Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to convert historic silk institute complex and mulberry nursery at Alochi Bagh here into a housing colony for state employees
The move comes at a time when the traditional silk industry in Kashmir is on revival mode with the World Bank funding and restoration of more than a century old factory.
According to officials, who does not want to be named, former PDP-BJP regime has given cabinet approval for construction of the government housing colony on 120-kanal sericulture nursery at Alochi Bagh, which supplies about 30,000 mulberry saplings to cocoon cultivators in the state and houses a silk training institute.
The proposal for the construction was mooted by the state’s estates department and was given green signal by the cabinet during the previous government.
“The land identified for handover is not an ordinary land but it has a heritage value. Nursery apart, the particular patch is home to some of the key infrastructure of historic nature. It includes a silk training institute with allied laboratories and teaching space, Chowki rearing centre, grafting shed, cocoon warehouse, hot air dryers and Chinese type conveyors,” said an official of the sericulture department official.
“It was this complex that was used by the erstwhile Maharaja in helping Japan revive its silk sector,” he said. “After fall of the previous government, we have not received any communiqué but it is crystal clear that government has plans to vandalise this heritage site for construction of housing colony for government employees which is bizarre and irrational decision,” said another official.
The decision of the government has come month after the industries and commerce department revived the silk reeling filature at Solina after 30 years with the World Bank and the central government funding.
However, now with proposal to establish a colony at the nursery and institute, the industries and commerce department official say, it will prove fatal for revival of silk industry in the Kashmir valley.
Director Sericulture, Mir Tariq Ali confirmed that they have been communicated about the proposal to construct housing colony on sericulture nursery at Allochi Bagh.
The “bizarre” decision has come at a time, when Kashmir’s historic silk is making silent comeback in the state with cocoon production recording an increase of 36 percent during last six years.
“This place has a huge historical importance in Kashmir’s history besides that it is one of those institutions which has given recognition to Kashmir brand across globe,” commissioner secretary industries Shalendra Kumar had said earlier.
Kashmir has been historically famous for the best quality silk production and its trade world over in the farm of raw textile, clothes and carpets. A draft report of Jammu and Kashmir Industries Corporation (JKI) reveals that cocoon production has increased by 35 percent from 810 metric tonnes in 2010-11 to 1,105 MT in 2015-16. With increase in production, the number of people associated with the trade is also gradually increasing.
In 2010-11, 75,000 persons were associated silk trade in J&K, which has now increased to 3.5 lakh persons. Further people associated with sericulture farming have gone up from 22,700 to 31,882, claims the report.
The report mentions that number of villages dealing with sericulture too have increased to 2838 from 2450. The Solina silk heritage block was a vast piece of land measuring 237 kanals and 13 marlas. However, right now only 120 kanals are currently with the Sericulture Development department. The government has earlier taken as much as 117 kanals and 13 marlas under various phases and diverted the land use.
It is on this patch that Jammu Kashmir Industries Ltd, J&K Public Service Commission, The huge complex of Excise and Taxation are located. Part of it including a heritage complex was given to the Power Development Department where it is repairing transformers. The department was attempting levelling this heritage property to create a new facility but the mass campaign against the idea stopped it.
Silk is one of Kashmir’s heritage industries. It was formally established as a department in 1889. At one point of time, Kashmir was running Asia’s biggest silk manufacturing industry with thousands of people working in it.