Shimla; For Kashmiri labourers who work as porters here and call a local mosque home, social distancing is a near impossibility.
At least 300 Kashmiri labourers are staying at the masjid. It is not possible for us to maintain the required distance due to lack of space, Bilal, who is one of them, told PTI.
The labourers have been without work during the lockdown, ordered last week to contain the spread of coronavirus. In part, its aim is to ensure people maintain social distancing, keeping at least a metre apart.
Hailing from the Kokernag area of Jammu and Kashmir, Bilal has been staying at the Jama Masjid near Shimla’s Mall Road for about five years.
There are about 300 others like him at the mosque in Middle Bazaar. Most of them work as porters. Local people call them Khans .
They have been stuck at the mosque since the Himachal Pradesh government imposed a state-wide curfew, a day before the nationwide lockdown kicked in.
About 100 of us sleep in a small hall, some at the two dhabas and a verandah in the mosque premises and about 50 people in the masjid itself, Bilal said.
Given the choice, most of them would return to their homes, he said, urging that the administration should arrange vehicles for them.
The labourers get their food now from the two dhabas in the mosque complex, paying from their own depleting savings.
Bilal said some people, perhaps from the administration, had come to the mosque a few days ago. They told the labourers that they would be provided dry rations, but there has been nothing so far.
District officials could not be immediately contacted.