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.