'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Monday, July 25, 2016
Rayan Naqash: Migrant labourers leave Kashmir Valley as unrest hits wage work
One recent evening, a
group of seven men gathered a few kilometres from Srinagar’s fruit mandi, bags
hanging from their shoulders and hastily packed utensils in their hands. Many
trucks leave for Jammu and other parts of India from the mandi, and the group
was waiting to pay one of the truck drivers for a ride out.
The group, which
included two masons, comes to Srinagar every year from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh
and rents the same room in a poorly ventilated building. They work in
construction and on tiling the roofs of houses. But in the two weeks since July
8 as violence swept through Kashmir after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan
Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces, the Valley has shut down.
There have been curfews and many commodities are in short supply.
These men are among
the thousands of migrant workers who have fled the Valley since July 8.
The shutdown has led
to a shortage of construction supplies as a result of which contractors are
unable to continue work. The group at the mandi had been idle for a week. “We
don’t think we will get work anytime soon, it is better to leave than sit
idle,” said Ghulam Rasool, one member of the group.
Another member of the
group said that they needed work in order to survive. “The locals can manage
ration and supplies but we are outsiders here,” he said. “We won’t be able to
manage expenses if we do not find work.”
For over two decades
now, migrant workers have helped fulfill Kashmir’s labour demands. Lakhs of
migrants work in agriculture, horticulture, brick kilns, and construction.
Thousands of migrants are employed as domestic workers while others hawk goods
on the streets of towns in the Valley.
These workers cannot
sustain themselves for long without some work or sales – both of which have
plunged amidst the unrest.
Every day, buses full
of migrant workers have been departing from the Tourist Reception Centre in
Srinagar. Most head for Jammu, where they take buses and trains to other parts
Some others opt for
goods trucks to ferry them out of the Valley.
Another indicator of
the exodus of migrants from the Valley is the fact that the clusters of tents
spread across parts of Kashmir have reduced. These tents house migrants who
collect waste for recycling or deal in items of everyday use like brooms. Many
of the rooms rented by workers have been vacated.
It is common for
migrant workers to leave during turmoil or disaster but this usually results in
an acute shortage of labour in the next few months, when demand for labour
outstrips supply. For instance, following the floods of 2014 many migrant
workers left, slowing down reconstruction work.
Those who stay
Life is especially
difficult for migrants in hawking jobs as sales have plummeted. Guru Dev, who hails
from Bihar, is one of them. Dev sells fresh fruit
juice at a roadside stall in Srinagar. He normally sets up his stall under the
shade of a chinar on an avenue near the usually crowded Lal Chowk.
unrest has led to a drop in the number of customers as cars and pedestrians
rarely stop to buy juice. During the summer,
when Srinagar sees a rush of tourists, Dev usually made at least Rs 2,000 a
day, charging Rs 30-Rs 40 for a glass of juice. However, these days he earns
around Rs 600 a day. He said that since he
deals in perishable items, he is compelled to stay to finish his stock as
leaving would mean incurring further losses. “The profit from my
earnings is less than Rs 200,” he said. “Most of my acquaintances have already
left and I too will leave as soon as my stock is exhausted.”