Kashmir is Dubai, say Indian cobblers who flock Valley for money, weather

MUHAMMAD RAAFI

SRINAGAR: The usually pleasing weather and on-offer incentives are luring cobblers from parts of India to work in Kashmir Valley.
The skilled and unskilled labourers from outside states such as Rajasthan, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh prefer to work in Kashmir during summers, when the mercury in their homelands touches 45-48 degrees Celsius.
Every year, thousands of masons, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, barbers, and painters travel to the Valley in search of livelihood.
However, the recent years have witnessed an apparent surge in the influx of another skilled class into the Valley—the cobblers. For Ajay Kumar, a cobbler from Rajasthan who now works in Srinagar, the reason to shift to the Valley is Rajasthan’s unbearable summers.
“I have been travelling to Kashmir for the last three years during summers to earn my livelihood, for it is very difficult for us to work in Rajasthan in the season. The temperature in my city touches 50 degree Celsius,” he told Kashmir Reader.
This year, he said, his parents and siblings accompanied him to work in Kashmir.
“We are into this business since decades. Kashmir has been a good earning ground. In fact, we earn three times more here than we may earn in Delhi or Rajasthan,” he said.
In Kashmir, a cobbler is paid Rs 10 for polishing shoes and Rs 20 to mend it partially. But in Delhi, the rate for the same works is Rs 5 and Rs 10, respectively; in Rajasthan or other states, the rates are even lower. Phool Baba, a cobbler from Bihar working in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, said it is difficult for him to work in Bihar during summers “since the temperature remains as high as 40 degrees Celsius”.
“Besides,” he added, “the wages in Bihar are too low for us to survive. We prefer to work in Kashmir because we are paid handsomely for our work.”
“Here (in Kashmir) we are paid two to three times more than in other states. It encourages us to visit Kashmir every year,” he said.
The cobblers said the “low cost of living” is an additional motivation for them to work in the Valley.
“We are able to make more savings in Kashmir due to low accommodation charges and other expenditures. I earn Rs 500 to 600 a day in Kashmir and make a saving of more than Rs 12,000 per month,” Tanveer Aalam, also a cobbler from Rajasthan, said.
Aalam works in north Kashmir’s Sopore town.
“Kashmir is Dubai for us,” he said.

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