Effort on to revive ‘world’s largest silk factory’ of 1867

Effort on to revive ‘world’s largest silk factory’ of 1867
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Afra Fathima

Srinagar: Wearing an abandoned and desolate look, the historic architecture covers a large portion of Rambagh. It is an old silk factory, built by the British in 1867 and at the time the largest silk factory in the world. Its heyday may not come again but a revival is still possible, after three decades of lying in the cold.
“The government has now invested in the factory to revive it. In 2017, during the months of August and September, we ran a trial for all the retained machinery of 2001 and the equipment was sturdy for use after repairing. We’re importing more machines from India, and are obtaining the raw materials from the state’s produce; hopefully, the factory will commence its working after the first week of June and will continue to run,” said Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, security supervisor of the factory.
Dating back to the time of Dogra Maharaja Ranbir Singh, the factory was built by the British and started production in 1867. The factory was closed down in 1980s due to the state government’s inability to sustain it.
In 1987, the cabinet decided to de-monopolise the factory, which resulted in the separation of JKIC and sericulture department. However, the factory couldn’t afford to get raw stock due to the high increase in the price of cocoon – from Rs 161 per kg to Rs 371 per kg, according to Ghulam.
“The factory closed down officially in 1989. In 2001, the World Bank sanctioned money for 30 new basins. The factory possessed 500 old and defunct basins. The factory started work again, but it went on only for two and a half years; there wasn’t sufficient money for acquiring raw material, so it was closed down again,” Ghulam said.
Once spread over 104 kanals of land, the factory currently survives on about 24 kanals. However, the structure of the factory still is untouched and is preserved under the J&K Conservation and Preservation Act, 2010.
Formerly, there were about 2,000 workers; 117 was the count of workers during 2001, and currently, only 17 are employed. About 150 employees are required for the factory to run. Experienced people are required to manage the factory, said Ghulam.
Ghulam said he believes that the revival of the factory will contribute positively to the state’s flagging economy.