Palhalan: It may be for Palhalan’s iron will that it dominates the news for frequent pro-freedom protests and clashes with government troops. This restive area in north Kashmir is home to the valley’s best ironsmiths, experts in forging secateurs, hedge trimmers, and shearing scissors.
And this is the season of huge rush for secateurs, as pruning of fruit trees in the valley is at its peak.
“It is a small hand tool, but it has given us recognition across the valley, with customers coming from distant areas to get secateurs,” says Akhtar Hussain Ahangar, whose father and grandfather were also ironsmiths.
“We have been making different iron tools and implements, but after our family several decades ago started improvising and making the secateurs, our customer base has increased manifold,” Ahangar said.
He said he learnt the craft from his father, and his grandfather was the pioneer in making secateurs here. Now there are ten units in Palhalan making the instrument.
Ironsmiths here say that the growth of horticulture, mostly apple cultivation, across the valley has kept up the demand for this product.
Abdul Khaliq Bhat, an apple grower from Gund Jahangir in Bandipora district, who has come to take delivery of his custom-made secateurs, said that pruning is critical for a fruit tree to increase its yield. A good-quality tool is necessary to achieve proper pruning without damaging the tree, he said.
Bhat said that the market is flooded with Indian variants, but they are not well-suited for pruning of the thick branches of apple, pear and other fruit trees, as their jaw size is limited. Besides, they are unable to cut through dead wood or dried-up branches, which are usually required to be pruned.
“Many (of the Indian tools) are not able to make clean cuts and peel the bark during pruning, resulting in developing of infections on trees. That is the reason professionals prefer Palhalan-made tools,” he said.
Ahangar said that secateurs are forged from high-quality steel that is mostly sourced from suspensions of old vehicles, and to make one is a day’s job.
“Ours is considered the best as it does not get blunt and can make clean cuts on branches. It also puts less exertion on the worker,” Ahangar said.
Abdul Rashid Ahangar is another expert in making secateurs. He said that the best thing about his product is that it can last longer and is lighter than other variants made in Palhalan.
“We guarantee that out product will not get blunt for two years. And the good thing is that it can be sharpened again, unlike other secateurs that cannot be put to use once they become blunt,” he said.
When asked how the tools are improved to make them sturdier and more effective, Akhtar Hussain Ahangar said that some interventions are made on the basis of feedback of customers, but mostly the product design and material stays the same.
On the prospect of exporting them, he said that the local demand is good enough, and that some of the secateurs were well received in Bihar after a consignment was sent there.
He added that the ironsmiths also make hedge trimmers and wool-shearing scissors, which are in great demand during sheep-shearing season.
About the cost of secateurs he said that a piece sells for about Rs 1,000.