V1 mulberry

V1 mulberry
Kuppam, AP, 2010

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Swiss in South Indian sericulture - 2

The International Congress on Tropical Sericulture Practices, 1988

By 1988 a National Sericulture Project (NSP), to be again funded chiefly by the World Bank, was nearing agreement. This was being established not by any State Department of Sericulture but by the Central Silk Board, a semi-autonomous body under the Government of India’s Department of Textiles but based in Bangalore where the State Department of Karnataka also had its headquarters. CSB had been in indirect touch with SDC for a decade by then, as the owner of CSRTI and its SDC-supported ICTRETS in Mysore. It was in effect the manager of the new mega project agreed in 1989. It would control the World Bank’s funding, the crucial lifeblood of all such projects, on its route via the Government of India to its own subordinate institutions, both those already established and the new ones to be created, as well as through State governments to their own Departments and other institutions. Into this large and already complex set-up, SDC entered with its own concerns, values and plans. In funding and oversight, it would be a partner, inevitably minor, of the World Bank; in management it was the CSB of which it would be an uneasy partner.

In February 1988, with negotiations going ahead, the CSB lavishly hosted, over five days in Bangalore, the International Congress on Tropical Sericulture Practices. Inevitably, the majority of participants came from India, and within India from Bangalore itself, but 23 other countries were represented, some with substantial delegations. Japan, with 11 participants, mainly with commercial affiliations, was prominent; China had sent 6 academics and officials. SDC, joint host for the event, was represented by Dr R. Hager, its Deputy Regional Programme Co-ordinator, and Mrs Nalini Singh, the Programme Officer, both from the Swiss Embassy in New Delhi.

Plenary sessions opened and closed the Congress, and between them were five substantive sessions, of which the first was on Sericulture and Rural Development. Dr Hager was its Vice Chairman and it was here that Nalini Singh presented SDC’s own paper. The prominence given to such a topic was already a marked innovation for a sericultural conference. The usual and more technical sessions were on Moriculture Practices, Silkworm Rearing Practices, Silkworm Seed Production, and Reeling and Processing. There were numerous papers offered for each, ranging from 26 for mulberry and its cultivation – moriculture - to only 11 for the extensive but far less researched post-cocoon fields: reeling, further processing of the raw silk yarn, and weaving. There were contributions from across the sericultural world, as well as a mass from India itself (CSB 1991).

The paper contributed in the first session by SDC’s Regional Programme Coordination Office was itself distinctive. Unlike most throughout the Congress that took for granted in reporting research findings and reviewing achievements the desirability of sericultural development, SDC’s paper was already and characteristically self-questioning. It was sub-titled ‘A development agency’s hopes and doubts about involvement in the promotion of sericulture’. It saw the Congress as ‘a timely occasion for taking stock of SDC’s activities in sericulture, given the presence of experts, managers, administrators and policy makers for deliberations and discussions on the role of sericulture in rural development’. It noted that this was also ‘the main focus of SDC’s activities in this field’ (SDC 1991/1988: 21). It presented 10 ‘hypotheses’, the first four on apparently favourable effects of sericultural development, the remainder, if they were true, pointing to effects which would be regarded, at least by SDC, as unfavourable.


I Sericulture development leads to improvement in the living standards of a large number of small farmers and landless families.

II Mulberry is an ideal crop for supporting soil and water conservation measures in a given area.

III Sericulture provides a basis for producing large quantities of textiles from local renewable natural resources.

IV Sericulture has the potential to increase foreign exchange earnings of India.

Each was followed by a short discussion which included caveats. For the first, for example, it noted that it ‘might be totally or at least partly invalid if Government does not assist with schemes favouring small farmers and landless groups’. Here issues which would come to the fore a decade or more later were both foreseen and, in effect, discounted, at least for the time being. They wrote that if the ‘four hypotheses are valid, and the related conditions are fulfilled, we believe that sericulture development in India is compatible with our own development objectives and therefore justifies SDC’s involvement’ (SDC 1991/1988: 21-22).

The other six hypotheses referred to possible adverse effects. These were: first, for women in families, increasing the unpaid labour required of them, as well as weakening their position relative as increased cash income remained in male hands (V); second, for ‘resourceless households’, these might be further marginalised and exploited as disparities between themselves and the wealthy, able to invest, were increased (VI); third, a diversion of land from food to mulberry production (VII); fourth, making rural incomes increasingly dependent on unstable luxury markets for silk goods (VIII); fifth, mechanisation leading to unemployment of rearers, reelers and weavers (IX); and sixth, leading to mulberry monoculture and attendant dangers to both crops and soil in the long-run (X).

With hindsight, not all these potential issues look equally perceptive. They do, however, draw attention to the interaction of diverse factors that should ideally have been kept in mind if development were to be judged by the effects it could have for the society in which it was to take place. SDC had found in their experience of sericultural schemes that there was ‘a paucity of information and data’ which could bear on these issues. They wanted the CSB to develop a system to collect and analyse evidence in future and to make recommendations to ‘the various agencies concerned’.

