Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Punjab, Haryana thrive on JK wool

Naseer A Ganai 

Srinagar, Feb 9: If you thought the whopping wool production in J&K helped its economy, you are wrong. The gargantuan wool production in J&K, if the experts are to be believed, actually helps the Punjab and Haryana economies to grow. 

 J&K annually produces 64 lakh kilograms of wool, but it is not processed in the state, the proper infrastructure in place notwithstanding. 
 On the contrary, the wool produced here is procured by outsiders for processing in Punjab and Haryana. Interestingly, after processing the finished products like blankets, crewel yarn, etc are supplied to Kashmir.
 Thousands of handlooms are idle in J&K. The Bemina Woolen Mills, UNDP, the Handloom Development Corporation have turned sick and their employees are without salaries for months together.
Past efforts :
 Sources said the former Ghulam Nabi Azad led government had made an effort to revive the woolen industry in Kashmir and on June 6, 2007 the then minister for the Animal and Sheep Husbandry, Taj Mohi-ud-Din had issued directions to the J&K Sheep and Sheep Products Development Board to procure all wool from farmers and breeders in J&K and process it in its units for the production of goods like blankets, crewel yarn, etc. Presently, it is procuring only 3 to 5 lakh kgs of the wool. 
 The former minister, sources said, had made it mandatory to all the government departments to procure woolen items from the JK Woolen Board and directed police, health and tourism departments to purchase blankets form the Board.
 Subsequently, the government decided to revive the closed handloom plants.  It started from the Solina Shoddy plant. Sources said during Mufti-led coalition government, the Jammu Kashmir Industries had mooted a proposal to auction the Shoddy plant for Rs 32 lakhs only. The JK Industries, sources said, had opposed the revival of the plant stating that it would cost Rs 2.70 crores. But Azad Government nixed the JKI proposal and asked textile expert Bilal Shah to revive the plant. 
 Shah revived the plant having machinery worth Rs 36 crores by investing only Rs one lakh. But for past three months, the plant is not functioning, sources said. 
 Sources said the plant was closed down as the government departments didn’t purchase the material from the plant instead they went ahead with tendering process and purchased the items from outside the state.
Orders go outside:
 On June 9, 2008 the police department invited tenders for the woolen items including shirting Angola woolen khaki, 50000 meters, serge woolen khaki 40,000 meters, terricot khaki 70,000 meters. The department didn’t approach the Wool Board to purchase the same. The other three plants Bemina Spinning Mill, Nowshehra and UNDP having the machinery over Rs 60 crores are still sick and closed down.   
 “There is no assured market for the products processed in the state,” said Dr Yousuf Hassan, chairman Wool Board. 
 He said the blankets processed in the Shoddy plant cost Rs 750 but no one purchased it. The departments purchased the blankets from outside the state at Rs 500. “Unless and until the plants are revived and assured market provided in the state nothing would happen,” he said. 
  “The Wool Board’s job is to provide market support to farmers and ensure that they should not be cheated by outsiders who purchase their raw wool,” the official said, adding that five years ago the wool was at Rs 20 per kg and today it is at Rs 40 per kg.

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