Introduction to KashmirForum.org 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.

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Vijay Sazawal

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sericulture is a Vital Sector of Kashmir's Economy

Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Nika makes a scholarly case in defense of a robust sericulture indutry in Kashmir

(Born on Ist September 1961 at Sikenderpora Rainawri in Srinagar city of Jammu and Kashmir State, in a middle class uneducated family Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Nika received his early education in Government Hari Singh High School Rainawari Srinagar. He graduated from Islamia College of Science and Commerce Srinagar in 1980 and joined the Institute of Company Secretaries of India New Delhi and passed Intermediate Examination of Company Secretary ship Course. Dr. Nika passed his M.Com from the University of Kashmir and thereafter Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy from the same University. He served in various departments including Department of Handicrafts J&K Govt. as assistant Training Officer and Department of Higher Education J&K Government as Asstt. Professor in Commerce and Management Studies. Dr. Nika is a writer and is also life member of Indian Accounting Association. He has been awarded mementos, prizes and certificates by various organizations for his contribution in the field of his specialization.)


KASHMIR SERICULTURE INDUSTRY

Among the various sectors of economy, Sericulture could have contributed a lot to avoid numerous problems facing us at present. Kashmir has been famous for its silk production since ancient past. Rajtrangni of Kalhana, Mahabharata and Ramayana establish that the sericulture was being practised in Kashmir from times immemorial.

There is evidence in ancient Sanskrit literature also that the original home of silk is Kashmir. Mirza Muhammad Haider in his Tarikhi Rashide mentions mulberry trees (cultivated for their leaves for production of silk) as among the wonders of Kashmir. Sultan Zain-ul Abideen who is maker of industrial Kashmir gave special attention to this industry by introducing better techniques. Official reports reveal that Europe was the first continent with which Kashmir had started its silk trade. The reports show that in the year 1855, Kashmir was in a position to supply 25000 oz of silkworm seeds to Europe. By exporting silkworm seeds to Europe, the silk industry of Kashmir gained a pivotal position on the silk route of Europe. However during Afghan rule, the Afghan Governors exhibited indifference towards the development of this industry and showed no interest in the cultivation and preservation of mulberry trees. The silk industry as a result received a set back. Large numbers of mulberry trees were cut in Maisuma (Srinagar) to clear the field for horse racing. It was in 1819 during Sikh rule that steps for revival of the industry were initiated. Maharaja Ranbir Singh made this industry a State monopoly to boost its development. The Maharaja set apart pound 30000 for the development of the silk industry. He got 127 rearing houses built in all parts of the valley. Maharaja kept the operations of the industry under the control and supervision of Babu Nilaber Mukerji, the chief judge of Kashmir. He took great pains to develop the industry on scientific lines and reeling appliances and machinery were imported from Europe. Incentives were given to people to join the industry and the rearers were exempted from forced labour i.e. Begar.

In 1878, the silk industry came under the grip of silkworm disease known as ‘pebrine’ which had started in India in 1875 and thereafter reached Kashmir. The disease wiped out the industry completely. However in 1892, Thomas Wardle reorganized the industry and brought it on modern lines and the industry received further impetus with the establishment of Department of Sericulture in 1897. The recommendations to modernize the industry made by Pt.T.C.Wazir could not take off as it met opposition from workmen class. This led to the reason that the industry could not stand in competition with China and Japan in the international market.

The silk production in the State has declined by nearly 50% over a period of nearly 50 years which means that every year we have been losing 1% of silk production and this industry may become extinct completely if the pace of such decline continues over the next 50 years. As per reports, the silk cocoons production in Kashmir is merely 8.32 lakh kilograms at present as compared to 15 lakhs in 1960. The decrease can be well attributed to the substantial decline in the number of rearers over a period of three decades.

With the continuous decrease in the number of sericulture households and the resultant decline in silk production , the plantation and growth of mulberry trees (the leaves of which feed the silk worms) also declined over a period of about three and a half decades. The decline in the number of sericulture villages is also alarming which is threatening the growth and development of silk industry in Kashmir. The lack of sense of industrialization and negligence of successive governments towards this sector has drastically changed the sericulture map of the valley.

The silken goods are the prestige of the affluent class and is also a matter of pride for such families. With the substantial improvement in the standard of living of people all over the globe as a result of strong buyer purchasing power, the silk industry in Kashmir could have touched highest peaks of growth which could have shaped the destiny of this place by providing employment to a large chunk of people and could have also earned a good foreign exchange to the State exchequer.

