Dismal State of Industrial Affairs in J&K

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Patriot Monitoring Desk

SRINAGAR: Be it Leather, mutton, food procession or any other small scale industry, Kashmir’s industrial sector has either failed to grow or struggling for survive.  What are the reasons and factors behind the dismal state of industrial affairs in the state, let’s analyse in-depth.

 

LEATHER INDUSTRY:

Few decades back Leather industry enjoyed a prestigious position in Kashmir but with growing official apathy, less demand, global turbulence the industry is struggling to survive.

Pertinently, leather footwear happens to be the largest exported product among different categories of leather exports on global level.

Footwear is a critical segment, as this is expected to be the engine of growth for the Indian leather industry too. In our part of the world, according to expert voices the valley of Kashmir leather industry has the potential to generate $ 1 billion for state economy annually.

The climate on our part of the world provides one of the best environments for leather industry to flourish. Since Kashmiris are meat-eaters, statistics reveals that millions of sheep and goat are slaughtered annually for consumption thus generating large number of hides.

Worryingly due to the poor infrastructure Kashmir is not reaping full benefits of its leather potential as the virtual absence of tanneries wherein these skin hides can be processed is badly hampering the growth of Kashmir’s leather industry.

Artisans involved in making leather products in Kashmir are dismayed over non existence of proper hides (animal skin) processing unit in valley. The finished quality raw materials coming from outside prove beyond their earning capacities.

Sipping tea tensely at restaurant Bashir Ahmad, a leather businessman narrates the downfall of leather industry in Kashmir, “Once leather industry was growing like anything in Kashmir but different factors have contributed to its downfall. The war in Middle East especially Syria war has been main reason of suffering leather industry and also the government did virtually nothing to improve the status of leather industry in Kashmir. The hides are as a result selling on peanut prices. The huge number of animal skins generated in Kashmir on account of our high meat consumption can be better utilized for the production of quality leather, provided we have quality tanneries build here.

Unfortunately the absence of tanneries in Kashmir pushes up the production costs.  We demand the government built the required infrastructure to promote this industry so that it can prove to be a fundamental industry to address our unemployment issues.”

The government in Jammu & Kashmir has  number of times  stated that it was determined to promote leather industry in J&K in a big way but as of date nothing much has happened in this direction.

FOOD PROCESSING:

 Kashmir is still not able to develop its food processing industry despite much talk from the Government .The highly globalised and technological world Food Processing is an important industry.

Food Processing Industry is growing at the rate of 20-25% per year in the country and all the voices here in Kashmir are hopeful that Kashmir would definitely benefit from it.

The estimated installed capacity of fruit & vegetable processing industry in Kashmir has increased to good extent. The processed items are fruit pulps, juices, jams, apple concentrate, canned fruits etc. There is a need to capitalise on market  that Kashmir spends on carbohydrate drinks & juices amounting to Rs.270 crore .

Many industrialist believes that there is  a strong potential of the food processing Industry in Kashmir, where in the industry faces a wastage of around 7metric tons of fresh fruits due to non-availability of cold storages & insufficient industries in this sector.

They said that unfortunately in spite of having a good vegetable production in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, not much productive and meaningful effort has been made either by the public sector or private sector to preserve and to capitalise on the vegetable processing. We have also not build the required infra in this context.

“We are  able to produce sufficient quantities of vegetables, sufficient enough to cater & fulfil the demand of the domestic market. Kashmir has the capacity to produce larger quantities of vegetables by utilising the wastelands for cultivation of vegetables. The State has around 744.47Sq Km of wasteland only in Srinagar out of which 578.96 Sq Km is fit for cultivation & if used for vegetable cultivation can pay very rich dividends. We need a vibrant food processing industry”, they said.

Pertinently, all requirements of dried vegetables were in ancient times met domestically through sun drying by almost all the households of Kashmir valley but for many years there is a change in trend & this domestic practice has evolved as a full-fledged business wherein “pheriwalas/vendors” sell dry vegetables coming from villages to cities. This is partly due to shrinkage of vegetable gardens in urban areas and partly due to increase in the standard of living of citizenry and urban people who have lesser time to toil in such agricultural practices.

It is being observed that the Food Processing Industry should be promoted for promoting economy and vibrant Kashmir.

MUTTON INDUSTRY:

Mutton crisis has frequented Kashmir, known for its second to none meat consumption, various times in last two years or so and it came to fore yet again with mutton retailers going for an indefinite strike over the price.

