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India-China border trade losing sheen with dwindling wool business

Figures indicated that traders who had gone to trade with their counterparts in Tibet have imported more shoes, jackets and yak tails than raw Tibetan wool, which once used to be vital for the tribal economy

dehradun Updated: Nov 05, 2017 19:51 IST
BD Kasniyal
BD Kasniyal
Hindustan Times
Uttrakhand news,border trade,Lipulekh pass
Indian traders crossing the Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand . (HT File Photo. )

The border trade with China through Lipulekh pass in Uttarakhand is gradually loosing its purpose with the dwindling wool trade between the two neighbouring countries that resumed in 1992.

Figures indicated that traders who had gone to trade with their counterparts in Tibet have imported more shoes, jackets and yak tails than raw Tibetan wool, which once used to be vital for the tribal economy.

“The plan of reviving the wool based economy also failed as subsequent governments could not provide markets to the local craft produce nor could they compete with the factory produced woollen outfits,” said said Dr Lalit Pant, retired school teacher and researcher on Shauka economy.

At the time the trade was closed in 1962, the entire Shauka economy and social organisation in Johar, Darma, Vyans and Chaundas valleys of the tribal belt used to thrive on the wool imported from Tibet.

But the situation has changed over the decades as the tribes have switched their occupation and settled outside their ancestral villages in the high Himalayan valleys. “I have never seen the making of Thulma (blanket made of Tibetan wool) in my village after 1996, as most of the wool craftsmen have now settled with other occupations in mainstream towns,” said Gopal Budiyal, a villager from Bundi village who sells woollen garments manufactured by machines.

“We neither have carding facilities to clean our wool nor are we entitled to any government subsidy for the traditional work. This leads to the rapid decrease in the number of craft persons of the wool trade,” said Parvati Khampa, a tribal who runs woollen garment shop in the town.

“Unable to face the stiff competition from the factory made woollen goods, ninety percent of the villagers who were based on the wool trade have switched to government services or mainstream trade,” added Khampa.

According to Dr VS Kapri, the chief veterinary officer in Pithoragarh, most of the 80,000 kg wool produced by local sheep owners in the district gets purchased by woollen outfit traders from Kashipur and Rudrapur towns of US Nagar district of the state or dealers from Moradabad and Bhadohi in UP. Even the locally produced wool is purchased by wool factories outside the district or the tribal belt, as we have no facilities to card it,” said Dr Kapri.

Out of the total import of goods worth Rs 7 crore in this year’s Indo-China border trade, the cost of Tibetan wool is less than other goods like jackets, shoes and yak tails. “It is a bad omen for the future as the trade had resumed only to give a boost to the local economy of wool craftsmen in the villages,” said Dharchula SDM RK Pandey.

According to Pandey, the affluent families have left their traditional occupation. It is only the villagers from the tribal belt of Johar Darma and Vyans valleys who cannot afford to switch the ancestral business survives on the wool trade.

First Published: Nov 05, 2017 19:51 IST