8 Years Later, Flood-Ravaged Silk Factory Making A Fresh Comeback

Srinagar- With Kashmir floods of 2014 turning eight this September, one of its structural casualties is now making a refurbished comeback and reviving an imperial address lost in the submerged waters of Jhelum.

The Jammu and Kashmir administration has infused a new lease of life to the centuries-old silk factory with many initiatives and work underway to promote Kashmir silk under the UT’s overall brand. Over 23000 families are directly and indirectly connected with the factory.

Zameer Syed Ilahi, manager of the Silk Weaving Factory, Rajbagh said that soon after the 2014 floods, the World Bank-funded Jhelum Tawi Flood Recovery Project (JTFRP) pumped over Rs 12 crore to upgrade decades’ old silk factory.

“The funds gave a major boost to the factory which was almost sinking. However, the government decided to push it,” Ilahi told Kashmir Observer.

It may be noted that the Sericulture industry has been one of the main pillars of the rural economy in Kashmir valley. However it witnessed many ups and downs especially during the inception of militants in early 1990’s.

The silk weaving factory at Rajbagh was established by Maharaja Hari Singh in the year 1937. It is believed to be Kashmir’s second oldest silk factory. At present the factory provides employment to over 110 people in the valley.

According to officials, the factory would produce 38 variants of silk at that time with the help of 120 looms and a processing capacity of 20000 meters. Loom is a device used to weave cloth.

“However due to floods around 80 percent of machinery got dysfunctional, and over 100 looms became non-functional,” Illahi said.

But the LG administration is now making a massive push to its infrastructural facilities.

Illahi said that they received over 25 machines in-order to revive the silk factory and a new building was constructed with the help of JTFRP.

The major component of the project, according to Illahi, was to restore the livelihood of those who were impacted by the floods besides restoration of heritage buildings.

The factory gained heritage status in 2017, after which it was upgraded with modern machinery.

“The factory remained closed for many years and when re-opened the employees were able to produce only six variants of silk,” Illahi said, adding that “the quality and the quantity of our product decreased due to floods”

Presently, the factory is in the possession of over 30 machines which include 20 new looms, 11 two for one twister machines (TFO), three winding, two cold winding, one wrapping and other machines.

With the help of new machines, the silk fabric production from the factory reached 10000 to 12000 metres per month. Annually, the factory produced over 1.5 lakh meters of silk fabric.

“Earlier, it was 3000 metres monthly but from last year we have increased the production,” Illahi added.

The factory is now able to manufacture 23 varieties of Silk with the help of new machinery.

“These machines are automatic and very much needed for the revival of the factory,” Illahi said.

The factory also buys cocoons from the farmers of the valley.

According to Manzoor Ahmad Qadri, Director, Sericulture, over 27000 families in the J&K are associated with s silk farming, out of which 8,900 families are from Kashmir Valley and rest from Jammu.

“Even if more families from Jammu are involved in this trade, the protection in Jammu is less than the Valley,” Qadri added.

The Sericulture department provides silkworm seeds to the farmers who then feed silkworms on mulberry leaves to make cocoons.

According to the Sericulture department, over 800 metric tons of cocoons are produced, generating an income of about Rs. 2026.00 lakh for these silkworm rearers coupled with the annual employment generation to the tune of 3.5 lakh in the UT.

“Out of 800 metric ton of silk cocoons, 375 metric tons are being produced in the valley while the rest comes from Jammu,” Qadri told Kashmir Observer.

The Department has 173 mulberry nurseries spread over an area of 963 acres, and 374 mulberry blocks over an area 2215 acres across the UT.

Illahi told Kashmir Observer when the factory closed post 2014 floods, the farmers were affected.

“We provide them (farmers) best rates,” Illahi said. One kilogram of cocoons sells at Rs 1300- 1500.

Major Silk production districts are Anantnag, Kupwara, Pulwama and Baramulla, Qadri said.

Illahi said they have tied-up with Amazon and Reliance for selling the product online. He said most of the buyers come from other states of the country.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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