Silk and jobs: Kashmir eyes two birds with one stone

October 16th, 2011 - 2:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, Oct 16 (IANS) In a bid to revive its silk industry and create employment opportunities for youth, the Jammu and Kashmir government has embarked on a novel idea of allotting barren pieces of land to unemployed youth for mulberry plantation.

Agriculture and Sericulture Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir told IANS: “There is a crunch of state land in Jammu and Kashmir; so we have decided to utilise any patch available to us.”

The idea is to utilise space on road-dividers, roadsides or any piece of land by planting mulberry trees, on which silk-bearing cocoons are reared.

According to Mir, the department will form various groups comprising youngsters from villages and allot them land. “They will be provided with mulberry plants and other support.”

Rehmat Ali, fresh out of school, is excited to be participating in the scheme.

“I am sure that this small beginning will lead us to a big success. Maybe the youth involved in this scheme can take Kashmir’s silk to the top,” Ali, hailing from Badgam’s Magam town, told IANS.

The life-cycle of a silk worm has four stages — the egg, silk worm, pupa and the moth.

The silk worm feeds on mulberry leaves and forms a covering around it by secreting a protein-like substance through its head. This stage is called cocoon, the desirable stage for silk producers.

The cocoons raised by farmers are delivered to the factory, called a filature, where the silk is unwound from the cocoons and the strands are collected into skeins.

The department plans to buy the product from these men, thus making them earn money.

“This is an innovative idea to provide employment to youth. The department has started this scheme on the 24 km road to Tangmarg, which is near tourist resort Gulmarg,” the minister said.

Gradually, the department plans to use land on the roadside and on dividers across the state.

“We require more leafage for rearing cocoon and I am hopeful this idea will help us in a small way to start with,” noted the minister.

A group of 30 men have already started planting mulberry plants. Riaz Ahmad, a science graduate, is one of them.

The 24-year-old was desperate to get a job. Now, he is part of the first group of men to plant and take care of mulberry plants.

“I am happy to be a part of this scheme. Though we will be earning less in the beginning, it is better than sitting idle at home and becoming a burden on old parents, Ahmad told IANS on telephone.

Mir said that in the beginning, “this scheme will employ 150 men”.

“This will help in increasing the silk production and also create jobs for youth.” There is a need to revive the silk industry in the state which is facing “not so good times”. Kashmiri silk is known for its international quality.

According to official statistics, the state produced 1.6 million kg of silk in 1960 while the current production level has dropped down to 900,000 kg.

(Binoo Joshi can be contacted at binoo.j@ians.in)

–Indo-Asian News service
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