the evolution of mankind millions of years ago, the man in his quest to better his fortunes shifted his abode from cave dwelling and livelihood from a hunter-gatherer to that of a settled life and farming respectively. From a primitive living his next logical step was to band together, which resulted into various human civilizations coming into being all along the major river lines. Our own country being product of ‘Indus valley civilization’ has shown the world the way human development can progress be it art, culture, farming etc. The earliest settlers as recorded in history in our context were the ‘Aryans’ who primarily were gravitating towards this promised land of India owing to its fertile land irrigated for thousands of years by Indus river Basin as well as numerous rivers of Gangetic plains like the mighty Ganges, Yamuna etc. With the time and tide of events farming had to change and adopt to the expediencies of the situations wrought by a burgeoning population which has been true to our country as well .
Of all the farming types prevalent in the world, silk farming is the one associated with lots of care and diligence with India having the unique position in the world producing all the 5 known commercial silks viz, Mulberry, tropical Tasar, Oak Tasar, eri & Muga. Muga silk with its golden yellow glitter is unique and prerogative of India. Sericulture farming is mainly practiced in states like Karnatka,Andhra Pradesh, Assam, WB, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu ,MP and Jammu &Kashmir. But off late Hoshangabad in MP has been on an upward curve of sericulture boom with a new phenomenon known as ‘Livelihood tourism’. A relatively new concept devised by ‘MP Silk federation’ which aims to bring silk farmers close to markets and provide a feel of nature and purity of produce to its buyers and tourists. I have had the opportunity and time of visiting one such endeavour of ‘MP Silk federation’ at a place called as ‘Malakhedi’ in district Hoshangabad of MP while posted at CPE Itarsi in the year 2011. MP Silk federation has cast its eyes on farm fresh organic fiber by roping in sizablenumbers of farmers of district Hoshangabad encouraging them to grow ‘mulberry’.
Under the Modi Govt’s initiative of ‘Atmnirbhar Bharat’ drive,silk federation of MP has decided to enroll about 700 farmers of this district as also 45 women farmer cum entrepreneurs in casting their fortunes with this drive and pledge their lands for growing new and high yielding varieties under sericulture. These farmer-entrepreneurs have been assured to be trained by this federation, in activities like cocoon preparation, preparation of silk clothes with Tussar silk under the brand name-‘Prakrit’ (nature) and also acting as a marketing platform for their selling of the produce and its eventual competitive remuneration .District Hoshangabad has been ranking first among the districts of MP in sericulture. The broad parameters of MP Silk federation to give a heft to the concept of ‘Livelihood tourism’ involved the following—
- To conduct farmer’s brainstorming sessions on new techniques in sericulture.
- To organize farmer’s workshops on new phenomenon of ‘Livelihood tourism’.
- To identify a sizable number of women entrepreneurs in the district and promote Tussar silk farming to augment their household income.
As per the federation, a total quantity of 5500 Mulberry saplings/plants are to be planted in each acre of the progressive farmer’s land. These plants have a life of about 15 years, with the farmers able to harvest the cocoons 4 to 5 times in a year. It has set up its own QC/QA (Quality control /Quality assurance) labs in its outlet at Malakhedi which tests these cocoons for their purity and quality. Once having cleared the bar of quality control/quality assurance these cocoons are then processed at the production center of Malakhedi for silk cloth and sold on e-commerce platforms like flipkart etc. Moreover with the concept of ODOP (One district one product) being the signature programme of Modigovernment towards ‘Atmnirbhar Bharat’ ,Hoshangabad district has been the flagship of entire MP region in projecting ‘Kosa’ or ‘Tussar’ silk to the outside world. MP silk federation has set up silk showrooms named ‘Prakrit’ (derived from nature) at all its prominent silk farms to showcase and sell ready-made pure silk garments ,of which ‘Malakhedi’ is a prominent one as mentioned above too in this write up.A buyer or a tourist can see silk making process from rearing of larvae to hatching and boiling of cocoons as also reeling and yarn making at the show rooms. Since I was posted at CPE Itarsi, I went with family to this silk rearing/ processing center at ‘Malakhedi’ which is about 20kms and takes half an hour drive to this wonderful initiative of the MP government in the year 2011.
MP Government has gone all out to cash on an increased footfall of tourists and opened silk show rooms at ‘Pachmarhi’, ‘Suktawa’, as also at the famous ‘Madhai tiger reserve’. In addition to the above silk farms have come up at ‘Matkuli and Harrari abutting tribal areas of Chindwara . Plans are afoot to develop silk routes through signage of ‘Prakrit’ put all the way to these silk centers. The photo of ‘Prakrit’ in the present article of mine has been taken by me from the disposable handbag given to me by ‘Malakhedi’ silk center way back in 2011. The sites at these two silk centers /show rooms have been quite a success story garnering a whooping Rs 52 lakhs of profit through sales to the tourists cum travellers in its first year of inception and thereafter one crore year after year. As per the sericulture department of Hoshangabad, it takes about 2/3 months of time to set up and get a silk show room hitting the ground running and making profits at various silk routes. With a view to promote non-traditional activities in view of huge potential in organic farming of silk, the federation has been promoting the wild silk as purely organic activity through its ‘Prakrit showrooms’. These show rooms also display ready-made garments and only India made wild silk fiber. No other state uses ‘Tussar silk’ in making silk clothes except MP. Other states like Chatisgarh which once used ‘Tussar silk’ production is also using now Chinese or Korean silk.
The MP State’s ranking too in silk production has been up by quite a few notches due to these innovative ‘livelihood tourism’, under the ‘Atmnirbhar Bharat’ and ODOP (One district one product) program so much so that the area around Hoshangabad has seen a surfeit of luxury cars and huge farms all on the basis of sericulture. Though other states/UTs like Jammu &Kashmir and Chatisgarh have been blessed with bountiful of natural climatic conditions suitable for the growth of sericulture, what has been lagging in such places is the lack of traction and forming cross linkages with other tourist options such has been done by the MP government by showcasing its silk products at ‘Satpura tiger reserve, Tawa /Denva water resorts etc. The above innovative idea has been the sine quo non of MP government and has been quite a roaring success in capturing the tourist influx to its silk centers. Need of the hour is for other states to follow the heart of India i.e. MP and do their bidding in such a profitable cash crop / profession as sericulture.
(The writer is a retired army officer and a regular scribe of RK)