valley. The project is being spearheaded by Dastkar.

The CtoK's core group comprises Laila Tyabji of Dastkar, Manju Nirula and Gita Ram of the Crafts Council of India, Ritu Sethi of Craft Revival Trust, Gulshan Nanda, former Chairperson of Central Cottage Industries Emporium, besides family members of late LC Jain.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the project is supported by the Crafts Development Institute, Srinagar. Ctok receives and examines applications and business plans of young Kashmiri craftsmen and women and select four or five of them for interest-free loans. It also conducts workshops, field visits and individual mentoring for selected applicants.

"Historically Kashmir has the entrepreneur spirit and art and craft is one sector which contributes majorly to the local economy barring tourism and other business. But due to migration of craftsmen and small traders from the Valley the entrepreneur spirit is on the diminishing path," Prof Jatin Bhatt, a project mentor, told reporters.

The organisation aims to enable young artisans and graduates of design institutes to eke out their livelihoods out of the handicrafts profession and create employment for other artisans in the valley.

"This project, in one way, is also helping the revival of some dying traditional art and craft of the region and helping the young generation to get out of the extreme trend of Bollywoodisation and westernization, the current trend in the industry," said Gitanjali Kashyap, one of the mentors and a fashion designer.

CtoK also assists the selected applicants with advice and assistance on identifying and sourcing new raw materials to costing, pricing and production planning, linking them to potential buyers, and design and product development geared to targeted markets.

"We are also helping them understand the market trend and the need of the consumer to understand how to cater to the market and sell their products at a better rate," Bhatt said.

Like Zahida and Arifa, two other notable beneficiaries of CtoK venture is Muteen Bijoo and Manzoor, who have set up their own, fairly popular label, in traditional Pashmina weaving. With a CtoK assistance, they have been able to establish a 12-loom Pashmina unit, with 13 full time weavers and secondary employment to seven other workers like clippers and dyers and never tire of thanking CtoK.

"CtoK also provided marketing aid by arranging for space in valued platforms and exhibitions to sell the products at the Dastkar exhibition," Bijoo said.

Their designs have now secured a large order from an international brand and are in the process of starting their own upmarket retail outlet, as well as showcasing their new range here. 



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POLITICS-GOVERNANCE

Makkal Needhi Maiam is the Name of Kamal Haasan’s Political Party

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Veteran actor Kamal Haasan on February 21 launched his political party Makkal Needhi Mayyam (roughly, ‘People’s Justice Forum’) at a public function in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

Haasan unveiled the name and symbol of his political outfit in front a huge crowd at Madurai’s Ottakattai Grounds.

“This is a party for you, for the people. I am your instrument, you are the leaders, this is a crowd full of leaders,” Haasan said.

The party symbol, six arms interlinked around a star at the centre, is in the colours of red, white and black. The party flag, which is primarily white, will carry the symbol along with the party name.

Curiously, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and AAP leader Somnath Bharti were present on the stage with Haasan.

 

A lot of observers noted that while Haasan spoke about the name and the flag of his party, he distinctly failed to elaborate to the public what his party would stand for. The only issue he talked about at the launch event is corruption.

Kamal Haasan began the day of the party launch by visiting the house of former President A P J Abdul Kalam in Rameswaram. He took the blessings of Kalam’s elder brother Mohammed Muthu Meera Lebbai Maraikayar, who is a centenarian.

Describing the former president as his ‘role model’, Haasan said in a tweet:

“Greatness can come from simple beginnings. Actually it will come only from simplicity. Glad to start my journey from a great man’s simple abode”.

Kalam’s family presented a memento carrying an image of the former president to Kamal Haasan.

On his way to Madurai, Kamal Haasan had a brief stop in Paramakudi. “I grew up in these streets,” the actor said there. “The way you have been waiting for me in this heat shows your love towards me… I will certainly come back to my people here.”

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CBI Questions Rotomac Pens Chief Vikram Kothari

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India’s premier domestic investigation agency CBI continued to question Rotomac Pens Chief Vikram Kothari and family members for the second day today. The company allegedly owes funds to the tune of 3600 crore rupees to seven public sector banks.

The magnitude of the alleged fraud committed by Rotomac Pens owner Vikram Kothari has ballooned compared to its initial estimates.

Kothari allegedly cheated seven public sector banks of over Rs 3600 crore rupees by not making repayments of loans.

The Central Bureau of Investigation – CBI has registered a case against Vikram Kothari. The probe agency questioned Kothari, his wife and his son.

Properties belonging to Vikram Kothari and his family were raided in Kanpur in connection with the probe.

The Kanpur-based company’s owner had taken loans from a consortium of seven public sector banks.

Rotomac was declared a wilful defaulter in February 2017.

Vikram Kothari, his wife and son have been detained by the probe agency.

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Centre Seeks Report About Assault on Delhi Chief Secretary by AAP Members

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The issue of alleged manhandling of Delhi Chief Secretary by Aam Admi Party MLAs gathered steam when Home Minister expressed concern and sought a report from the Lt Governor about the incident – even as IAS officers posted in Delhi took out a candle-lit march outside Delhi Secretariat in protest.

Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash has alleged that he was assaulted by two Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) lawmakers in presence of the chief minister after being called for a meeting at midnight. Taking serious note of the incident, Home Ministry has asked for a report from Delhi Lt Governor.

Reacting to the matter, Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted –

“I am deeply pained by the happenings involving the Chief Secretary of the Delhi Government. The civil servants should be allowed to work with dignity and without fear. MHA has sought a report on the incident from the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi. Justice will be done.”

IAS association has condemned the incident. Bureaucrat associations DANICS and DASS met the home minister and updated him on the entire issue and demanded legal action against the culprits

Meanwhile, IAS, DANICS and DASS associations took out a candlelight march at Rajghat to protest over the matter.

Aam Admi Party, on the other hand, has called the allegations baseless. In fact, they have accused the chief secretary of using derogatory language against some MLAs and leaving the meeting without answering questions.

However, Opposition has seized the moment to corner AAP.

For now, AAP seems deeply embroiled in this new controversy and it remains to be seen how it manages to deal with it.

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