Oukhoo, a small village in the Pulwama district, has been writing its growth story for years now by supplying pencils for millions across the country and the world to write with.
Popularly known as the 'Pencil Village of India', this humble village has been supplying 90 per cent of the raw materials required for the country's pencil manufacturing units. They also export a decent amount of it to about 150 countries abroad, with the handholding of the Jammu and Kashmir government.
Remarked as the village that made the industry self-reliant in India, Oukhoo's manufacturing units have been praised on a national level by the Prime Minister himself.
Writing Down A Self-Reliant Future
Before the potential of such units was recognised in Pulwama, the country used to import wooden supplies from China and other countries. It was only by 2010 that local entrepreneurs stepped up and decided to utilise the rich resources they have within the country.
The famous poplar trees that grow in the soil of Kashmir were used for this idea. With the ideal moisture content and weather conditions in Kashmir, the wood of Poplar remains peculiarly soft all along its growth period. This nature of its wood makes it the perfect raw material for manufacturing pencils.
Recognising the immense potential that lies within their lands, many people began establishing units and started picking up skills to make wooden slats.
Among those who set up the slat-manufacturing units is 45-year-old Manzoor Ahmad Alai. Taking assistance from one of the leading pencil manufacturers and exporters of India, the Hindustan Pencils, he set up his unit in Oukhoo in 2011. Today Alai is the owner of one of the biggest pencil slat-making factories in Oukhoo.
Speaking to him, a report by Tribune India conveyed the many hardships the industry had to pass through. During the pandemic phase, when everyone switched to online classes, the industry experienced a drastic drop. Hope was later on restored in the industry after the government's announcement of the resumption of offline classes.
"The schools, colleges have opened up again. We are now racing supply against demand from big brands across the country", gleamed Alai as normalcy returned to the valley and other parts of the country.
Industrial Development Became The Spine For Many Units Across Pencil Village
The village was brought to the limelight after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of their story in his monthly radio programme 'Mann Ki Baat'.
Talking about the Pencil village's contributions, he said that Pulwama has been playing an important role in educating the entire nation. "If the students across the nation do their homework, prepare notes, it is because of the hard work of the people of Pulwama," he said.
Extending a much-needed impetus to the industry, the Government of India then approved the Industrial Developmental Scheme for the valley of Jammu and Kashmir. Catering to the aspirations and potentials of the people, the scheme aimed to attract new investments and nurture the existing ones. This has nudged the many units in Jammu and Kashmir to attain self-reliance.
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