Silken Solina: Why Should Employees Be Housed After Ruining A Heritage?

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SRINAGAR: While Kashmir was pleased to witness the Solina resuming the reeling of silk – after more than 30 years, the new tensions are taking over the historic Solina enclosure. The government is keen to have yet another bite on the heritage belt and construct homes for the officials!

The reports are coming in wake of the serious efforts, currently under way, to trigger a turnaround in the moribund silk industry, once the famed address to great silk and jobs.

Sources said the government – the estate department, is seeking possession of 90 kanals of land from the Solina sericulture block. The government, according to an earlier cabinet decision, wants to create a housing colony for its employees.

The spot identified for takeover is no ordinary one. It is home to one of the two major mulberry nurseries that the Sericulture Department owns. The particular nursery fetches nearly 20,000 saplings to the market and supplies foliage to hundreds of cocoon rears, mostly in the city.

Nursery apart, the particular patch is home to some of the key infrastructure of historic nature. It includes a silk training institute with allied laboratories and teaching space, Chowki rearing centre, grafting shed, cocoon wear house, hot air dryers and Chinese type conveyors. “It was this patch of the complex that was used by the Mahraja in helping Japan revive its silk sector,” one insider said.

The Solina silk heritage block is a vast piece of land measuring 237 kanals and 13 marlas. However, right now only 120 kanals are currently with the Sericulture Development Department. The government has earlier taken as much as 117 kanals and 13 marlas under various phases and diverted the land use. It is on this patch that Jammu Kashmir Industries Ltd, J&K Public Service Commission, The huge complex of Excise and Taxation are located. Part of it including a heritage complex was given to the Power Development Department where it is repairing transformers. The department was attempting levelling this heritage property to create a new facility but the mass campaign against the idea stopped it.

Right now when the efforts are seriously going on to revive the sericulture sector, thanks to a World Bank initiative, the government is trying to take a big chunk of the residual land to utilise it in creating a housing facility.

The moth-eaten Filatures in Silk Factory Solina that was closed after a century long operation, not many years ago. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

Silk is one of Kashmir’s heritage industries. It was formally established as a department in 1889 even though the silk activities were going much before Afghans came and vandalised Kashmir. At one point of time, Kashmir was running Asia’s biggest silk manufacturing industry with thousands of people working in it. The sector suffered seriously many times and was revived. However, the onset of militancy gave it a deadly blow. Now after 30 years now serious efforts are going on to revive it. While the taking off has symbolically taken place, there are now tensions that the policymakers will have to take care of.

Interestingly, the patch of land that the government is keen to convert into a housing colony is supposed to host some new machinery that is being imported under the externally aided project, sources said. They have ordered a 2-MT capacity hot air dyer from China that will speed up the process of drying the cocoons.

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