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Surviving the Fall

jhelum brick kiln in problem

Jhelum Structures Private Limited is Kashmir’s sole mechanised brick-kiln situated at Ompora, Budgam. The factory was started in 1982, but the unfavorable circumstances of Kashmir have affected its growth and expansion. 

Since its inception in 1982, the factory has witnessed unprecedented shutdowns due to 1990’s arms insurgency, harsh winter climate and rampant uprisings. “I was zealous to be an industrialist, but time has proven me wrong. Kashmir bears no future for industries”, says Imtiyaz, a worker at Jhelum Structures Private Limited. 

The factory’s project plan in 1982 had stipulated to produce over 12 million bricks per year. But over the year’s Jhelum has managed to produce only 10% of the projected plan annually. While drafting the project plan the policymakers failed to take cognizance of harsh winter climate of Kashmir into consideration. The factory remains dormant from the month of November to April. “We were deceived by the factory’s project plan. I want to quit this job but I have reached an age where I cannot labor even” says Imtiyaz. 

The factory went in crisis in 1990’s arms uprising. With less than a decade in function Jhelum confronted nightmares with years of shutdown worsened by unavailability of workers. To overcome these nightmarish times the owners  inducted Kashmiri laborers’ to keep the factory afloat. Though the factory resumed functioning after a long period of hibernation but inadequate proficiency of Kashmiri laborers’ couldn’t save Jhelum from recurring losses. 

The factory was built over a decade on 22 kanals of land with the Romanian inducted machines. It’s bricks are famous across Kashmir for their distinct trait of glitter. To acquire and maintain its finishing by the process of mechanization, Jhelum has availed a separate 33000 KV (Kilovolt) essential electric service. The factory remains functional from May to October, but electricity dues are paid for the entire year.

Besides the government’s apathy, the factory is irked by the frequent grievances of the local dwellers.  Situated in a residential area of Ompora, the factory locally purchases clay from the hilly regions of Budgam. The commotion of lorries often invite grievances of the nearby inhabitants. 

Jhelum Structures Private Limited is a semi-government industry with Hamidullah as Managing Director. The factory is in crisis even after being directly associated with the territorial government. During March 2020, COVID-19 imposed lockdown. The factory suffered losses for consecutive two years, but no compensation was offered instead, the shareholders paid insurances, taxes and electricity dues at a hiked price, the shareholders’ claim.

The factory has a single tipper lorry to carry bricks to its customers. A tipper lorry carries 3000 bricks at a time which costs between 50000 to 55000 rupees to the nearby places. Jhelum has delivered bricks outside Kashmir also, “It’s hard for us to survive even after being a maiden mechanised brick kiln in Kashmir. I wonder how other industries are still functioning”, said a worker. 

Pampore branch of JK PCC (Projects Construction Corporation) mechanized brick kiln was shut down due to bankruptcy. Jhelum Structures Private Limited fears its decline and remains the lingering hope of sustenance in the valley of dormancy. 

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