Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Sorry State of the Oldest Industry in Kashmir

Yasar describes the rise and fall of the majestic Sericulture industry in Kashmir

(Mr. Yasar Mohammad Baba, 33, was born and raised in Srinagar. He completed his degree in Marine Engineering Communication and is presently an employee of the J&K government. His personal pursuits are reading and writing.)

Sericulture Sector - Industry in Shambles

Sericulture is the oldest industry of Kashmir and has played an important role in improving the socio-economic condition of the people. Although until now nothing definite is known about its origin in the valley of Kashmir, but references in historical records and other dependable evidences strongly support the belief that Sericulture existed in Kashmir from the very olden times.

The Knowledge of Sericulture in the Jammu and Kashmir State dates back to ancient time which is evident from the reference available in the magnificent works of a number of travelers who visited this State in the past. The first attempt to improve it was made only during the reign of Maharaja Ranbir Singh. The industry was organized in 1897 in the Kashmir Valley with the cooperation of Sir Thomos Warde, President Silk Association of Great Britain, who was largely impressed by the immense potential possessed by the State for the Sericulture industry. Thereafter, it was also extended to the Jammu Province during 1907.

The Valley of Kashmir has the distinction of having been favoured by the nature with a climate and altitude highly favorable for Mulberry-culture as such suited for the development of Sericulture. These are the factors which further strengthen the belief that Kashmiris has the knowledge of rearing reeling and weaving of silk much earlier than the Chinese and Tibetans knew it. The world is still left to believe the age-old traditions and stories which say that China was the first country to know about the marvelous insect, its domestication and finally rearing reeling of silk from its cocoons.

There are definite indications in ancient historical records and works of eminent Sericulturist which show that China was not the first country in the world to have discovered the Silk-worm and developed the art of rearing of cocoons and reeling of silk from cocoons. There are evidences that Indians knew the marvelous insect, the Silk-worm and the art of producing silk fabrics before the Chinese. Shri. N. G. Mukerji, a writer, in one of his report on this subject has long back claimed that the ancient literature of the Sanskrit language affords the valuable historical arguments in support of the thesis that China should not have been the first country in the world to have discovered the Silk-worm.

There are references in Mahabharta and Ramayana about silk and Silk-worm. “In Mahabharta there is a passage describing how Rishi Uttanka beheld two women over a loom weaving cloth with a fine shuttle using black and white threads. “In Ramayana there occurs a verse which states: - Silk is produced by an insect from that beautiful silk cloth is prepared.” “An Indian King is said to have sent to a king a Prussia silk fabrics as a present as far back as 3870. B.C.” Kashmir was an independent Himalayan kingdom but it had very strong cultural, religious and trade links with India. There is strong historical evidence in favour of the fact that Kashmiri traders used to visit famous Indian cities with their merchandise consisting of mainly local products even during pre-historic days. Climatically this beautiful Valley was suitable for the growth of mulberry-food for Silk-worm. Due to this climatic suitability this tree was growing as a wild tree in abundance. Even today our forests, grazing grounds and plains are full of such wild growth.

This industry witnessed a crisis in the past also and the State started importing Silk-worm hybrid eggs from European countries and cocoons were raised for rearing purposes. It was only after the outbreak of Second World War that serious endeavors were made to commence Silk-worm seed production activities. It was during this time that a grainage was set up at Banihal, giving birth to the seed production organization in Jammu Province.

The upheaval of 1947 was the biggest shock the industry had ever received. In the Jammu Province besides ruthlessly cutting of mulberry trees, the most productive areas for cocoons viz. Tehsil Kotli and Bhimber came under the occupation of Pakistan. The post Independence era saw the rebirth of Sericulture in the Province. The then Government enacted law to prohibit the cutting of mulberry trees and started running the Sericulture industry on monopolistic basis. New areas in Doda, Bhaderwah, Rajbagh and Gulabgarh were tapped for propagation of mulberry trees and Silk-worm rearing.

In order to stimulate the inert Sericulture industry of Pre-Independence era, it was divided into four units. The working of its three branches (mulberry culture, seed production, silk-worm rearing) were being managed by the State Department of Sericulture Development and the fourth one (reeling and marketing of raw silk) was run by the J&K Industries Limited. Each province has a Director and an advisor to the Government for Sericulture. Similarly, the functioning of seed production units was also on two tire-systems. The Basic Seed Station, Mirgund (Kashmir), was feeding parent races of improved varieties of silk-worm to all centres.

As Jammu province has varying climate pockets at the height ranging from 1,000 to 6,000 feet, the silk-worm rearing was being conducted in two phases. In the hotter tract of Jammu, Kathua, Bosohli, Sunderbani, Nowshera, Ram Nagar, Romkote, Udhampur and Katra, the rearing Starts in February-March, while in colder Zone of Gool Gulabgar, Doda, Kishtwar, Rajbagh, Ramban and Banihal circle it starts late. Early budding varieties of mulberry, obtained from Sujanpur (Punjab) and Behrampur (West Bengal) were being extensively propagated in the hotter zones which used to ensure earlier rearing so that the damage done during Seriporting of larval, caused by shooting up of temperature in plains, could be avoided.

The central silk-worm station Pampore used to supply parent races of silk-worm to all univoltine Sericulture States of India where multiplication and hybridization was conducted. This step was taken by the Central Silk Board of India as a part of an exchange, being spent on the import of these seeds. Out of 20,300 ounces of seed reared some 30 years ago, only 2,500 ounces were imported from Japan and South Korea. Moreover, the average yield per ounce of local seed reared was also increased to 30 kilograms. Besides, it brought about steady and stable improvement in the utility of seed (eggs) produced locally.

Sericulture industry has played a vital role and has a great scope for the State. There is great scope for large scale introduction of bivoltine hybrid race in Kashmir State, particularly in the irrigated areas and therefore maximum advantage could be taken to enter in a new era of silk production. Experiments done in the past have shown that even dry garden leaves, if properly raised and properly used for bivoltine race of rearing, can give successful crops of bivoltine cocoons and therefore even the dry areas can take to bivoltine crops during suitable seasons.

As a part of programme of research study done in the past for improving productivity, improved techniques were developed for both mulberry cultivation as well as silk-worm rearing, besides introduction of highly productive silk-worm races. These studies have enabled us to produce good quality leaves in the case of irrigated gardens. If there was improvement in quality of the silk in the State, the export of quality fabric would have picked up and that could have increased the present level of the fabric exports. Bulk production of bivoltine grade silk and its sustained export would have a stabilizing effect on the internal prices of cocoons and raw silk as well, besides completely eliminating the raw silk imports into the country, thus saving valuable foreign exchange.

Strenuous efforts on the part of the Government in the past resulted in the production of superior and fine quality of silk, fetching leading position on the map of Sericulture in India. But unfortunately efforts to develop this industry were left midway, results of which are clearly visible today. Sericulture industry, besides being an oldest industry of Kashmir, is in shambles today.

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