Have you ever wondered if you are buying genuine silk? Thanks to the government’s Silk Mark initiative, you may now no longer need to raise an eyebrow when you go shopping this festive season

The six-yard saga of the multifaceted wonder fabric is deep rooted in our Indian tradition and has evolved with every generation. When the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India received numerous petitions from consumers and traders for a mechanism to control malpractices that marred the industry, the ministry thought it appropriate to introduce Silk Mark which was subsequently launched in 2004.

Like gold, the purity of silk cannot be identified by the common man and this is used by unscrupulous traders to fleece unsuspecting consumers. Artificial silk mainly comprises of man-made fibres like viscose, polyester or nylon, and is several times cheaper than natural silk. Often these cheaper materials are passed on to consumers as pure silk, depriving the consumer of the real value for money.

The quality assurance of Silk Mark promises to ensure and protect the interest of silk consumers and genuine silk traders, and also promotes silk.

However, its progress and implementation, as with many government initiatives, has been slow yet steady nonetheless. “In 2004-05, Silk Mark was able to register 131 members, whereas in 2010-11, we had 302 members. The Silk Mark label distribution went up from 5.62 lakh in 2004-05 to 27.64 lakh in 2010-11. Since its introduction till March 2011, around 1775 members have been registered and 118.73 lakh labels have been distributed all over India,” affirms Sivakumar T, Executive, Silk Mark Organisation of India.

He adds, “Silk Mark has also diversified its activities. We organise expos across the country, assist in the branding of Indian silk internationally, and help manufacturers on a technical level to improve and innovate products and designs.”

Besides the series of expos every year, it also offers The Great Indian Silk Mark Festival 2011 which is at present drawing in shoppers. Highlights of the shopping festival are gifts for consumers through a lucky draw and fashion shows for married women.
Are you sure it’s silk?
So how does Silk Mark work? “The authorised users at the time of registration enter into an agreement with Silk Mark – this ensures that they adhere to the conditions laid out and are trained to identify silk before registration. The officials make periodic visits to ensure that they use the labels in the right manner. There is a strict surveillance by reputed third parties to spot erring users and take appropriate actions. Consumers are also encouraged to bring the silk fabric for testing to verify if it is pure. During the festival season, mobile vans with testing facilities visit various shopping clusters and consumers can use these facilities easily. All Silk Mark Expos will have a testing lab set up for consumers’ convenience where they can even test their old sarees and dresses to ensure their purity. The testing is done free of cost to encourage consumers to utilise these facilities in large numbers,” explains Sivakumar.

He adds, “More than 200 authorised users are registered in Bangalore alone, of which, about 150 authorised users are retailers who own showrooms. The rest are exporters, manufacturers and wholesale traders. They procure the Silk Mark Labels from us, priced at Rs 2, but which does not reflect in the selling price of the product.”

With an array of exotic varieties to choose from, silk remains one of the most sought-after fabrics and Silk Mark comes as a bright ray of hope for consumers who can now be confident of buying the real deal.

Happy Shopping!

Namita Gupta/Raintree Media Features/www.raintreemedia.com

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