Kashmir’s bat industry suffers Rs 5 cr loss due to unrest

A craftsman make cricket bats from willow wood at a workshop in South Kashmir’s Chursoo hamlet. -Excelsior/Younis Khaliq
A craftsman make cricket bats from willow wood at a workshop in South Kashmir’s Chursoo hamlet. -Excelsior/Younis Khaliq

Suhail Bhat

PULWAMA, Nov 28: Kashmir’s fabled cricket bat industry which provides employment to thousands of people has suffered around Rs 5 crore loss during unrest and the manufacturers are likely to face more headwinds as majority of the orders have been cancelled.
With an annual turnover of more than Rs 10 crore, there are about 250 registered small and big manufacturing units operational in Kashmir which provide direct and indirect employment to nearly 15,000 people.
In South Kashmir’s Chursoo area of Pulwama district, people are wearing a forlorn look these days as wheels of over 30 bat manufacturing units stand halted for last four months thereby putting livelihood of thousands at stake.
The Chursoo area along with other six villages including Hallmulla, Bijbehara, Sangam, Sethar, Pujteng and Mirzapor in South Kashmir is the hub of bat manufacturers where almost every house has something to do with the bat manufacturing process.
Right from warehouses to sawmills, people earn their livelihood by toiling hard in these manufacturing units to make sure the supply of cricket bats never stops. Ghulam Qadir Parray, who is the owner of Asian Crescent Bat Manufacturing unit, at Chursoo, said that they didn’t operate their manufacturing units for last four months which has led to the cancellation of all the orders.
“For last four months, we would have sold 4000-5000 bats, which could have fetched us nearly Rs 20 lakh but due to the ongoing uncertainty we haven’t been able to operate our units. To make our situation worse the unfinished bat- clefts have developed mould and several clefts have been eaten by insects as well,” he said.
He said the unrest has washed the years of hard work which they had put in to market the Kashmir-willow bats. “I send bats to Bangalore, Karnataka, Kerala, Pune and Jallandhar but this summer we haven’t been able to finish our orders’ which has affected our business badly. The immediate challenge will be to gain the confidence of the dealers across India,” said Qadir, adding: “Before placing a new order, they will think twice now”, he said.
He added that the loss cannot be quantified and with no support from Government they have to start everything afresh. The bat manufacturers said they have no hope from Government as they have not been paid any relief or compensation for the losses which they suffered during the 2014 devastating floods.
As per the Industries and Commerce Department, the industry suffered a loss of nearly Rs 2 crores in floods and the detailed report has been sent to the Government for compensation but, so far, not a single penny has been paid. Also the loss estimated for willow suppliers was nearly Rs one crore.
Some factory owners alleged that while their units were shut, some unscrupulous people were busy in the illegal transportation of willow clefts outside the State which was banned in 1989. “There has been a two-fold increase in the rate of smuggling during the unrest despite a ban from State Government, to promote local sports goods. Truckers continuously smuggle the clefts Punjab and Uttar Pradesh,” said Abdul Razaq Parray, a raw material provider at Chursoo, said.