Kashmir's sheen of silk is not lost


In 1988, exactly 30 years ago, Kashmir saw two big developments that changed the ground situation in the Valley forever—one, a bomb blast occurred in the capital city of Srinagar first time announcing the start of militancy in the region.

In the same year, the Jammu Kashmir government decided to shutdown Kashmir's oldest silk factory known as 'Resham Khana' at Rambagh after it faced huge financial burdens.

The decision left many people, mostly youth without jobs which emerged as a fresh challenge for the government because the factory was the biggest job provider in the Kashmir.

Before the closure, nearly 40,000 locals were associated with the factory right from a farmer to a worker.

After its closure, most of them shifted to other menial jobs and started working in fields and orchards.

Now, after three decades, Industries and Commerce department of Jammu Kashmir has started the revival project at the historic silk factory seeing its job potential and financial gains.

Officials say the revival project is a challenge and they want to do it in gradual and cautious manner. Last week, the department has employed many instructors on contract basis in its filatures to train unemployed youth so that their services are utilised in the revival project.

The restore process is supported by World Bank with an aid of Rs 12 crore while central silk board is also helping the department.

The factory is famous for producing lotus variety of raw silk which has a high demand throughout the world as compared to the "classical" variant of Italy and "petit extra" of France.

The department will double the production of the unit by procuring the cocoons and convert them into yarns at Rambagh filature which will be then converted into final product at Silk factory Rajbagh.

The target of the government is to employ more than 200 youth in the factory in next three months to produce around 10 lakhs meters of silk fabric every year after utilizing around 2.5 lakh kgs of silk yarn reeled locally.

The department has also started workout the market strategy to sell the silk products outside J&K.

Silk factory was established in 1897 with the help of Sir Thomas Wardle, President, Silk Association of Great Britain, who was impressed by the high quality of silk yarn of Kashmir.

In the year 1897 the Directorate of Sericulture was established under C W Walton, it's Director who had enough experience in sericulture.

Improved variety of Silk seeds were imported from Italy and were distributed free of cost to the rearers and the cocoons were sent to England for reeling and weaving.

In 1898 two filatures were erected at Rambagh, Srinagar and these increased from time to time.

By 1907 eight filatures had been setup which were providing direct employment to around 5000 people and was considered as one of the largest concern of its kind.

The Silk industry by 1909 offered employment to 60,000 people and silk worth 10,000 pounds was produced.

The profits of industry went up from 3.06 lakhs in 1902 to 12.5 lakhs in 1919.

Hydro-electric power was used in reeling silk in 1908.

Subsequently, the Raj Bagh Silk Factory was set up in 1937.

By 1942 Kashmir had the largest Silk Factory in the world.

It produced the finest silk in India and its silk was selling throughout British Empire.

Manzoor ul Hassan

Manzoor ul Hassan

Multimedia journalist and writer based in Jammu and Kashmir. His writings on healthcare, politics and lifestyle were published in J&K's leading newspapers including Rising Kashmir, Greater Kashmir, and Kashmir Reader. He is also contributing to ARD (German TV) as a freelance producer since 2013. Previously, he has worked with National and Foreign Broadcast like ORF Austria, BBC, and NDTV.

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