Srinagar: With the increased demand in labour for cleaning and removing debris from flood-hit areas and flight of migrant labourers from the Valley, the daily labour rates have more than doubled after September 7, when the devastating floods ravaged Srinagar.
Daily rates for an unskilled labour in the city presently start from Rs 650 to Rs 800, while before the flood the rate was Rs 300 to Rs 350 for the same. Similarly, the rates for a mason, a painter or a carpenter, who are being sought after like anything due to immediate need for renovation and reconstruction, have gone upto Rs 1,000 a day.
On Friday, Mir Farooq Ahmad, who runs a kitchenware store at Palladium Gali, in the city center Lal Chowk, reached to Mirza Kamil Sahab Chowk in Hawal at 8.30 am to fetch two laboures for cleaning his shop. He said he was not able to negotiate the wages with the labourers “as Rs 700, which they were demanding, is too much.”
At Mirza Kamil Sahab Chowk, which is otherwise considered hub of migrant labourers mostly from Bihar, very few labourers were visible Friday when a Reporter from Kashmir Reader visited there.
Farooq said, “The labour rates have gone up because there is shortage of labour as most of these migrant labourers have fled back to their home states due to floods here. It is the locals, who have started charging exuberant rates, and the migrant labourers followed suit.”
Most of the labourers, who were stationed at Hawal Chowk, when asked why they were charging high rates cited nature of the job which is tedious and risky.
“We work in flood-affected houses and shops with unbearable stink and unhealthy conditions, where we risk our health and life as well sometimes,” Raouf Ahmad Padder, a labourer, said.
Padder has come from Matigowran, a far-flung area of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district to work in the city.
However, Aijaz Ahmad Shahdhar of the Kashmir Traders Federation said it is purely because of the huge demand that labour rates have gone up. “October is otherwise a labour-stressed month as there is lot of agricultural and horticultural activities going on due to harvesting season and charges are also higher than the routine,” Shahdhar told Kashmir Reader. “But this year the migrant labourers who are involved in majority of labour activities left the Valley while the labour demand too increased due to floods.”