SRINAGAR: PM Narendra Modi on Sunday made special mention of Pulwama district of south Kashmir, once a hotbed of terrorism, now turning into a hub for pencil slate manufacture in India, in his monthly Mann Ki Baat on AIR.
Pulwama district became infamous for the terror attack on the CRPF convoy in February last year in which 40 jawans were killed.
However, today the tiny Oukhoo village of Pulwama has become one of the favourite spots for the burgeoning pencil slatemanufacture units that run in almost every second household of this tiny village near Kakapora here.
Manzoor Ahmad with Jhelum Agro-industries pencil slate unit of Oukhoo village says this work provides jobs to thousands of youth across Kashmir, especially the young unemployed boys and girls of Pulwama district.
“We have 90% of the labour in the units coming from local boys and girls, while 10% skilled labour is hired from outside J&K who operate machinery for making blocks, etc,” Ahmad said.
He had to shut his pencil slate unit in wake of the nationwide lockdown early this year, but has now restarted it and the staff is back on work, he said.
Ghulam Rasool Allai of Oukhoo village is another person who runs a pencil slate unit and has given jobs to around 100 people of the hamlet, besides adjacent areas like Kakapora in Pulwama.
“The unit is running now. We had limited the manufacture of the pencil slate owing to the pandemic lockdown early this year. But, we tried to keep the unit running partially, so that our workers earn their livelihood,” Rasool said.
Rifat Ara, 28, of Oukhoo earns Rs 6,000 every month at a pencilslate unit while Firdous Ahmad of the same village gets Rs 7,000 a month because he is involved in some laborious work as well.
Mehmood Shah, director of the industries department of J&K told TOI that the number of pencil slate manufacture units are on the rise across Kashmir. However, the trade is vigorously pursued in Pulwama because of the moist soil of the district, he said.