Those associated with the trade government should consume in setting up its own mutton industry and focus on local production to make the state self sufficient.

It is no secret demand of mutton in Kashmir is second to none, and it was reinforced by the estimates that suggest mutton worth nearly Rs.100s of crores is being sold annually.

Despite tall claims of government for spending huge money on rearing of animals in the valley, it has failed to produce even one percent of mutton to meet the market demand. Most of the demand, as has been happening for the years, is being met by the imports from various states.  Kashmir is blessed with vast meadows and pastures and has tremendous potential to nurture animals like sheep and goat here in the Valley, but Kashmir continues to be at the mercy of other states to meet the demand.

With ever increasing demand, the price of mutton keeps soaring up. And, in last couple of years, the mutton retailers are at loggerheads over the fixing of price. The retailers say that ever soaring prices are due to the outside dealers selling the mutton at higher prices.

They feel government should tap the vast potential of the valley to make it self sufficient in meat production and with the result the price factor can be taken care of.

While every Kashmiri whether poor or rich spends good amount of his earnings on the mutton consumption, the government has failed to explore this huge potential of business opportunity for its unemployed youth.

The Sheep and Animal Husbandry department of Jammu and Kashmir Government, failed to produce even one percent of animals, it has totally failed to cater the market demands, despite spending crores of rupees on its projects.

Of late, the crisis over mutton and beef has come to the fore with some officials at Udampur and Rajouri interrupt the vehicles carrying bovine animals and the alleged government harassment particularly after BJP formed the government has forces the people associated with the industry to look for an alternative to tape the ever increasing demand.

They feel the mutton should be made a subsidized commodity which will ultimately help consumer for the rates will come down automatically.

“For every kilogram of mutton exported from other states in the form of livestock to Kashmir, expenditure of Rs 70-90 extra per kilogram in needed for tax and transportation, which a consumer has to pay ultimately,” says Bashir Ahmad Chopan, one of the mutton dealers of Kashmir.

He said that Kashmir imports 70 percent of animals from other states to meet the local demand. “Those linked with the trade put this to lack of proper planning and lackadaisical approach from the government to tap the vast potential,” he said.

The retailers blamed the department for their failure to control the rates of supply coming from different Mandis of other states.

“The retailers are bound to sell mutton at higher rates to the customers, as the dealers supply them mutton with higher rates,” Ahmad said.

He said that his union feels that rates are beyond their control as it is the wholesalers who set the end rate of mutton. “The department has failed to check the influential mafia behind the rates, but it is always easy to target a poor retailer, who has no way except to close down his shop,” he added.

The government and those concerned hasn’t put place a plan that could have helped the Valley to raise its own mutton industry.

“We have vast pastures and meadows commonly addressed as green gold and that can be used to raise thousands of animals which will in turn help us take care of the demand. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened over the last few decades despite our fraternity pressing hard for it,” believe the people associated with the industry.

It is also believed that the Kothdars are no more at the helm and its commissioning agents who call the shots and decide the rates at their will. And today everyone is a commissioning agent, and if this practice goes on there will be no control on the rates.

The mutton dealers said the government has invested crores of rupees on setting up their units, but failed to supply even less than five percent of market demand.

“The real culprits are government unit holders, who have failed to cater to meet the market demands at government fixed prices, despite enjoying all subsidies and benefits,” the retailers and dealers said.

The industry people also suggested that government must promote and locals should prefer local production to encourage local entrepreneurs to increase the livestock production here in valley.

They said that people living in hilly areas of Gurez, Karnah, Sonmarag, Tanghdar, Rajouri, and Poonch of Jammu and Kashmir mostly nomads (Gujjars and Bakerwalas) supply mutton for local production to earn their living easily by rearing animals.

There is an ever growing demand for setting up Mandis in the state in order has business flourishing with more benefits to the locals.

Sharing their experience, many people involved in this business even believe that the government had failed to use pastures, meadows and barren land for animal rearing in the Kashmir; which resulted in the encroachment of these pastures by ‘Bakarwals’ that belong to Rajouri and Poonch districts; which includes pastures of Pir panjal region of Shopian including, ‘Rainur’, ‘Chiran bal’, ‘Dobijan’, ‘Tathjan’ and area up to ‘Pir ki Gali’ on Mughal road. (With KNB inputs)