Srinagar: Dozens of daily wagers at the army’s dairy farm in Bemina area of this capital city Friday protested against the military authorities decision to close down the farm in the backdrop of September floods.
The daily wagers joined by their families, including children appeared at Srinagar’s Press colony and staged protests against the closure of farm.
Chanting slogans, the protesting daily wagers said that army has served them notices to vacate the accommodation by November 30.
“We were shocked after officials informed us about the closure of the farm. We have been served an ultimatum of 15 days to vacate the flats. Where will we go? How would I feed my family?” Bhaskar Bhat, a resident of Uttarakhand while protesting at the Press colony told Kashmir Reader.
Bhat said that he has been working at the farm for the past 12 years to feed his wife and two small children. “And after 12 years of hard work, I have been told to go home. Is this justice?” he said, adding, “Army is punishing us as if we have caused the natural calamity.”
Riyaz Ahmad Bhat, another protestor said that at least 18 daily wagers, including non-locals have been working at the farm for over a decade. The army authorities, he said, had promised to regularize their services.
“Instead of fulfilling their promise, army has shown us the door. We have been left in lurch. Who will give us job? Where shall we go?” he said, adding, “What is our fault if the natural disaster hit the farm?
During the floods, the officials, he said assured the causal labourers of extending all possible help to overcome the losses.
“All the promises made to us turned hoax,” he added.
Meanwhile, an official, wishing not to be named, told Kashmir Reader that the farm has not been closed but a decision to resume the operations is under consideration at the higher level.
“We can’t pay salary of the casual labourers when the farm is not operational. Once the farm is operational, the daily wagers can resume their work,” he said.
He said that the casual labourers have been asked to vacate the flats because of their safety as there is danger of building collapse.
The daily wagers, the official said, were given an option to work at other dairy farms, including in Jammu city.
“But they didn’t agree. The causal labourers must understand that we too are suffering losses worth lakhs. We’re purchasing milk from cooperatives,” he said.
Located opposite to the Tattoo Ground, Bemina, the army farm was the major source of milk supply to the soldiers in the Badami Bagh cantonment. Before the September floods the farm had 325 cows and buffalos. The deluge, however, devoured 165 cattle, while 135 are missing. Today the farm is left with only 15 cows.