With No IT Sector: Kashmir lags behind rest of country

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Ground Report| Wahid Bhat

SRINAGAR: When information technology has revolutionized life across the world, Kashmir in North’s India lags behind rest of country, and the world, because it has no IT industry to speak of.

Local residents say an IT sector would solve the unemployment problem in the Kashmir Valley, and prevent the exodus of young people studying information technology or searching for jobs in the industry elsewhere.

In India, one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, the IT sector employs more than 2.5 million people and accounts for over five percent of the country’s gross domestic product and export earnings. India’s outsourcing industry is expected to hit 225 billion dollars by 2020.

Although mobile phones and the Internet have drastically changed the modes of communication here, IT industries and parks are still unknown. This has largely affected the youth who are forced to pursue IT jobs outside their home state. Thousands of Kashmiri youth are working in different IT companies elsewhere in India and abroad.

“Information technology is the most important sector in this century. But Kashmir lack it,” said Saima Farooq, she works for an IT company in Delhi.

Ameena Trumboo, an IT student in Kashmir’s college, feels anxious about her future given the absence of prospective jobs in the Valley. “I was fortunate to get admitted into Kashmir’s engineering college. But now I don’t know where I will find a job,” says Ahmad.

“I do not know how things will turn out. I don’t want to leave Kashmir and my family,” she adds.

Ahmad criticised government for neglecting the careers of Kashmiri youth by not paying attention to the IT industry. “Kashmir has talented youth but our authorities do not seem to be much concerned about their future. It is bizarre not to have an IT industry in the 21st century,” said Ahmad.

The problem is not just limited to IT-related jobs. Even provisions for IT education are limited. Kashmir Valley has only one government engineering college, the National Institute of Technology (NIT), and one private school, the Srinagar School of Management (SSM) College of Engineering and Technology.

SSM provides only diplomas in IT, while it is the NIT that offers degrees. Students who could not be accommodated in NIT have to move out of the state or study abroad.

Another Student said it is imperative to develop the IT industry to secure the future of Kashmiri youth. “Our intelligent and hardworking youth are suffering because we do not have proper IT education and IT industries here,” he said.

Thousands of IT-inclined students leave Kashmir every year, he added. Students studying civil engineering courses are well absorbed in various sectors in Kashmir but those from the IT field suffer.

He added “Their future gets ruined,” said, who also sees the need to build the infrastructure for IT education and related jobs in the Valley.

List of industries in J&K

Jammu and Kashmir, though rich in water and forest re­sources, has very few metallic mineral resources. The non-availability of iron-ore, copper, good quality coal, petroleum and natural gas are the major constraints in the development of basic industries and manufacturing cen­tres.

The Kashmiris have won a great reputation as artisans and were cele­brated in the old days for their skill in art manufacturing. The chief centre of Kashmiri industries is Srinagar, but other localities are also famous for their special manufactures. For example, Islamabad (Anantnag) turns out excellent embroideries; Kulgam is famous for lacquered woodwork.

Silk Textile:
Silk textile is one of the most ancient industries of Jammu and Kashmir state. Kashmiri silk-goods are renowned the world over for their quality, col­our and shades. There are historical evidences which prove that silk fabrics were used to be exported to Persian, Greeks and Roman empires. During the medieval period, the Mughals were the great lovers of silken clothes. They patronized this industry in the Valley of Kashmir.

According to the data of 1995-96, silk industry and its allied activities provide employment to about 2.50 lakh people and, contribute about Rs. six crores (60 million) to the income of the Jammu and Kashmir state. It also provides raw material for shawl making, carpet, gabha, namda, hosiery and embroidery making. Moreover, it helps in the utilization of culturable waste and less productive tracts for the various activities of silk textile.

Rammbagh Silk Factory, Srinagar-Silk Production, 1994-95

The Rambagh Silk Factory produces about 50 thousand kg of raw silk annually. The silk production, however, fluctuates between 37,361 kg in 1982-83 to 57, 850 kg in 1991-92. The production of silk products largely de­pends on the availability of mulberry leaves, the main food of silk-worms.

Rambagh Silk Factory: Categories and Number of Workers 1995

It may be observed from the Table 9.3 that about one-third of the total workers (33.68%) are the spinners, about 23 per cent are storekeepers and about 18 per cent are the cooks. The remaining about 25 per cent workers are the cleaners, knotters and reminders (Table 9.3).

Carpet-Making and Woolen Textile:

Carpet-making is one of the oldest industries in Kashmir. Kashmiri carpets are famous all over the world for their excellent designs and natural patterns. Though carpets are made in almost all the towns of the valley, their major factories are in and around the City of Srinagar.

