Destitute migrant laborers in south Kashmir now being asked to leave

Destitute migrant laborers in south Kashmir now being asked to leave

Anantnag: Out of money, work, and even food, many labourers from outside states who reside in different parts of south Kashmir are being told to return to their states amid the coronavirus scare.

“We are being looked at with suspicion. We may die of hunger before the disease catches us,” said Maqsood, a sand digger from Bihar who resides in Barsoo area of Pulwama district.

According to rough estimates, more than 20,000 migrant laborers are in Kashmir valley. These labourers had arrived recently after many months. They had left when Article 370 was revoked in August last year.

The government has set up dedicated helplines for these labourers but most of them are not aware of any such initiative by the administration.

“We are 13 people stuck here and the ration dried up last night. We have no money left to buy eatables,” Muhammad Qasim, living with Maqsood in Barsoo area, told Kashmir Reader.

He said that, making things worse, random people come up to them during the day and ask them to leave Kashmir.

“Where will we go? There is a lockdown and we cannot walk all the way to our homes. We feel scared,” Tajammul, a carpenter from Bihar and currently living in Anantnag district, said.

Kashmir Reader asked these people whether they had called on the helpline numbers provided by the government, but they seemed to be clueless.

“Do you mean government has a helpline number for us? Will they deliver essentials to us?” Maqsood asked, clearly surprised to learn of this.

Kashmir Reader conveyed their plight to the Anantnag district administration but no action had been taken by the time this report was filed.

Meanwhile, sources in the administration said they worry that things may get tougher for the migrant labourers after today’s announcement of change in domicile laws of Jammu and Kashmir.

“They might face the wrath of the general public or be targeted, like they were last year after abrogation of Article 370. We have our fingers crossed and the administration is taking measures as well,” a highly placed source in the administration told Kashmir Reader.

For now, however, food is all that these migrant labourers are worried about.

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