Kashmir's century-old silk reeling factory opens after 3 decades
Kashmir’s association with silk and sericulture has been an old story to the extent that Rajtarangini- the oldest written chronicle of Kashmir- mentions it besides the accounts in 7th century AD in Xuang Zang’s travelogue.india Updated: Jul 21, 2018 14:41 IST
After three decades, cocoons have returned and silk has started reeling at Kashmir’s century old silk factory.
The walls are damp, cob webs still adore its high ceilings and the windows and doors appear decrepit, but all this is no distraction for the workers boiling cocoons and drawing silk fibres in one of the three massive filatures of Jammu and Kashmir Silk Factory situated at Solina in summer capital Srinagar.
“It seems a miracle. It is as if the factory has come to life after its death,” said a middle aged Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, in-charge of the filature, who has been one of the men taking care of the government building all these years.
Since 1989, the silk reeling machines in the three filatures and their 580 basins in which cocoons used to be processed have remained defunct after the factory shut down owing to decreased production and huge loses. The production of raw silk at the filatures which stood at 57,000 kg in 1980-81 had gone down to 16,000 kg in 1989-90, registering a decrease of 72%.
The government is now attempting to resurrect the factory and give boost to the silk production in the state. In the first stage they have started reeling silk on five machines with 30 basins which were installed in one of the filatures in 1999 but have remained unused.
“We have hired workers from outside who know the trade. We don’t want to employ people permanently. Over-employment and unaccountability played a major role in the downfall of the factory in the past,” said managing director, Industries Limited, Javid Iqbal who is overseeing the revival process.
Kashmir’s association with silk and sericulture has been an old story to the extent that Rajtarangini- the oldest written chronicle of Kashmir- mentions it besides the accounts in 7th century AD in Xuang Zang’s travelogue.
The state has been producing one of the finest silk qualities in the world with high end varieties like ‘lotus’, ‘iris’, ‘tulip’ and ‘neel’.
The silk factory started in Srinagar in 1897 under the patronage of British while first of the filature was established in 1916, second in 1917 and third one in 1939 with total workers’ number at Solina around 2,000. By 1907, the silk industry of Kashmir developed to the extent that it was described as “one of the largest concerns of its kind in the world” by some authors. In 1961-62, the production of silk in the state stood at around 98,000 kg and reached to 20 tonne in 2006-07.
For the past twenty days, the 10 odd workers, at the Solina factory, who have been brought from West Bengal, produced some 170 kg of silk from cocoons.
“The workers have also been training some 20 local Kashmiris. Though slowly, we want local workers to get acquainted with the production process so that we can indigenize the process,” said the in-charge filature Bhat.
The industries department has been planning to bring three more machines with 30 basins at a cost of ₹5.67 crores to increase the production.
“So far we have not made much investment and are treading cautiously but in the second phase we want to buy some machines and in the third phase we will focus on its infrastructure. We are taking a holistic view,” said Iqbal.
He said as many as 40,000 families of farmers producing cocoons are the primary beneficiary of the revival process.
“These 40,000 families form an unorganised sector in the state. Currently they are depended on buyers from Malda (West Bengal). Sometimes the farmers have to sell in distress because they have no other option. The start of government’s own filature has given a ray of hope to the farmers,” said Iqbal, adding, “It will stabilise the rates and give stability to the weakest beneficiary in the market.”
Besides the filature at Solina, the government also plans to reestablish another filature in Jammu at a cost of ₹6.64 crores to achieve a combined silk reeling capacity of 240 tonne of cocoons which can yield around 80 tonneof raw silk.
First Published: Jul 21, 2018 14:40 IST