Labor in Kashmir: Les Miserables?

Labor in Kashmir: Les Miserables?

Globalization- the large, historical megatrend- slanted in favor of capital, unleashed forces that gave rise to the phenomenon of Trump in the United States and its populist variants across many parts of the Western world. In effect, capital oriented globalization, could be said to have “hollowed out” middle classes but perhaps more importantly the labor class. This exclusion of the Middle classes and labor could then be held to be the Achilles’ heel of capital driven globalization and the precursor of populist trends. While these are not original insights but statements of the obvious, but they have salience in terms of Kashmir- albeit in a different permutation, combination and context. Kashmir has been and remains distant from the flows and matrices of globalization but the labor class in Kashmir continues to be at the receiving end. From a historical perspective, the Kashmiri labor class’ consciousness appears to have emerged on the 29th of April, 1865- when shawlbafs( shawl weavers) protested against the Dickensian conditions of labor , economic and political life under the rule of the Dogras. This protest was met with force and many people lost their lives.  While Kashmir witnessed several vicissitudes since then in the domains of economics, political economy and politics, the underlying condition of the laboring classes has not entirely changed for the better. The “daily wagers”- essentially, the people who live hand to mouth- form the major chunk of the laboring class here. Operating under taxing conditions of work with insecurity and uncertainty as their dominant reality, this class neither has security of income nor a social safety net to withstand the rigors and ups and downs of life. They also tend to be exploited. Innumerable instance of  day laborers , working in and under dangerous conditions , have hogged headlines after they either lost their lives or limbs. But, alas, their miseries lie unattended and they then have to face the rigors of life alone without any support.  This a condition that needs to be remedied and what best to call attention to the issue of our laboring classes than on “ May Day” or the “International Workers Day”. The premise for calling attention to the plight of the laboring classes of Kashmir is neither ideological nor is based on any (ism). It is predicated on the human needs and rights of a class without which no value, in the economic sense, can be created. A decent and dignified life is owed to them.

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