In Udhampur’s Jandrore village, 40-year-old Des Raj is rearing silkworms for keeping his family tradition alive and earn some extra money to support the education of his children.
Raj, a manual labourer, has learnt the craft of silkworm rearing from his late grandfather.
“My grandfather insisted me to learn the techniques of silkworm rearing when I was studying. But I had to take it up seriously after his death, as the financial condition of our family was not good. At that time, I was only 12. I had to quit the studies midway to work as a manual labourer with my father,” says Des Raj.
“My father would work as a manual labourer but used to get the work only for 2-3 months in a year. Down the line, the manual labour days increased but the inflation rate also went up,” Des Raj says further.
But after some time health of Des Raj’s father deteriorated and the responsibility of looking after the family came on his shoulders.
“Thanks to my grandfather, who had taught me the craft of silkworm rearing. Besides working as a labourer, I started to rear silkworms. It helped me to sustain my family. Now I do it twice a year – in summer and rainy season – and it helps me to support the education of children.
Des Raj earns in between 7000-8000 out of one crop of cocoons he produces and hence annually, he earns in between Rs 15000 to 16000.
According to him, sericulture department provides silkworm seeds twice a year to the rural farmers.
The department provides silkworm seeds to the rural farmers as small of size as ants and to produce a crop, the farmers put a lot of hard work. As the silkworm seeds are fed slashed leaves of mulberry plant, a farmer puts a lot of efforts initially but when the worms grow in size, they eat even the twigs of the mulberry plants. It takes around one month to produce a crop.
“However, rearing silkworms is a patient job that requires a lot of efforts, two crops an year give us a hope of seeing our family educated and financially better than us,” says Des Raj.
“If government has launched some schemes for the Dalit community, the government officials should try to reach out to rural Dalits so that they, like me, can promise better education and better living to their wards,” he says.
Dalits constitute 7.6 percent of state’s total population of around 1.25 crore. Despite numbers of schemes launched by Central and State governments to uplift the community, the life of rural Dalits has not changed much, educationally as well as financially, courtesy lack of proper promotion of government schemes.