Families of PDD casual labourers who die in line of duty suffer silently

Working tirelessly for over a decade on meager wages, Riyaz Ahmed of Noorbagh here was excited as his case for regularization of services was in the final stages.

He was expecting to have it cleared within a couple of months along with many casual laborers who have been fighting for years.

However, like several of his colleagues in the past, Ahmed died due to electrocution on the on the morning of Eid earlier this month. The tragedy left his family of six to fend for themselves. Struggling to make both ends meet the family is now demanding rehabilitation.

“He was working tirelessly for over 12 years as a casual laborer. Prior to Edi, he was excited as he was hoping to be regularized after years of wait. We were hoping that finally his family would see some good days but departmental apathy cut short another precious life. Who will take care of his family including young children and elderly parents now? We appeal to the PDD officials to have a look into the issue and rehabilitate them,” said Nisar Ahmed, a family member.

He said Riyaz Ahmed used to do tailoring work during night hours to feed his family and take care of parents. “If the family is not paid compensation, let alone education of his kids, we fear they will die of hunger,” Nisar said.

The senior members of Casual Laborers (TDL,PDL) Union said there were scores of families who were left to fend for themselves after their kin dies in such accidents while on duty.

Shabir Ahmed, President J&K TDL PDL employees Union said there was no SRO or compensation scheme in place for the casual laborers which leaves families in distress after such accidents.

“We have gone on strike many times in the past but our pleas fell on deaf ears. There are many families like Riyaz’s who are suffering in silence. Two years ago another casual laborer, a lone bread earner from Khrew, had a spinal cord injury during maintenance work and has been bed ridden since. Most of the work like climbing electric poles for maintenance is done by these casual laborers as there is dearth of permanent staff,” he said. “With hope for regularization of our services, we at times go an extra mile and do our best in the field but once someone dies or gets crippled due to electrocution, families are left to fend for themselves.”

Shabir said as per data over 100 casual laborers have died while more than 300 were injured in line of duty so far.

Following the death of a casual laborer on August 1, on the day of Eid, the department faced criticism for laxity resulting in the deaths. After the incident an inquiry was ordered and two employees from PDD’s distribution wing were also suspended.

However, the members from the Casual Laborers Union said these inquiries do not move beyond paper work and were often forgotten.

Amid rise in deaths due to electrocution, a seven member committee has been formed by the government now to devise SOPs and plug in the loopholes resulting into the deaths.