The Rural Development session was well supported. It had attracted 15 papers and its discussions were extended to a concurrent session in the same afternoon. Such was the interest and enthusiasm generated by the day’s airing of topics that Dr Hager then proposed that the discussion be continued as a working party on the following day. This met with immediate agreement: Mrs Leena Mahendale, an interested IAS officer from Maharashtra, was elected to chair the working party, and Sanjay Sinha, a development consultant from New Delhi as rapporteur. The Working Group produced a concise and wide-ranging set of 7 recommendations ‘to all authorities and bodies concerned with the promotion of sericulture’. SDC’s spirit of questioning and its call to CSB itself to take up the collection of relevant evidence specifically on the potentially difficult subjects it had identified were, however, not taken up - and even they appear not yet to have registered that child labour was an issue. The Working Group’s recommendations also went beyond the SDC paper in the range of its topics.

Nevertheless there is little doubt that the SDC role in this first session and the Congress more generally had been a good deal more significant than the formal record of Proceedings (CSB 1991/1988) itself reveals. In any case, they were already yet more deeply involved with India’s sericulture. They decided, for good or for ill, to go along with the scheme the CSB was proposing: they would become partners in the National Sericulture Project. Their contributions would remain distinctive and they would prove challenging partners in the longer run too.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

The Swiss in South Indian Sericulture - 1


On 30th September 1980, the Swiss interest in supporting the South Indian silk industry was for the first time on public display. Harald Borner, Chargé d’Affaires at the Swiss Embassy in New Delhi, was the Special Guest at the inauguration of ICTRETS at CSRTI in Mysore. ICTRETS is the International Centre for Training and Research in Tropical Sericulture. It was to provide training for people from other countries in the distinctive sericulture of tropical regions, as well as of Indian students, and was attached to the Mysore Central Sericulture Research & Training Institute. This was the leading such institute in South Asia, its roots going back to the 1920s. Borner, in his speech, paid glowing tribute to India’s progress in sericultural research.

The Swiss development agency, SDC standing for Swiss Development Co-operation, had recently entered into the first of what was to prove a long series of agreements with the Government of India to provide funding ‘to support the uplift of the rural masses’ (Sinha & Sagar 2007: 31). At this starting point they intended to do this somewhat indirectly. They were joining the World Bank as partners in providing refinance for the Indian Government’s own Agricultural Refinance & Development Corporation, in support of its provision of farm loans. Switzerland was a small but wealthy European nation, with a proverbial concern with banking and an interest in the rich silk trade, but no history of sericultural practice of its own. As a later head of the New Delhi office explained, Switzerland had, in Zurich and St Gallen, major trading places for silk and silk products. With Lyons in France and Como in Italy, they were ‘key players in international silk marketing and/or manufacturing’. In 1978, Mr Trudi, ‘one of the famous silk traders from Zurich, a so-called “silk-baron’’’, had suggested Mysore as ‘an outstanding centre for tropical sericulture which could become a centre of excellence with a little help’ (Heierli 1995). This influential opinion sparked ICTRETS and the particular interest in nurturing and improving silk production as an appropriate addition to its new and more general interest in Indian development, as well as to its wider international outreach.

Even in the agricultural refinance scheme, it was the ‘small farmers’ and socio-economic benefits which were the particular concerns of the Swiss. In his inaugural address for ICTRETS Borner referred to SDC’s own programmes – not only in India - which ‘laid stress on rural development to increase productive employment opportunities, to promote handicrafts and small industry and also, as a long term objective, to search for and preserve an ecological and demographic balance’. More widely, they had projects which included cattle breeding and dairy development, training for research in universities, skilled manpower development for industries, and, in rural development, particularly minor irrigation (Indian Silk 1980 19, 6: 13-15). An Indo-Swiss Tasar Silk development project was also already in preparation. It is clear that a fit with sericulture was already seen. They were going well beyond refinance and credit, though this would continue as a major area of their general concern in India (Sinha & Sagar 2007). The list of interests from that inaugural day would continue to have echoes in SDC’s diversifying involvement with sericulture over the following quarter century.

Characteristically, SDC’s support for ICTRETS was participative. It went beyond merely funding what an institution wanted to do with the money, or at least was prepared to do with it. As Mukund Kirsur put it in his later report, ICTRETS ‘bloomed as a result of scientific-technical co-operation between India and Switzerland’ in ‘a unique experiment in international co-operation’. SDC’s own Programme Officer, Smt Chitkala Zutshi, participated in assessment of the programme. After the completion of the first course that was taught she travelled, with the eminent former Director of CSTRI, Dr M.S. Jolly, to countries whose students had participated, ‘to assess the impact as well as their individual requirements of the training’ (1988: 18-19). Some Rs 35 million where provided over the 14 years of the collaboration which ended in 2004.

1980 was also the year in which an extensive Karnataka Sericulture Project (KSP1), set up by the State’s Department of Sericulture (DoS) and supported by the World Bank, began. It was a 5-year project but it was to be 8 years before it was finally closed. SDC did not participate in it and it was only towards the end of the decade that it took on further involvements with the mainsteam southern mulberry silk industry.

The first of these were Mulberry Sericulture Development Projects to be implemented with the State Governments of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Their sericulture industries were small in comparison to Karnataka’s – which at the time was producing about 70% of India’s entire output – and the size and scope of the SDC projects were also relatively small. The projects, which subsequently came to be known in SDC as ‘APTN’, were made up of a range of smaller initiatives closely linked to the specifics of the fields. The total budget was initially about Rs 3 crores over the first 3-year phase, of which the bulk, about 84%, was to be contributed by SDC.
Both were tailored to particular needs and interests in their States. They were rather more – if also a lot less – than merely attempts to catch up with Karnataka’s large-scale KSP and its apparent successes.

