Prolonged winters push labourers to starvation

Prolonged winters push labourers to starvation
Representational Pic

The prolonged winters, which started with unseasonalsnowfall on November 15, 2018 and is still continuing, has taken a heavy tollon the people of Chenab Valley, especially the labour class, which is on thebrink of starvation.

On Monday, March 4, most areas of the Chenab region receivedthe season's 17th snowfall.

Hundreds of families, who sustain their livelihood on aday-to-day basis by working as daily wagers, are reeling under severe financialcrisis. They have exhausted their savings, as the harsh winter entered the 5thmonth, thereby pushing life in the hilly region to a standstill.

Traditionally, the local populace, especially those residingin the higher reaches, is prepared for two months of harsh climate. They have acontingency plan for the two months, which revolves around toiling in thesummers.

This time around, winters came knocking at the door a monthearlier than usual and have already extended to March, thereby eating out twomonths of the working season of the labour class.

As per reports, 45 percent of the population of Doda andKishtwar districts, residing in Bhaderwah, Bhallesa, Dessa, Gundna, Kastigarh,Chatroo, Marwah, Dachan, Warwan, Padder, Dashnan and Bonjwah, remains confinedto their houses as the area is still under 3 to 8 feet of snow. 

"Every year, we keep a contingency plan for two monthsby toiling hard till mid-December. But this year, heavy snowfall started fromNovember 15 and it is still going on, keeping us confined to our homes andwithout work since the past four months. Since the end of January, I have beenselling my belongings to feed my family," Mohammad Butta Kasana, residentof Dodu-Sartingal village, said.

He added, "As luck would have it, my wife, Hanifa, fellsick. Now I am moving to Jammu to get her the apt treatment. To pay for theexpenses, I have no other option but to sell the little family jewelry Iowned."

Suspension of MGNREGA in the area since 2015 has furtherdeepened the crisis for the labour class.

"All of us (tribals) belong to labour class. Due tounprecedented snow this year, we have been without work since the past 4months. Earlier, during this time of the year, we use to remain busy withMGNREGA and earn some money during the off season. Under the givencircumstances, MGNREGA would have been a boon and very handy for our survival,but we have been denied that also since 2015. I sold my cattle to make bothends meet. Now I am left with one cow only. Hope someone will come to ourrescue," Karam Din Khatana, a resident of Dhadkai village, Bhallesa, said.

While the administration has not initiated any step to reachout to the poor population, some volunteers and philanthropists have comeforward to help the people, by distributing food grains and other essentialcommodities.

While refuting the allegations that works under MGNREGA havebeen suspended indefinitely since 2015, ACD Doda, Devinder Kumar Bhau, said,"Due to unprecedented snowfall this year, we were unable to carry any workunder MGNREGA. Most of the area is still under snow. As soon as the weatherimproves, we will restart all the suspended works."

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