Srinagar, Aug 9: J&K administration on Tuesday said it is "keen towards promotion of cricket bat industry of Kashmir enabling the Kashmir willow cricket bat to become a world class product".
In order to revive Kashmir’s cricket bat manufacturing and other wood-based industry, a team of Union Ministry of Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises officials had visited valley to find ways for extending support.
In this direction Common Facility Centre, Sethar was established at an estimated
cost of Rs 4.61 crore with plant and machinery installed by PPDC, Meerut incurring an expenditure of Rs 2.46 crore.
The objective of this CFC is to facilitate seasoning of willow clefts and provide all facilities to the Cricket Bat Unit holders under one roof. This will enable the unit holders to use modern techniques in production of world class cricket bats.
There are 7 villages – Bijbehara, Charsoo, Hallamullaha, Sangam, Pujteng, Mirzapor and Sethar – in south Kashmir where cricket bats are manufactured, providing bread and butter to hundreds of villagers. Moreover Sethar Sangam in Anantnag has been notified as an industrial cluster for cricket bat manufacturing.
The government has also given registration certificates to bat manufacturing unit owners of Anantnag and Pulwama, which would enable them to avail all benefits from the government, aimed at strengthening the industry.
A team of officials from Meerut-based Process-cum-Product Development Centre (PPDC) also visited the valley to explore ways for hand-holding of MSMEs in wood-based industry’. The team visited cricket bat cluster in Sethar village at Sangam area of Anantnag district to assess how the bat industry there could be revived. This cluster has been earlier funded by the Union MSME Ministry and now they are keen to provide an impetus to the cluster.
Pertinent to mention here that Kashmir willows are famous for their quality across the world and have gained huge attention from the cricketers. A study on sports goods titled ‘Indian Sports Goods Industry: Strategies for Tapping the Export Potential’ conducted by the Export-Import Bank of India (EXIM BANK) says that Kashmir willow bat is one such product, which holds significance as it is made from some of the best quality wood (willow) in the world.
The government is creating awareness and provides handholding amongst the bat makers with regard to GI tagging through field officers. The Directorate of Industries and Commerce has taken up the issue of granting Logo and GI tagging with the Director, Craft Development Institute (CDI), Srinagar.
Presently there are more than 400 cricket bat manufacturing units generating employment to about 8000 people directly, said an official. It was also revealed that Under the World Bank-funded Jhelum Tawi Flood Recovery Project (JTFRP), Faculty of Forestry SKUAST Kashmir has been engaged for the identification and propagation of the best quality willow (Salix Alba varcaerulea) being used for the manufacture of cricket bat. In SKUAST Kashmir, superior quality willow saplings were distributed for the manufacture of cricket bats among the beneficiaries associated with Sethar cricket bat cluster.
It is expected that with the use of superior willow the quality of cricket bats being manufactured in the Valley would be comparable to those manufactured in the rest of the world thereby increasing their demand exponentially.