Their small-scale schemes were, specially in Tamil Nadu, often experimental. There they were largely paid for by the Tamil Nadu Government itself. The only schemes on both lists were disinfection of rearing houses - always crucial in sericulture. There were mobile units to travel round attending to individuals’ rearing and demonstrating how it should be done. Though ‘chawki’ rearing for the sensitive early stages of silkworm rearing also appeared in both projects, for Andhra it was to be for centres of the established kind, run by the still overwhelmingly male Sericulture Department (DoS); for Tamil Nadu it was for something new, a chawki-rearing co-operative society exclusively for women. This was one of three women’s schemes for Tamil Nadu. Another was also a co-operative but for silk reeling, and the third a silk reeling and spinning centre. Reeling, which had had been more or less ignored in the Karnataka Sericulture Project, appeared prominently in the Andhra list: there were units of 25 ‘twin charkas’, backed with necessary facilities and to be occupied by groups of reelers; training for reeling; and specialised dupion reeling units. They were to try a scheme for the private distribution of the silkworm eggs produced in government grainages. The Tamil Nadu list also included incentives for leading farmers to persuade their neighbours to take up sericulture, and loans for Sericulture extension staff to buy mopeds and bicycles to improve their mobility in the field. There were also to be mobile cocoon markets.

In AP, finally, there was a cautious move in the direction of bivoltine rearing, the great and conspicuously unsuccessful preoccupation of KSP1 and of its successor the National Sericulture Project. 100 ‘small and marginal farmers’ in one District of Andhra Pradesh were to be aided in following up the first successes of 12 others who already had their mulberry fields and were by mid 1988 already producing bivoltine cocoons (Pasha 1988: 26-29).

Friday, 23 April 2010

Pursuit of a bivoltine revolution (4)

