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Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 6, p. 264.


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264


BAL TISTAN


rotation crops. In some villages good tobacco is grown. No crops
can be raised without manure. As winter approaches, earth is stored
on the house-tops and mixed with the dung of cattle and human excre-
ment. The latter is always collected in small walled enclosures. The
manure is carried out in the spring in baskets and spread thickly over
the land. Frost or early snowfall may cause a failure of crops.
Fruits play an important part in the economy of the Baltis. The
apricots are celebrated, and are largely exported to Kashmir and the
Punjab. The dried fruit and the kernels are both in great demand.
Traders pay large sums in advance for the crop. Mulberries are an
important source of food. Raisins are exported. Excellent peaches,
in quality hardly surpassed by the best English fruit, and good grapes,
melons, and cucumbers are common.
Gold-washing is carried on in many villages, and all find it profitable,
and pay most of the revenue from this source. The State charge for
a licence for gold-washing is Rs. io. In Kargil to the south-east of
Baltistan the gold industry is of some importance, and for the most
part the sand is excavated high above the present river-level. The
present methods of washing are wasteful, and with better appliances
the industry might give a large return. Arsenic is met with, and
sulphur abounds. Copper is found in Rondu, and white nitre exists
in several places, but is not collected.
There is very little trade. Tea, cloth, sugar, and rice are imported,
and there is a small business in salt from Ladakh. The most con-
siderable export is that of apricots and apricot kernels,
comTradcans. but raisins are also exported to Kashmir. A special
manufacture is a very close thick black patlzg (frekhan),
resembling the cloth of which pilot-jackets are made. A curiosity is
the zahri-mora, a green soft stone like an inferior jade found in the
Shigar valley. Cups and plates are made of it, and in Kashmir and
the Punjab it is used as an antidote to poison and in eye diseases.
Communications are of the worst description, and money judiciously
spent in road-making would add greatly to the comfort and prosperity
of the Baltis. Several routes connect Baltistan with Kashmir, Ladakh,
and Astor, and one dangerous track leads to Gilgit. Of the Kashmir
routes, one passes over the Deosai plains. These lie at an elevation
of 13,000 feet, and are surrounded by a ring of lofty mountains. For
most of the year they are under snow, and even in the summer the
cold at nights is intense. The so-called plains are mournful stretches
of grass and stones, with many a bog difficult to cross, and uninhabited
but for the marmots, an occasional bear, and swarms of big black
gnats. The absence of wood for fuel, the distance from human habita-
tions, and local superstitions regarding 'the devil's place' prevent the
people from using the pastures of Deosai.



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