Terror hotbed Pulwama turning pencil slate producing hub | India News

PULWAMA: Mention of Pulwama may bring memories of the terror attack on the CRPF convoy in February last year, leaving over 40 jawans killed, but this district in south Kashmir is quietly contributing to the field of education, and the state’s economy in a small way, with its pencil slate manufacturing industry.
In a tiny village Oukhoo in Pulwama, these units manufacturing pencils of soft slate or soapstone, are thriving in almost every household.
Manzoor Ahmad, who works at a pencil slate unit in Oukhoo, said the trade provides jobs to thousands of youth across the Kashmir valley and particularly in Pulwama district.
“We have 90% local boys and girls working in these units while the rest of the skilled labour is hired from outside J&K who operate machinery for making blocks,” said Ahmad.
Manzoor is, however, wary of the future of the trade owing to the fear of raw material like poplar trees drying up, with the wood used to make holders for these pencils.
Rifat Ara, 28, of Oukhoo earns Rs 6000 a month, working in a pencil slate unit while Firdous Ahmad of the same village earns get Rs 7000 a month.
The pandemic has, however, hit the industry hard.
“The pandemic has forced unit holders to shut workplaces and we are not being paid for the time being,” said Rifat. Unit holders are trying to compensate workers by assigning related jobs in these units, said Firdous.
Director industries department Mehmood Shah told TOI that the number of pencil slate manufacturing units are on the rise across Kashmir. However, trade is particularly popular in Pulwama district because of the moist soil in the district, he added.
Owner of a unit in Srinagar Sair Mir said the factories are even manufacturing blocks of wood which are sent to other parts of the country for the final product of pencil manufacturing.
Ghulam Rasool Allai of Oukhoo village is also running a pencil slate manufacturing unit and has given jobs to around 100 odd people of the hamlet besides in adjacent areas like Kakapora in Pulwama. “My unit is partially running. We are not able to open the unit completely owing to the pandemic, but we try to keep it running for employees who need to earn their livelihood,” he said.

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