The Karnataka Sericulture Project
Initial discussions between the World Bank and the Department of Sericulture - in the person of its new Director, V. Balasubramaniam - began in July 1977, at an optimistic period. It took until the less secure moment in 1979 for the international teams to arrive in Bangalore for the required Pre-Appraisal and Appraisal Missions. Problems were probably not yet very apparent, however, and as the Staff Appraisal Report dated May 1980 showed, the case for World Bank support had been well worked out.
The Bank was persuaded, as it needed to be, that sericulture in India had great achievements to its credit, was already promising but was in need of outside support to achieve even greater and definitely worthwhile things for the country, its economy and its employment-hungry rural people. The gap in yield and quality between Indian and Japanese silk showed how much was to be done; what had already been achieved that it could be. With hindsight the Report makes interesting reading for the thoroughness of its investigation but also the optimism, indeed wishful thinking, that suffused it.
As regards bivoltine silk, looking to future international trade the Bank was persuaded of the necessity of gearing the industry up for its production. They reported that ‘the rearing of bivoltines was initially beset by many problems, but successful intensive research [had] provided solutions and led to introduction of the Japanese method of communal hatcheries locally known as Chawki centers.’ These were essential for the demanding rearing of bivoltines, and their introduction had ‘increased cocoon yields by an estimated 20% over farm-hatched silkworms’. ‘CSRTI work was largely responsible for adapting this Japanese innovation to Karnataka conditions’. Furthermore, ‘as a result of close collaboration between CSRTI and the Government of Karnataka Department of Sericulture, use of unimproved local varieties’ of silkworm was, they were convinced, ‘being phased out rapidly’. ‘Foreign technical assistance and training’ would play an important part’ (World Bank 1980: 7 (1.24)). There was to be more and better of almost everything.
Grainages did not receive quite the precedence in this 1980 Report that the intended 1,700 ‘communal hatcheries’ had, but were, for bivoltine silk aspirations, crucial. The private grainages on which adequate provision of layings for commercial rearing mainly depended might be ‘adequate to deal with relatively hardy local varieties, but many of them are not capable of consistent production of disease-free layings of more disease-susceptible modern varieties’. What was required was more and better government grainages in which reliable bivoltine silkworm seed could be produced, at least to strengthen the Department’s hand in demanding better quality from the private lsps. The project would finance ten ‘large modern grainages’. They were to become iconic, but not in any way that might have been planned. ‘Each one would be a four-floor building with 3,200 m2 floor area, specifically designed and equipped for aseptic production of 10 million disease-free layings per year’. Seven of them would include cold stores to allow ‘year-round production and build-up of stocks for the peak demand period following the onset of rains’. They would have stand-by generators to deal with power outages, a familiar hazard. The first two were to be completed in 1982/83 and four more in each of the following two years. At best it would therefore not be until after the initial five years of the project that they would be fully operational. By then ‘project technical assistance and overseas training programmes’ to support the ‘modern operating and quality control methods for the new facilities’ should be available (WB 1980: 16 (3.08)). All but the largest of existing government grainages would be swept away or converted to ‘egg sale centers’, their original function to be taken over by the new generation of mammoth grainages. Size apparently was the panacea of the moment. Several would turn out to be monuments to failed aspiration.
KSP implementation began in effect somewhat ahead of the formal approval by the World Bank in June 1980 and the clearing of funding in December. It had ‘four major objectives’: ‘to increase raw silk production in Karnataka by about 1,600 tons including 1,000 tons of high quality , by providing better silkworm eggs and intensive advisory services to sericulturists …’; ‘to introduce modern processing facilities and methods that would upgrade raw and spun silk to export grade quality; and, for longer term improvement of the industry, to introduce the latest technologies from leading silk producing countries and to expand local research’. The project was scheduled to end in March 1985 after rather under five years, but key aspects of the planned unrolling of the Project took longer than expected. The expected closure date was extended three times and actually achieved only in September 1988 after about nine years (World Bank Project Completion Report 1991: 16).
Almost everything to do with the bivoltine side of the project was amongst the slowest to progress and often most problematic. A review by the leader of the Sericulture Department’s team in 1982 found that, in contrast to the Bank’s optimism on this score, even if seed production were increasing – and the figures here are, as ever, confusing – ‘effective utilisation for bivoltine hybrid preparation could not be made, due to various reasons’. The bivoltine ‘venture’ had not ‘progressed at the desired rate’; the programme needed ‘a thorough revision, so that a more meaningful approach to the various problems could be arrived at’. Neither the ‘various problems’ nor the ‘various reasons’ were pursued here: it was not that they were unknown to the author, though there were few others at the time had the necessary range of experience across the functionally linked fields of silk production - from growing mulberry and producing silkworm ‘seed’, through to the reeling of cocoons for raw silk. It was apparently not in anyone’s interests at this point to assemble what would certainly have been a daunting catalogue. The complexities of securing consistently good results in the final, reeling stage, for instance, had been well publicised for bivoltine cocoons early in the Bivoltine Programme years by Government Reeling Expert, N.R. Madhava Rao (see IS 14, 7, 1975: 7-11, 15. Madhava Rao ) who was the son of Navaratna Rama Rao, the first Indian Superintendent of Sericulture and pioneer of sericultural development through the first half of the 20th century.
What the review picked out was, from the beginning of the chain of production, declining yield from stage to stage in the multiplication of the vast quantity of silkworm seed needed for commercial rearing. At every stage in the process the multiple hazards of practice in the field remained. Problems had not been solved or even seriously tackled. The proposal here was at least to reduce the cumulative effect by cutting the four stages to three (Mahadevappa 1982: 1). Despite the eight years that had passed since the Jubilee, it was still near the beginning of a much longer and more difficult road in producing bivoltine silk than had been realised, let alone for producing the target of 1000 tonnes of it a year.
Despite the disconcerting experience in Karnataka, it was at this time, 1981/82, that the Department of Sericulture in Tamil Nadu decided to plunge into a Bivoltine Programme of the same sort. They distributed about 5 lakhs of bivoltine hybrid layings in selected areas with mixed but not disastrous results. ‘But the programme could not pick up’. The reasons identified were to do with the prices that could be realised for the cocoons. One was that the extent of defective ‘melted’ cocoons in batches when they came to market meant that reelers were unwilling to pay good prices for them. Even if that was not a problem, there was no ‘preferential price’ for them as compared with the ordinary multivoltines. Rearers were unwilling therefore to risk bivoltine rearing at all. They felt also that, with the reeling technology available at the time, it would not be possible even with good bivoltine cocoons to produce international grade silk. The CSB experts seem to have been of that same opinion earlier but to have changed their minds. This was probably, the TN Department thought, to do with the high cost of importing suitable machinery. An essential first step was therefore to get ‘sophisticated reeling machinery’ manufactured locally.
May 1983 saw IS with yet another, if confusing, announcement of ‘white revolution’: ‘Research breakthrough ushers in white revolution’. The cocoons were pictured in quantity on its sepia cover. They were now, however, not the white BV hybrids of the 1970s revolution but the golden multivoltine hybrids, the ‘Improved CB’ obtained by crossing the CSRTI’s relatively New Bivoltine races such as Kalimpong, NB4D2, NB7, NB18 with Mysore race female moths. ‘Thus’, proclaimed the eminent sericultural scientist, former CSRTI Director and author, Dr S. Krishnaswami, ‘the new bivoltine races evolved by the author have revolutionised the sericulture industry of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, resulting in the renditta coming down from about 14-16 in the past to 10 to 11 currently, which is no doubt a phenomenal achievement of the sericulture industry’. Now over 80% of CB layings were being prepared using these New Bivoltine races. They would not only increase yield and improve renditta; they would also produce international grade silk (IS 22, 1: 3-11).
In the first issue of IS for 1984 - combined with the last of 1983 - the Director of the Karnataka Sericulture Department, S.R Vijay, appeared in print announcing steps to boost BV silk. This would presumably be under the Karnataka Sericulture Project, though this project of the Karnataka Department receives, not unusually, no mention in the CSB’s publication. ‘As many as 500 villages were being adopted for intensive production of bivoltine. Extension staff were to be trained, and the 90 tonnes achieved in the preceding year might go up by 40 more’. But the current target of 1000 tonnes might still have to be revised (22, 8&9: 21).

