Half a Decade Later, NIFT in Kashmir Fails to Launch

Qazi Zaid




In 2009 the then Union Minister of Textile, wrote to the Government of J&K in an offer to set up a National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) in Kashmir. The setting up of the institute would act as a boon for the handicrafts and textile industry with contemporary design techniques and patterns being introduced by the students who graduate from the institute. Being a craft based institute the students from NIFT have been working as entrepreneurs and in companies all over the world. More than six years after the conception of the plan to launch it in Kashmir, the institute has still failed to launch and is running on life support.

According to the initial plan, the Institute would be built on land provided by the state in addition to the infrastructure cost required for the set up. The cost amounted to Rs 60 Crore in the first phase and Rs 188 Crore in a total of three phases. As per the order, once the Institute would be set up the running cost would be borne by NIFT.

Eighty canals of land were identified and leased to Government of India, Ministry of Textile at Industrial Estate Ompora, Budgam but until now the institute is functioning from its temporary campus in Rangreth, with less than ten employees, and no students.

“The legalities between the state and the union government have prolonged this, but so far the things have been smooth. The union government has agreed to bear the losses which the institute will incur in the initial years,” said a senior official at the Jammu and Kashmir State Industrial Development Corporation (SIDCO). “From our part the land allotment has been done long back. The state has provided the funds in advance and even the temporary infrastructure for the institute has been built so that people come to know about it,” he added.

Even though the efforts of the state can be seen at the Rangreth campus, which is better equipped than many other functioning NIFTs including the one at Kangra in Himachal Pradesh, the NIFT administration seems unwilling to work in Kashmir.

Despite repeated attempts, Professor Bala Sidhartha refused to be contacted and answer the questions regarding the delay in the process. Bala, who is the Director of NIFT Kangra has been made the Director of NIFT Srinagar as an additional charge.

Even though the campus is ready for the starting of first phase, under which three courses can be run, there is no faculty. Dedicated labs have computers and equipment for design but lacks students, even though many in the state are willing to take up the courses offered and many from the state are studying in NIFT  in parts of India. The buildings lie vacant wasting precious educational time and public money due to negligence and lack of will.

More than a year has passed with this infrastructure standing which could have potentially seen one batch sit for the annual examination. Except a few administrators who have nothing much to do during the day, the campus looks dead. Inspite of sufficient infrastructure the administration has not hired faculty and admitted students. With AIIMS and IIM being used as opportunities to “score political brownie points and maintain power balance between Jammu and Kashmir”, NIFT has been off the discourse and forgotten, much to the liking of a seemingly unwilling NIFT administration.

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