Question of survival for migrant workers

Question of survival for migrant workers
Non-local labourers leaving Kashmir in view of recent spate in targeted killings across Kashmir, on Monday 18 Oct 2021.Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Srinagar/Saharanpur: How to make both ends meet? That is the question haunting Jehangir Ansari, a small-time carpenter in Saharanpur whose father was shot dead in Kashmir, leaving him grappling with grief and also an uncertain, bleak future with few work prospects.

Sageer Ansari was gunned down on Saturday in south Kashmir’s Litter village where he had been working as a carpenter for the last couple of years, one in the spate of civilian killings in Kashmir that has triggered an exodus of migrant labourers who are queuing up outside bus and train stations to return home.

“Together with Abba (father), we used to run the household. Now I am wondering what to do as there is not much work over here and I can’t think of taking up his job over there (Kashmir),” Jehangir told PTI over the phone from Saharanpur.

Naseem, Sageer Ansari’s younger brother, said they received a call asking them to collect the body.

“We received a call that Sageer Bhai is no more, and we were asked to collect his body from Jammu. We left that very moment and did the needful, and brought his body home,” he said.

He made it clear that the body was brought from Jammu to Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh by the family as the Jammu and Kashmir administration had not made any arrangements to send it.

“Together with my father, we used to manage an income of around Rs 15,000 per month, but now after his death, I have no idea how to pull the family together,” said Jehangir, who himself is married and has a small daughter.

Recalling his conversation with his father, he said Sageer was happy working in Kashmir and often praised his employer who used his services for manufacturing bats and other wooden items.

However, the death of Sageer in Pulwama on October 16 and then two more non-locals – Raja Reshi Dev and Joginder Rishi Dev - in adjacent Kulgam on October 17 triggered a panic reaction among labourers from other states working in south Kashmir.

The non-locals, engaged in apple orchards, and cardboard and bat factories, used to spend around six months in Kashmir before returning home, an official said.

Another official from the security establishment said that around 600 people from south Kashmir had already moved towards safer places.

“Killing an unknown person creates more fear psychosis than killing a known individual, and I am afraid that the terrorists may have achieved that,” the official said.

Sooraj of Bihar working at a garment shop here has already packed his bags and is leaving Kashmir soon.

“I have no idea as I used to earn my livelihood from the shop and my owner was also nice. However, now I am stepping into a bleak future ahead of me,” he said.

Javed, who is from Hapur in Ghaziabad and works at a saloon here, is also planning to leave.

“Fear is in the air. My owner takes care of me but he can’t be with me 24 hours. My other friends working elsewhere have already moved out of Kashmir. Unfortunately, I have to start something afresh,” he said.

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