Pursuit of a bivoltine revolution (3)

The ‘grand march towards progress’

CSB’s magazine for the industry, Indian Silk, had opened its response to the Workshop with an editorial statement that ‘Ministers, economists and planners were unequivocal in assuring all support to the sericultural industry in its grand march towards progress.’ It was not, however, an entirely fortunate moment to be making such assurances. The previous year had seen the end of the Vietnam War but also the USA and USSR gearing up their nuclear arsenals with test explosions, and - most directly relevant - Middle Eastern Muslim nations challenging America and its allies. The oil-producing nations raised the price of oil by 70 percent and set up an embargo on supply to the US and the Netherlands. At the same time, Egypt and Syria attacked Israel. This turned into a devastating defeat for the attackers in what came to be known to the Israelis as their Yom Kippur war. The tensions more generally, and the crisis in oil supply and its rising cost, produced destabilisation and acute inflation across the globe, seriously affecting India amongst others.

By the time of the celebration in Bangalore in April 1974 therefore, there were cuts in prospect in the promised government expenditure on sericulture’s ‘grand march’ under the 5th 5-Year Plan then beginning. The farmer sericulturists were already being affected by ‘the gnawing shortage of fertilizers’ just as the agents of government were exhorting them to ‘use them progressively as vital input for better output’ of superior mulberry. Efforts to secure a specific allocation of fertiliser for the industry had so far failed. The silk market had also been affected by an embargo on the export of raw silk. This was to support the weaving and garment manufacturing sections of the industry but was likely to be at the cost of returns to reelers and rearers as producers of the raw silk. As reported in IS, these were ‘some of the ticklish questions’ that were ‘somewhat embarrassing’ for the planners. Nevertheless, ‘promises were made and accepted by the industry with stoically docile countenance’. The Silver Jubilee events were considered ‘a grand success since, instead of extolling its own past achievements, the Board sportingly chose to stand face to face with some of the still-existing major problems, and resolutely committed to rededicate itself to their solutions (IS 13, 1: 3).

For the seminar next day, it was the ‘Bivoltine Revolution’ that led the reporting when it was published in the August number. It had not received more than passing attention earlier. Now, under the somewhat ambiguous headline REARERS OVERWHELMED BY BIVOLTINE REVOLUTION, a boxed comment read:

           The introduction of bivoltine rearing has come as a boon to the rearing comity of Karnataka State.
           With their economy geared up, the primary silkmen of the State look at this new programme as the
           RICH TREASURE HOUSE and express their gratitude to the Central Sericultural Research &            Training Institute (Mysore) for revolutionising the sericulture industry.

The sericulturists who participated in the seminar also underlined some of the problems faced by them:
those quoted were from two main areas. A rearer from Attibele near Bangalore, who had provided the ‘rich treasure house’ idea, also ‘drew attention of all concerned with State sericulture to the urgent need of providing proper grainage facilities’, both public sector and private. This, like most of the other six contributions, was referring to the need for good supplies of layings, available at the right time, from which bivoltine rearing could proceed. Providing an adequate supply to match the exhortation to take it up that was going on had clearly been a widespread problem, within the general problem of shortages identified by Chief Minister Devaraj Urs.

From the perspective of the would-be bivoltine rearers there were other problems too. A rearer from a village in Maddur Taluk of Mandya District noted that bivoltine had been reared successsfully and income ‘doubled up’, but added the other two general and basic themes expressed in the feedback: mulberry and the fertilizer needed for it, and disease prevention. As well as the need for improved supply of layings, bivoltine rearing had more demanding requirements for mulberry, both in the prodigious quantity of leaves that would have to be available at the late stages of bivoltine rearing and for the high quality of nutrition for which superior varieties would be required. Replacing the old mulberry gardens with new varieties was a major enterprise that would take time to achieve (IS 13, 1, 1974: 21).

Indian Silk’s respondent also noted that ‘proper preventive measures’ against silkworm diseases ‘should be suggested to farmers’. Another, the progressive rearer that the study tour had visited in Kolar District where bivoltine rearing had most quickly been successful, was enthusiastic, but he also added to his concern with disease a call for CSRTI to open more extension centres ‘to provide guidance for the needy poor rearers who had not benefited from it so far’. From the same region, another wanted motor vehicles so that ‘quick transporting facilities’ could be ‘extended to extension workers’ to enable them to supervise rearing, but again he also wanted ‘proper disinfection arrangements’ to be ‘made available to rearers’. He was also thinking in terms of ‘low interest loans to be given to rearers to construct spacious and hygienic rearing houses’.

All this represents forward thinking amongst the early adopters of the intended bivoltine revolution. To them it was not just the externally induced fertilizer shortage that was worrying but basic issues of food supply for the worms and of protection against disease to which bivoltine worms were generally considered to be more susceptible that the established CB worms. There was much supporting research as well as extension still to be done.

With hindsight, it was undoubtedly over-ambitious to announce the bivoltine revolution as already achieved in 1974. Nevertheless, the CSB did turn attention with some success to the problems of producing adequate bivoltine seed. Over the following four years, as a project under the 5th Plan, it established eleven bivoltine grainages in Karnataka and one each in West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. There were seven more to come. They were to have a capacity of 10 lakh dfls, one million. Half were to be bivoltine hybrids, half multi-bi hybrids, the latter to be ‘improved CB’ using the male moths for second matings with multivoltine females. The procedure would reduce costs and provide an ‘economic utilisation of the valuable seed material’ (Ranganatha Rao 1978: 63). In 1973/4, two bivoltine ‘races’, called NN6D and KA, were released for rearing in the Anekal bivoltine seed area. The former was replaced three years later by NB4D2. Despite its and KA’s success, a further 3-yearly replacement followed, with NB7 and NB18. In practice these four races continued to be produced and tested at Anekal and all six introduced in these years were ‘continued in the field’. There were pairs in each case since the bivoltine hybrid practice required a separation of ancestry in order to secure heterosis. NB4D2, for instance displayed the dumbell-shaped cocoons of its Japanese ancestry, KA the oval cocoons of its Chinese. In practice, multi-bi rearing remained predominant in commercial production because the yield, at an average of 40-45 kgs per 100 dfls, could not be matched by the bivoltine hybrids with averages at the time of at best 32 kgs. (Mahadevappa 1986: 38-39)