Jammu and Kashmir produces the best quality Bivoltine Mulberry silk in the country due to its longer length better strength and shine mainly because of conducive climatic conditions. However out of total production of cocoons every year only 20-25% is being consumed within the State and the rest is exported. The estimated production of raw silk yarn is 92000 kgs annually. As against this the State is importing spun silk as an item of raw material for different manufactures without clicking our conscience that the better silk could have been exported to others besides catering to the needs of the home industry. This is equivalent to relishing a ready to serve tetra pack of apple juice with all heroism without thinking about why it comes from outside when we are the best and largest apple producing State. Are we in deep slumber or we have lost an initiative, dedication and a commitment to our home land? Why we prefer to be led than to lead in those areas where we have the comparative advantage? These are a few questions which we shall have to think over if we really want to bring the State out of the messy state of affairs.

Kashmir reeled silk has its luster and is famous throughout the world as it has a good fiber length as compared to spun silk. The length of the fiber makes the product more durable than short length fiber. All we need to have is the ‘Growers’ to grow mulberry trees to rear cocoons which can give a new boost to this industry. The State has potential to produce and consume raw silk locally and thus establish a strong backward linkage for many other industries which can rejuvenate our industrial sector. It is fortunate that we have the distinction to produce good quality carpets and our carpet manufacturing enjoys its reputation the world over. The promotion of silk industry finds its favor as the silk reeled in Kashmir can be marketed here as a raw material for our carpet industry and we need not to import spun silk which is nothing but wastage of reeled silk and is less durable. The silken carpets which are otherwise in great demand in the international market can yet touch new heights on the scale of customer satisfaction if we use reeled silk from Kashmir and this can contribute substantially to the export kitty of the State. Our carpets with local reeled silk can be of higher quality with distinctiveness as Kashmir specific and can qualify for registration under Geographical Indications Act. The step shall help us to create a brand image of our product and we can tap the untapped national and international markets and also increase our share in the markets we operate in at present.

The Indian Institute of Carpet Technology Srinagar after immense hard work in the area of R&D has already come up with a silken carpet which is made of Reeled Mulberry Silk produced in Kashmir and the material has been put to thorough testing before its actual use. Kashmir reeled mulberry silk is far superior than the spun silk which is made of the wastage of reeled silk. The innovative carpet which is first of its kind in the history of carpet industry has the added advantage of losing negligible pile at the time of washing and is more durable than the one made of spun silk. It does not also need chemicals for shining but has natural shine. It requires less quantity of raw material by 7-8% for making the carpet with this type of silk as compared to carpet made with spun silk. This high premium product has the features to be at par with the high quality carpets from Iran and China. As a matter of fact the project undertaken by IICT Srinagar to develop reeled silken carpet has been in view of the fact that other prime competitors like Iran and China are using Reeled Mulberry Silk for carpets as the raw material and thus provides them edge over the carpets made from spun silk. Although a few carpet manufacturers have already evinced interest in adopting the innovation but still the introduction of this product in the market is in its infancy. The move is likely to rejuvenate a new life in our silk industry which has suffered a lot over the past few decades. It will provide import substitution for the raw material used in manufacture of silken carpets at present and thus help in our Balance of Trade. The need of the hour is to lure more and more unemployed educated youth towards this sector by giving them incentives and facilities to start their enterprises in Sericulture. The Kashmir carpet industry which contributes 50-60% of the total value of Handicrafts sector with its annual turnover around Rs.1000 crores during the year 2007-08 can flourish and touch new peaks of growth by getting a strong backward integration. A convergent approach to address the problems of silk industry by organizations like SKUAST(Kashmir), Sericulture Department, CSB, CSRTI to improve the quality of the cocoons as high yield variety ones can help to reduce the price of reeled silk yarn to give a new impetus to the industry by revival of defunct silk units/ factories and establishment of new ones which can restore its past glory.

1 comment:

Subramanian said...

Highly informative note on sericulture industry of kashmir. Considering the scope of rearing silkworm possibly for one season and with difficult for two season, the efforts of sericulture farmers in carving a niche for kashmir in the sericulture map of India is just incredible. Thanks again for your nice summary.