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Turning Back Time | Will HMT set the clock ticking again?

Kashmir watches with hope
08:10 AM Jul 01, 2024 IST | MUKEET AKMALI
turning back time   will hmt set the clock ticking again

Srinagar, June30: Union Ministry of Heavy Industries and Steel H D Kumaraswamy has breathed new life into the long-dormant Hindustan Machine Tools (HMT) industry, rekindling hope in the hearts of thousands of former employees in Kashmir.


The announcement of HMT's revival, aligned with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, has sent ripples of anticipation through Kashmir, where the once-bustling factory in Srinagar now stands as a silent reminder of a bygone era.


Union Minister Kumaraswamy's recent meeting with HMT’s top brass in Bengaluru has set the gears in motion for what could be a dramatic comeback story.


The Minister’s directive to HMT’s Chairman and Managing Director, Rajesh Kohli, to submit a proposal for government support signals a serious intent to resurrect the ailing giant.


For Kashmir, this news carries a weight far beyond mere industrial revival.


The HMT factory in Srinagar, established in 1972 on a sprawling 527 kanal plot in the Zainakote Industrial Estate, was once a symbol of progress and opportunity.


At its peak, it employed over 1000 workers, transforming the area into a thriving mini-township with 15 building structures.


Bashir Ahmad, a former HMT employee, could not contain his excitement.

“I hope to see the factory in action in Srinagar again,” he said, his voice tinged with nostalgia and hope. “It used to provide livelihood opportunities to thousands. Given the current situation, we desperately need HMT’s revival in Kashmir.”

The story of HMT is deeply intertwined with India’s industrial history.

Founded in 1961 in Bangalore, in collaboration with Japan’s Citizen Watch Co, HMT pioneered watchmaking in India.

It introduced the country’s first automatic day-date watch, quartz watch, Braille watch, and ana-digi watch.

The company’s first batch of hand-wound wristwatches was even released by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru himself.

However, the outbreak of violence in 1990 and the subsequent migration of the outside workforce dealt a severe blow to the Srinagar unit.

The factory fell silent, its fortunes dwindling until it became a loss-making venture.

The central government was eventually forced to wind up operations, leaving behind a ghost of its former glory.

Yet, hope springs eternal.

Muhammad Maqbool, who opted for the Voluntary Retirement Scheme when HMT offered a golden handshake due to financial losses, still believes in the company’s potential.

“HMT is an asset that needs to be preserved,” he said. “With government support, it can work wonders.”

As the Centre sets about the task of reviving HMT, the eyes of Kashmir are fixed on Zainakote.

The question on everyone’s lips is whether this initiative can truly turn back time, bringing life back to the silent halls of the factory and opportunities back to the people of the Valley.