From the somewhat sheltered viewpoint of the CSB and its research institute in Mysore at least, ‘the floodgate of revolution’ had been ‘flung open’ but what they now meant by this was that ‘the seeds of either the bivoltine or the multivoltine were being reared regularly’. Even the rainfed areas of the southern Karnataka, it was claimed, ‘started switching over to this new wave successfully’ (Ranganatha Rao 1978: 64). Bivoltine seed cocoon production did rise year by year, reaching 1,484 lakhs (148.4 million) by 1980-81. When the eminent B. Sivaraman, Padma Vibushan, was appointed Chairman of CSB in 1983, he was credited in IS (22, 2/3 1983) with having ‘inspired the launching of bivoltine programmes in Karnataka by initiating meaningful research on and by helping to set up silkworm seed grainages for production of bivoltine seed’. Mostly it was continuing, it was said, on ‘lines enunciated by him in the report’ of the Agricultural Commission (nd).

Sadly, this success with bivoltine seed cocoon production had not been carried through either to the yield in layings or the production of cocoons for commercial reeling from these layings. For that, 1978, the year in which the above optimistic assertion was written by Ranganatha Rao, the CSB Project Co-ordinator, represented a peak. In 1977/78 BV Hybrid layings reached 65 lakhs, compared with 1474 lakhs of CB layings. CSB produced half the BV and 4% of the CB, the State grainages the other half of the BV and 20% of the CB. The remainder was produced by the lsps, Licenced Seed Producers. While the State’s BV production increased over the years, if erraticly, the CSB’s declined, falling as low as 13% in 1980/81, the first year of the Karnataka Sericulture Project (KSP). It was only in 1982/83 that the erratic BV Hybrid production again reached and surpassed the 1978 peak. Conversion of layings into cocoons and from cocoons to raw silk were also both erratic, the overall record in these years being disastrous. (Chandra 1986: 61)

Sunday, 18 April 2010

James Anderson of Madras - 2

Entomology, rearing, reeling and promoting a new industry

In his botanical garden James Anderson had begun a collection of, amongst other plants, all known mulberry species. His first venture into the development of commercially useful insects was however his discovery of an Indian insect which he thought capable of yielding the valuable crimson dye of the cochineal insect of the West Indies. When his first hopes turned out to be over-optimistic he turned his attention to importing the original insect and establishing its production in Madras. Discovery of insects related to those from which the Chinese produced lacquer followed. He was convinced that the Madras climate was the best in the world for the management of insects, and, not surprisingly, his attention turned also to the silkworm. By 1790 he was considering the need there would be for mulberry as well as worms if a silk industry was to be established. He was not the first to import worms, as he acknowledges, but they had previously failed, he thought, for lack of proper planning. He therefore set about persuading the East India Company to get its officers, by now being stationed widely in the Nawab's country, to plant mulberry in preparation for the arrival of the worms. It was never, it should be noted, for his own commercial benefit that Anderson pursued his schemes but, in the spirit of the Scottish Enlightenment, for the development of the country and its inhabitants. The primary purpose of the plantations was to act as nurseries, providing the mulberry cuttings with which sericulture could be spread into the villages.

Silkworms were available in Bengal but importing them to Madras was a problem. The only practical way was to ship silkworm eggs from Calcutta but even this could be done only in very favourable circumstances. Anderson had tried on two previous occasions before he finally succeeded. His first batch seems to have hatched in Madras on 14th December 1790. He did not initially know what kind of worms he had imported; at first there was confusion even as to the colour of the cocoons they would produce. But it gradually became clear that there were both white and yellow cocoons, and that there were Bengal worms and China worms. It also only gradually became clear that the period before hatching was not just variable according to temperature but that there were two quite different kinds of worm, monthly worms and annual worms as they came to be called. The yellow turned out to do best in humid conditions, but the white were otherwise superior. The annual white from China was the best of all, but it proved very difficult to get supplies even via Company agents in China.

As to rearing, Anderson learnt about it from people involved in the trade in Bengal whom he entertained in Madras and from books. From one of the latter he learnt of the Chinese method of using nets in rearing. This was not used, and apparently known, in Bengal, but he put it successfully into practice. For the work of rearing he took the services of a hundred or so young girls, orphans belonging to the ‘Female Asylum’ in the city.

Two months after receiving his worms Anderson was already sending silk reeled from their cocoons to London. He had obtained an experienced reeler from Bengal, Mahomed Arif Mulna, and using an illustration in the French Encyclopédie of a Piedmontese reeling machine from what is now Italy, he had his own machine constructed. At the same time he asked the Company in London to send out the latest and best model: by the time it came, however, he had improved his own model and was in no doubt as to its superiority.

