“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

The J&K Government can and must do more

Cricket bat industry dying a slow death

Jammu: The cricket bat industry is battling for survival in the state. Jammu region, which boasted of 77 cricket bat manufacturing units a few years back, now, has mere 10 units, while the scenario in Kashmir valley is no different.

One of the strong reasons for the downfall of the prestigious industry in the state, according to exports, is the smuggling of willow and its abundant use in plywood units.

The shortage of willow has increased its prices making it unaffordable for the manufacturing units, experts said.

Another major reason for the closure of the units, the experts said, is the “illegal bat manufacturing units” in and outside the state.

Talking to Greater Kashmir, president, Jammu Sports Good Manufacturers Association, Bansi Lal Gupta said the slump in the trade was due to smuggling of willow, and its excessive use by the plywood units.

“As per the norms willow can only be used for making cricket bats, but the plywood units are using it, throwing all the norms to wind,” he added.

According to him, the shortage of willow has led to sharp increase in its prices. “A truckload of willow that cost Rs 1.5 lakh a year back today comes at Rs 3 lakh,” Gupta said. He said the cricket bat units working legally are on the verge of closure while those operating illegally are thriving in the state.

He rued that the unit holders had engaged their literate children in this trade, but their lives had been ruined.

He said the people, who earlier used to grow willow on their land, are now opting for ‘safeda’ (eucalyptus) as it takes only 7 to 8 years to grow as compared to willows that take 20 years.

He said if the government supports cricket bat industry it can reduce the unemployment problem in the state by 25 per cent. “On top of it, these are not polluting industries. It is entirely hand work,” he averred.

He said the National Conference government under Farooq Abdullah had imposed a ban on export of willow from the state, but the ban remained effective only for a couple of months. Later, smuggling of willow undid all the government’s effort to promote the industry. “There is nothing left for our next generation. There is nobody to listen to our woes,” he said.

Nazir Ahmed Salroo, President of Cricket Bat Manufacturers Association, revealed out of a total of 300 cricket bat manufacturing units in Kashmir valley, half of them have shut their units.

He lamented that the plywood units were not even allowing willow trees to attain the size necessary for manufacture of cricket bats, while the government has failed to initiate any action against them.

He said the plywood units should use poplar wood for manufacturing purpose. He alleged that the government had no policy for the industry, adding that if corrective measures were not taken the remaining units would also meet the same fate.

Muhammad Majid of Sports Good Manufacturers Association too blamed the “rampant smuggling” of willow and the plywood factories for the plight of the cricket bat industry. “We have no alternative to Kashmir willow, which is second only to the one found in England. However, the way willow is being plundered in the valley our trade would not survive for more than one or two years,” he added.

Majid said on one hand, the state government is making tall claims of promoting the industry, and on the other, it has no plantation programme.

“Thousands of acres of forest land are lying vacant which can brought under willow plantation,” he said.

He said chief minister Omar Abdullah should come forward to rescue the dying industry, which was once considered to be the image of the state.

(Greater Kashmir)