If the government helps by giving support, this promising industry may perform wonders and provide work for thousands of people.
Jammu and Kashmir’s bat industry, which is Asia’s largest, is facing various obstacles and is on the verge of collapse.
The Jawbara, Awantipora to Donipora, Sangam area was designated as an industrial zone in July 2019, but little has changed on the ground in the two years afterwards.
Common Facilitation Centre promised but never completed
According to Bat Manufacturers Association (BMA) members, the Common Facilitation Centre (CFC) in the Sethar area of Anantnag district was built in 2004 with the goal of drying willow clefts in days rather than months, allowing manufacturers to make more bats in lesser time.
However, the potential time-saving CFC was never completed even after 16 years. Consequently, the CFC is still not operational while the manufacturers battle against the shortage of willow.
Illegal supply of willow cleft must be prevented so that willows will be stored in the coming years since no one wants to cultivate willows now. “Willows are on the brink of extinction,” a bat manufacturer laments.
Crises of irregular electricity supply burgeoning costs
The electricity crisis is one of the main issues of the industry because there are around 300 units in the area and at least one unit holder has to spend around 200 litres of Diesel per month to run the unit.
If the area had a 24-hour power supply, the unit holders say, they could save crores of rupees and will also significantly lower their costs of operation.
Bat industry’s full employment potential not reaped
This promising sector can achieve miracles and give jobs for thousands of people if the government assists by providing support like lowering GST, making CFC operational, banning the illicit sale of willow clefts, and organizing programmes to promote Kashmiri bat.
At the moment, this industry employs roughly 3,000 people, but with the government’s assistance, it has the potential to employ over 10,000 people.
Interestingly, Kashmiri willow bats made it to the international stage last month, with a few players of the Oman cricket team using Kashmir-made bats in the ICC T20 World Cup.
Absence of hospital, banking services mars productivity
It is, however, to be noted that individuals working in the bat industry in Jawbara, Awantipora to Donipora, Sangam area are frequently injured, but there is no hospital in the neighbourhood which is a cause of concern.
Besides, the bat manufacturers also rue the fact that there is no branch of a Bank, so they have to travel miles for banking-related services.