Anderson had, it becomes apparent, constituted himself a one-man research and development institute. A renewed war against Mysore was being fought but this time it caused only a modest disruption in the Company's sphere: Anderson was able to apologise for maintaining his attention to 'the arts of peace' even in wartime. He was able, despite it, to use his friendships with particular officers and fellow medical men not on active service to get them to plant mulberry and even to attempt the rearing of worms and reeling the cocoons produced to obtain usable silk yard. At the same time he pestered the Company for support, in Madras where the current Governor was at best unhelpful, and therefore also to England though that was a slow business depending as it did on the long voyages to and fro of ships sailing round the Cape of Good Hope. During 1791, with remarkable speed in the circumstances, he stimulated widespread action right up the east coast and inland too: plantations near Madurai and Trichinopoly, and at Palamcotta, Tyaga Durgam, Arni, Chingleput, Arcot, Vellore, Ambur, Nellore, Ongole, Masulipatam, Chicacole, and Ganjam are recorded and there were probably a few others too. His second volume of letters, the first of the series to include attention to silk, was published in the same year and supplied to all those interested, putting them in the picture and supplying technical advice.

Extension was to be taken care of by an Englishman who had apparently had some sericultural experience in Italy and who happened to be in Madras. Looking forward to the establishment of village sericulture which was always his goal, Anderson obtained an appointment for this man to begin by visiting mulberry gardens in local villages. This was premature in various ways, and his man soon set off instead for Bengal to study the practice of sericulture there. As a result of this he prepared a report which impressed the Directors in London. In 1792 he was offering to run the silk industry in the South, in return for a salary and 10% on the silk produced. A commercial approach at such variance with Anderson's own might well have produced a clash, but the man himself died in that September, either on the voyage back or immediately after his return.

If this was something of a setback, it was events in the political sphere which required a definite change of strategy. The defeat of Mysore in the same year and the ceding of large areas of the south and east of that kingdom to the Company led to the restoration to the Nawab of Arcot of the administration of his territory. Most of the mulberry plantations were within this returned area and it left a resident British presence only in the far north and in Chingleput, their old jagir around and inland from Madras. Many of the plantations were in consequence lost, with no-one to ensure their upkeep, and a new pattern of silk promotion had quickly to be established.

In 1793 the geographical scope of this new strategy had therefore to be more restricted, concentrating more closely around Madras. It was also more official. The new Governor, Sir Charles Oakeley, who had at first been anyway more tolerant of Anderson's schemes, now had powerful backing for his support in instructions that arrived from London. There were two new elements, one the establishment of what amounted to a government silk farm, the other, which was trickier, the encouragement of private sericultural enterprise.

The silk farm was at a place near Tiruvallur where there was a cavalry barracks, then known as Vellout Choultry. Uncultivated land was selected and a Superintendent was appointed. He was a young man named Boswell Parkison, recommended to the Company by Anderson and appointed to run the farm under his direction. He was to live there, to report weekly to Anderson and to be guided by him. Under this arrangement the plantation and buildings and a village for the workers gradually took shape. The first silk was produced in August 1794, though it had to be reeled at Anderson's own establishment in Madras since a team of reelers who had been recruited from Bengal had not yet arrived. They did soon afterwards, and set about training new people for reeling.

Now production - and new problems - began.

Pursuit of a bivoltine revolution (2)

