The J&K government is devising a multifaceted plan to revitalise the sericulture industry throughout the Union Territory. The administration is developing a uturistic-roadmap” futuristic roadmap for the comprehensive and harmonious development of agriculture and related industries.

An apex committee headed by the former Director General, of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Dr Mangala Rai, presented ideas for a farmer-friendly ecosystem that will boost the economy.

The government is increasing the mulberry plants to assure a supply of leaves for the silkworms in an effort to resuscitate the sector. In order to help cocoon producers sell their products for a profit, the Forest Department and the Sericulture Department are working together to build market infrastructures.

The primary objective besides employment opportunities is to retain the lost glory of Kashmir silk, its uniqueness, and ingenuity, which are the hallmark of all J&K’s crafts. The infrastructure, training, technology inputs and IT tools are being offered by the government for this purpose.

The Rajtarangini mentions silk and mulberry trees and references from Mahabharata and Ramayana establish that silk was an important craft of the region. Ancient Sanskrit Literature goes so far as to say that the original home of silk is J&K! By the 1860s Kashmir, silk was an internationally acclaimed asset worn across Europe.

In 1989 with the rising political tension, one of the world’s oldest and largest silk factories in Srinagar, Resham Khana, was shut down affecting the working class and the economy. The other factories at Rajbagh and Bemina Silk factories in the city too were ghosted.

After the onset of militancy in the early 90s, the industry could not keep up with the political unrest, encroachment of agricultural land by parties with vested interests, unregulated public sector, and rampant corruption. The then government put all industries including sericulture on the back burner until it was almost too late.

In 2017-2018 the Prime Minister launched The Silk Samagra Yojana which integrated J&K’s sericulture sector with the rest of the country’s. This enabled an exchange of information and trade secrets, finally leading to what we have today in Kashmir. When no one had faith in Sericulture, the Center pumped funds and watered the industry back to life.

The UT government has increased the revolving funds from Rs 70 lakh to Rs 3.5 crore. The Central Silk Board has granted Rs 35 crore for J&K under Silk Samagra Phase-II. As more and more farmers join the party, the Board will increase the funding. KVKs are being pulled in to assume the role of information distributors, facilitators, and agents between the rearers and the government.

In the second week of November, the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir’s College of Temperate Sericulture, Mirgund, kickstarted its novel ‘Entrepreneurship Development in Sericulture’ program which was sponsored by the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).

A pilot test was conducted this year at 20 sites in Tehsil Uri and Lolab where 200 tribal farmers were provided spot training on constructing low-cost Rearing Huts and scientific way of silkworm rearing for 40 days. There was a 45 per cent increase in productivity and a 25 per cent increase in quality after harvesting crops from these huts. The results have encouraged rural families in Dist. Kupwara and Dist. Baramulla to take up this profession more seriously.

Silk rearing is one of the quickest ways to make money because this farming activity has a short cycle (15 days) and the gains are immediate. Silkworms need no fancy equipment or large lands to grow. The Sericulture industry creates value for silkworm seed producers, farmers/rearers, reelers, twisters, weavers, spinners of silk waste, traders, etc. At present more than 30,000 families are a part of this value chain.

One of the three most important centres in India for Research and Development, Training, Transfer of Technology, and IT Intervention has been set up at Kashmir’s Pampore. High-yielding silkworm hybrids have been developed in Pampore to increase the farmers’ income. Today the average yield of bivoltine cocoons has been enhanced significantly.

On October 24 the College of Temperate Sericulture in collaboration with Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) – Gurez and the Department of Sericulture organized an awareness camp on “Opportunities of sericulture in Gurez valley”.

A special variety of Mulberry saplings having more than 70 per cent success rate and suitable for temperate climatic conditions were distributed amongst the selected farmers in Gurez. Far-off villages, especially the ones that get cut off during the winters need employment that they can handle from the comfort of their homes, and sericulture suits their needs perfectly.

The incubation centres for this project will help transfer updated knowledge and technology on silkworm rearing and cocoon production to readers, economic upliftment of women, incapacity building and increasing rearing skills through training programs and create sufficient silkworm pupae meal, the protein-rich food for the worms.

J&K will be spinning gold in the coming years and the common man will be the biggest beneficiary. (ANI)