Write your destiny in lead – The New Indian Express

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JAMMU & KASHMIR: The village of Oukhoo in the Pulwama district of South Kashmir plays a key role in the education of the whole country. The village was popularly known as ‘Pencil Village’, provides 80-90% of the raw material for the country’s pencil manufacturing units. The village rose to fame in 2021 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned its achievement in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’. “If students across the country are doing their homework, preparing notes, it is thanks to the hard work of the people of Pulwama,” he said.

The village’s turnaround came in 2012 when a young entrepreneur, Manzoor Ahmad Allai, visited Hindustan Pencil’s manufacturing unit in Jammu. He met the officials there and after long discussions convinced them that he could supply the raw material. Pencil slates are made of the famous Kashmir poplars, which are best suited for making pencils due to their moisture content. Poplar wood grows best in the valley because the moisture content is ideal and the weather conditions allow the wood to remain soft as the tree grows.

Prior to 2012, poplar logs were cut by band saw and transported to the pencil manufacturing unit in Jammu. However, since 2012, Manzoor and other contractors have been transporting small, dried pencil slates in polymer bags to the manufacturing unit in Himachal Pradesh. This made the work of the manufacturing unit easier and also increased production. On average, each slate manufacturing unit today sends a vehicle loaded with slates comprising 300 bags to the HP manufacturing unit every two days.

Now Manzoor pencil slates have replaced poplar logs in pencil manufacturing units in Himachal Pradesh | To express

“Now the pencil manufacturing unit gets the raw material in ready mode. They have to color and place lead in it and do another pencil production process,” said Manzoor, owner of Jhelum Agro Industries.

According to officials, there are 18 slate factories in Kashmir and 17 of them are in Pulwama. Manzoor said half of the slate factories are in Oukhoo village. “I have three units. There are 3-5 other units in the village,” he said. The village also provides jobs for local youth. More than 200 people from the village comprising about 250 families earn their living in these pencil slate factories.

Haji Abdul Aziz Allai, owner of another slate making unit in Pulwama, said, “I am a passed 10th and was unable to continue my education. But I play my role in the education of the children of the country by providing the raw material for the pencils. According to Manzoor, India used to import wood supplies from countries like China in the past, but since the opening of slate manufacturing units in Oukhoo village and other parts of the valley, the country’s 90% pencil demands are only met by the valley. Manzoor said the fame of the “pencil village” had transformed him. “Not only has this led to the economic empowerment of villagers, but the literacy rate in the village has also increased,” he said.

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