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Kashmir’s silk industry poised for revival?

THE ASIAN AGE. | YUSUF JAMEEL
Published : Sep 8, 2018, 1:17 am IST
Updated : Sep 8, 2018, 1:17 am IST

Famous ‘Resham Khana’ in Srinagar resumes work after closure in 1989.

Labourers sorting mulberry cocoons at Srinagar’s Resham Khana. (Photo: H.U. Naqash)
 Labourers sorting mulberry cocoons at Srinagar’s Resham Khana. (Photo: H.U. Naqash)

Srinagar: The endeavour to restore Kashmir’s pristine glory began about a year ago and a little of it has already gone a long way.

The authorities call it a small yet a serious effort to revive what was once known as the scenic Valley’s glittering and money-spinning silk industry. The mulberry silk of Kashmir, the weaves popularly known as chinon and crepe de chine, were considered as some of the fine qualities produced from the silk yarn anywhere and this would be exported only to Europe in good old days.

But then the business witnessed a downfall and in 1989, one of the world’s  the oldest and largest silk factories situated in Srinagar’s Solina area and locally known by its Urdu variant Resham Khana had to be shut. With that, thousands of artisans and other workers and cocoon farmers were virtually rendered jobless.

Jammu and Kashmir’s sericulture industry is of very old origin. The rearing of silkworms on mulberry trees for the production of raw silk is known as sericulture.

In 1889, a separate department for sericulture was created in the State with the main aim of promoting its silk industry. In 1940s, the precious silk yarn produced in Kashmir was exported to entire Europe and Srinagar’s Resham Khana had become one of the best and famed silk producing factories in the world. In the 1980s, the cocoon production in Kashmir had reached more than 1.5 million kilogrammes a year.   

But few years later, the industry started witnessing a downtrend.

Cocoon production dropped to 60,000 kilogrammes a year and in 1989 just before the start of insurgency in the Valley, Resham Khana was shut due to decreased production and huge losses.

Some officials attribute the decline to de-monopolisation of the industry and its subsequent bifurcation into Kashmir filatures and sericulture department.

Nearly three decades later, the authorities are making an all out effort to revive the industry. Resham Khana reopened and started production again more than a year ago. The cocoon farmers too started picking up the pieces again.

Shailendra Kumar, principal secretary,  industries and  commerce, said, “Silk in Kashmir had had its own glory. I suppose it may have been mainly the lack of requisite attention by both the government and private sector that led to its collapse.”

He added that now lot of interest is being shown by the stakeholders towards reviving the industry.

“The people are once again showing a lot of interest and because of it the situation is changing for the better, gradually though,” he said.

Ghulam Muhammad Butt, the in-charge of Kashmir filature, is quite happy that Resham Khana is back on the rails.

 “There are about 40,000 cocoon rearers’ families in Kashmir. It is the main source of livelihood for them. But unfortunately this factory remained shut for more than 28 years. We have reopened it. Everyone is happy.”

Resham Khana, the state’s oldest silk factory, was set up in 1897 by Dogra ruler Maharaja Pratap Singh with the help of Sir Thomas Wardle, president of the Silk Association of Great Britain.

Mr. Kumar said that at present the factory produces one lakh metre of silk yarn.

 “We are planning to take it to one million metres annually in next two years,” he said.

Officials said that  a World Bank aid of Rs 12 crore, besides support from the central silk board helped in bringing Kashmir’s silk industry back to life. 

Tags: silk industry, kashmir, silk yarn