Kashmir Indepth

Kashmir faces shortage of labourers, 80 % of semi-skilled and skilled work forces in Kashmir are non-locals

Ishtiyaq Ahmad

Srinagar October 20 (KINS): There is shortage of manpower following leaving of non-local labourers in the wake of recent civilian killings in Kashmir.

Since October 2, at least 11 civilians including five non-local labourers have been killed in Kashmir which has created a fear across the valley. Many Kashmiri Pandits and non-local labourers have left Kashmir.

Vadav Kumar, a resident of Rajasthan, said Kashmir was second home. But he is preparing to leave early for his native place Rajasthan where his family is worried about his safety and has asked him to come home.

Suresh Kumar, a carpenter from Bihar said he was working in Kashmir for the last 15 years.

“We never feel insecure in Kashmir. But the situation is worrisome after recent killings of non-local labourers. My family is worried so I decided to go home. I will come if there is improvement in the situation,” Kumar told news agency Kashmir Indepth News Service (KINS).

The leaving of non-local labourers would badly hit Kashmir’s economy.

Farmers are also worried about the leaving of non-local labourers. This is apple and rice harvesting season in Kashmir. Generally, non-local labourers work in the agriculture and horticulture fields and in their absence the agriculturists and horticulturists are facing immense difficulties in getting their routine works done.

“This is peak apple harvesting season. We have to pluck apples and send them to various Mandis. We don’t have a labour force available here to pluck fruit. Everything has been halted in Kashmir. I would earn Rs 7 lakh annually through apple production but I fear heavy losses as we don’t have labourers available,” said Ghulam Mohammad, a resident of South Kashmir’s Shopian district.

Horticulture is the mainstay of Kashmir’s economy with seven lakh families directly and indirectly associated with the sector.

Horticulture contributes seven percent to the Gross State Domestic Product of Jammu and Kashmir.

More than 3.38 lakh hectares of land is under the fruit cultivation in the valley. Of which 1.62 lakh hectares is under the apple cultivation.

As non-local labourers have left Kashmir, the developmental works have also been halted in the valley.

The non-local workforce has helped in fulfilling Kashmir’s labour demands in view of minimal local labour class and their exodus under the prevailing situation has dealt severe blows to the developmental works in each and every district of the Kashmir province.

An official of Roads and Buildings Department said at least 80 percent of semi skilled and skilled work forces in Kashmir are non-locals mostly from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and few other states.

“The works have been stopped on developmental projects. Construction works will be restarted only when skilled labourers are available here,” the official said.

As per rough estimates, almost five lakh labourers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, West Bengal come to Kashmir every year to make their bread and butter.

The official said most of the works of PMGSY, Economic Reconstruction Agency, Roads and Buildings Department, cement factories, brick kilns, are largely dependent on non-local skilled labourers.

“We can’t do anything as outside labourers are reluctant to work on developmental projects under the present circumstances,” he added. (KINS)

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