TSERING DOLKER GURUNG
Once the pioneer of
It is the same story at carpet centres across the Valley. An industry that during the 1980s brought in one-third of
"It has been a story of decline and decay," says despondent general manager of the JHC, Chime Dorjee, "export orders have dropped and we depend only on meagre retail sales."
The rise and fall of
"It has got so bad that unless the government acts in regulating the industry, we soon won't have any carpets to export," laments Tenzin Choegyal, chairman of Nepal Carpet Enterprise.
The industry is exactly 50 years old, and has its roots in the weaving skills brought to
Encouraged by sales, the Swiss helped in marketing carpets in
Tibetans working for the JHC weaved at home during their free hours, and they slowly started training local Nepali helpers spreading the technique to Nepalis. At its peak in 1993 the carpet industry brought in more than Rs 10.4 billion, but by 2009 it had shrunk by half.
Choegyal, who has been in the business for 30 years, says the biggest problem now are politicised unions. "Labour is our major concern now," he says, "every now and then labour unions backed by political parties come up with unreasonable demands that we cannot fulfil and this hinders production." The best weavers have moved to the Gulf and there is a shortage of skilled workers.
The fierce competition from Indian and Chinese rugs isn't making it easier. "Although, we cannot compete with
If the government stepped in to save the carpet industry, it still has a great potential for growth. The Made in
But carpet traders say the lack of incentives for an industry that has the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs is keeping it hamstrung. Successive governments since the mid-1990s have been interested only in extracting either taxes or bribes from the industry. The government also has an important role in depoliticising union activity, and the competition between politically-affiliated unions that have wrecked the industry, they add.
Karma Choenzom, 64 lives in the Tibetan refugee centre at Ekantakuna and fondly remembers the times when things were a lot better. "We used to get lots of export orders and worked overtime, but that is all gone, and the tourists don't come anymore," she says. Born in the Kyirong region of