1974 – CSB and State in Bangalore
The Silver Jubilee of the Central Silk Board, its home still in Marine Drive, Bombay at the time, was grandly celebrated in Bangalore at the Vidhana Soudha, the magnificent Karnataka State Assembly Building, on 20/22nd April 1974. ‘The central force in Bangalore who masterminded and inspired almost the entire arrangements’ was S. Muniraju, ‘the youthful Vice-Chairman’ of the Board (IS 13, 1: 49). He would himself be the next Chairman, and return again as Chairman in the late 1980s as the NSP began. A team from the Karnataka Department of Sericulture, led by its constantly available Director, Venugopal Nayar, provided the practical local back-up.
… scores of banners fluttered in the gentle breeze, greeting the guests and hundreds of silkmen congregating at this garden city from almost all over the country. … Silkworm rearers, reelers and weavers from distant villages of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh came in considerable numbers sporting their colourful ceremonial attires and proudly flaunting the jubilee badges of Central Silk Board on their lapels, jubba pockets and, in some cases, on their traditional angavastram. (IS 13, 1: 23)
They had come for a sericultural exhibition or expo, the delegates and guests amongst them also for a General Body Meeting of the CSB and a Sericulture Seminar. The Central Government Minister for Industrial Development and Science & Technology should have been present as the Chief Guest, but he was sick. D. Devaraj Urs, the Karnataka Chief Minister, major supporter of the industry and former Chairman of the Silk Board, should also have been present to release the Silver Jubilee Number of the Board’s magazine, Indian Silk, but for him it was ‘the inevitable tour’, as IS put it, that had taken him away electioneering in Gulbarga in the far north of the state. The organisers, reported as displaying a ‘stance of stoic disappointment’, had substitutes ready. There was, first, a senior cabinet minister of the Central Government from Karnataka, resident in Bangalore and willing to come from his own sick bed to perform key tasks. He was to cut the ribbon inaugurating the Celebration and allowing the masses into the exhibition in the central Banqueting Hall of the Vidhana Soudha. After the ladies of CSRTI in Mysore had provided an invocation, he was to inaugurate the General Body Meeting with a speech and present trophies awarded collectively to the scientists of the Central Tasar Research Station in Ranchi and the CSTRI, Mysore. For the magazine release there was a former State Minister of Sericulture. There were also copies of the Indian Express with a special sponsored supplement to be distributed; the Economic Times with a similar supplement and sponsored in the same way was held up by a delayed flight from Bombay: the following day it was distributed at the inauguration of the Seminar.
The seminar was inaugurated and addressed, at last as planned, by A.C. George, Deputy Minister for Commerce in Central Government. He had previously been briefly in charge of sericulture in that ministry and – the point was made – had come specially from Delhi. As well as his inaugural speech, he presented trophies and merit certificates to 32 top exporters of silk goods, including a special award for silk ties, of spun silk, raw silk and silk waste. There were 12 winners from Bombay, 7 from Bangalore, 5 from Calcutta, 3 from New Delhi, 2 from Madras and Varanasi, and just one – uniquely for raw silk - from Ramanagaram, the major cocoon market and reeling centre of Karnataka (IS 13,1: 43-45). There was a ‘citation brochure’ recording the winning performance of each.
The Board’s Chairman, Inder J. Malhotra, MP, then chaired ‘the colloquy’. The discussions were later described for IS in a tone of surprise, even wonder:
The most redeeming aspect of this colloquy was that it was not merely confined to some sort of doctrinaire discussions as generally happens. The majority of those who spoke were those who cultivate mulberry, who prepare seed, who rear silkworms, who reel cocoons, who weave cloth and finally those who export the end products. Obviously therefore, they had no qualms to subdue any problems faced by them or exaggerate any of their achievements. They spoke and they spoke matter-of-factly. If they were a little attacking in their approach they were equally placid in making points as they expected the planners and scientists not to look askance at problems, but to appreciate their ‘pinches’ as they were the actual wearers of the shoe.
Top officials of the States, planners, economists and researchers interspersed in the discussions and dealt with the points raised by speakers in right earnest. The colloquy covered everything that matters in sericulture sphere. Right from the selection of mulberry, irrigation, seed, bivoltine rearing – down to the import of seed and technical know-how and export of fabrics and allied products – were discussed in depth with animated details.
Deputy Minister Ansari, in his valedictory address, described the seminar as a ‘”healthy clash” of ideas that would serve as beacon to the future planning for the orderly development of sericulture industry’. A series of such seminars should be organised ‘so that the primary producers at the grass-root could avail of its benefits’.
Plaques for the Best Silkman of the Year Award were then presented. There were awards for mulberry gardens, dry and irrigated and in seed areas; for ‘best rearers’ of seed cocoons of Mysore and of Foreign Race and of cross breed and bivoltines; for graineurs; and for reelers, charkha, cottage basin and filatures. There were at least three recipients in most categories, mostly individuals and coming from different areas. Reeling recipients were Muslim, the rest Hindu. There were some winners ‘mellowed with age and experience’, but also many young sericulturists, indicating the ‘”urbane” stance in the hands of educated and progressive youth’ to which the industry was turning. ‘While mulberry growers, rearers and reelers showed up with beaming pride to receive the coveted plaques from the honoured guest, one very much missed the weavers at this juncture!’
The following day, two coach loads of delegates were taken on a sericultural study tour. They went first to Devanahalli, north of Bangalore, to visit the CSB’s extension centre and appreciate the place’s links back to Tipu Sultan. They went on to nearby Vijayapura for its cocoon market with bivoltine transactions on display and two private sector operations, one a grainage run by a silk export house which also had a shop in Bangalore, the other an NGO-run filature. Both had won CSB plaques. The next stop, also a plaque recipient, was a private filature at Melur, a small but renowned silk village of this same sericulturally advanced and enterprising area. The final visit was to a well-known progressive rearer nearby, successful and very satisfied with bivoltine rearing and its opportunities. They took in a drive up Nandi Hill for the views and the cooling breeze of this miniature hill station not far off, before returning to the city.
There had also been cultural programmes, including a play, Silku-Sampattu, ‘an engaging entertainment’ telling a mythological story of how God endowed humanity with silk and how the industry, with international co-operation, could progress. This was sponsored by the same company whose grainage had been visited on the study tour in Vijayapura. The final evening was again eventful. The exhibition was closed with a ceremony performed by the Speaker of the Karnataka Legislature, Shrimati Nagarthnamma, herself associated with sericulture and once Karnataka representative on the Board. As she toured the exhibition news came that Devaraj Urs, the Chief Minister, was himself about to arrive back from Gulbarga. He then spent an hour going round the stalls as an extra and impromptu function was organised. He was welcomed by the Chairman and in reply, speaking mainly in Kannada, he gave a short and ‘down-to-earth resumé of the problems confronting the sericulture industry in Karnataka’. The major one, he said, was the supply of silkworm seed: ‘the present set-up … did not meet even half the demand’. Seed organisation in the state needed to be overhauled, and the CSB should help the State with this. He then presented certificates to the exhibitors, ‘acknowledging their valuable and effective participation’, and the Jubilee celebration finally came to an end.
The whole event was a memorable success, described with relish in the following number of the CSB’s monthly magazine, Indian Silk (Vol. 13, 1, 1974), from which the account above is largely drawn. As far as Bangalore was concerned it signalled the CSB’s arrival, though it would be seven years before it finally moved its centre of operations from Bombay/Mumbai to the city.