In the manufacturing of Kashmiri carpets, the warp is drawn in cotton, while the leaves and texture, leaving a fluppy pile is done by wool, silk and synthetic fibres. The number of knots per sq cm/inch determines the quality and value of carpet, together with the quality of yarn, dye-stuff and finish. Kashmiri qaleens (carpets) are manufactured by the government undertak­ings as well as by the private manufacturers.

Carpet-Making and Woolen Textile:

Carpet-making is one of the oldest industries in Kashmir. Kashmiri carpets are famous all over the world for their excellent designs and natural patterns. Though carpets are made in almost all the towns of the valley, their major factories are in and around the City of Srinagar.

In the manufacturing of Kashmiri carpets, the warp is drawn in cotton, while the leaves and texture, leaving a fluppy pile is done by wool, silk and synthetic fibres. The number of knots per sq cm/inch determines the quality and value of carpet, together with the quality of yarn, dye-stuff and finish. Kashmiri qaleens (carpets) are manufactured by the government undertak­ings as well as by the private manufacturers.

Forest-based Industries:

The state of Jammu and Kashmir has about one-third of its total area under forest. Most of the forest species in the higher altitudes belong to the coni­fers, while in the lower altitudes pine and deciduous broad-leaves trees are more prominent. These forests provide raw material to a number of forest- based industries. Paper, pulp, match, delicate boxes, sports goods (cricket bats), furniture, joinery, toys, artifacts and decoration pieces are some of the agro-based industries well developed in the Valley of Kashmir.

Although a number of joinery mills have been established in Srinagar, especially along the Srinagar-Baramulla Road, Pampore, and Jammu, sports goods are being manufactural at Miran-Sahib (Jammu) and in the villages of Anantnag District. There is an urgent need to develop forest-based industries in the state on a scientific basis.

The willow, mulberry and walnut trees can provide raw materials required for the development of sports goods, furni­ture, and wood-artifacts. Nearly 5,000 workers earn their livelihood from the forest-based industries and their annual production amounts to more than Rs. 5 crores (Rs. 50 million).

Agro-based Industries:
The state of Jammu and Kashmir has an agrarian economy. In fact, agricul­tural products not only yield over 50 per cent of the states Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it provides raw materials to a number of industries. Fruit- canning, edible oil extraction, flour mills, rice-husking factories, bakery and alcohol preparation draw their raw materials from agriculture.

The plain areas of the Jammu Division and the Valley of Kashmir pro­duce huge quantities of rice. Over 60 per cent of the total population of the state is rice eater. Consequently, there are numerous rice-husking factories in the state, situated mainly in smaller towns of the rice growing areas.

Papier Mache:
Papier mache is made from the pulp of paper.

The lacquer-workers apply their beautiful designs to smooth wood. These designs are very intricate, and the drawing is all freehand. The pen-boxes (qalamdan), tables, cabinet, trays, boxes are the main articles of papier mache. Papier mache still has great na­tional and international market. After 1989, papier mache suffered as the disturbed political conditions discouraged the arrival of tourists. Papier mache industry is largely confined to the City of Srinagar and its adjacent ar­eas.

Cement Industry:
The raw materials for the manufacture of cement are calcareous and argil­laceous materials. These are mixed in suitable proportions to form the raw mix limestone, gypsum, coal; bauxite and clay are the main ingredients of this industry. Limestone and gypsum are available in large quantities in Bara­mulla and Anantnag districts.

The Wuyan Cement Factory is the largest cement supplier to the Valley of Kashmir. This cement factory was established in 1962 to which raw mate­rial is supplied from Uri and Baramulla areas. This factory provides employment to about 275 workers and produces about 2,000 tonnes of ce­ment annually. In 1982, a large cement factory was established at Khrew. This factory is known as the J & K Cements Ltd. Khrew. There are more than 500 workers employed in this factory producing about 600 tonnes of cement a day.

Industrial Complexes:
Since 1980, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir state has been paying adequate attention towards the establishment of agro-based, forest-based and mineral-based industries. The State Industrial Development Corporation has established a number of industrial complexes at Rangreth, Khunamoh and Doabgah in Kashmir and at Bari Brahman in Jammu.

The Rangreth factory assembles television sets, radios, transistors, elec­tronic clocks, stabilizers, electric blankets, tape recorders and jewels for watches. Joinery articles, matches, automobiles batteries and tiles are manu­factured at Khonamoh.