SRINAGAR: Amid an upsurge in Covid-19 cases in Jammu and Kashmir, about 25,000 non-local brick kiln labourers are going to arrive in the valley from various states to resume their work.
Labour Commissioner Kashmir Abdul Rashid War, the officer who is monitoring the movement of labourers, told Kashmir Reader that by the end of next week, about 25,000 labourers are scheduled to arrive. All of them will be tested before they go start their work, he said.
So far, 11,000 non-local workers have arrived in Kashmir since July 14. All of them have undergone tests for Covid-19. War said that the labourers have come on the request of their fellow brick kiln workers.
“There was a requirement of about 25,000 more brick kiln labourers in Kashmir. They were needed as the rates of bricks were going up,” War said.
Among the common people, though, there is a sense of alarm at such an influx of outsiders. A video recently went viral on social media showing labourers, somewhere on the Srinagar-Jammu highway, claiming to have not been tested for Covid-19 on their arrival in Kashmir.
Questions are also being raised at the timing of this influx of people, given that Covid positive cases detected in J&K have breached the 13k mark, and 232 Covid-19 patients have died.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir PK Pole told Kashmir Reader that people do not need to worry as the labourers coming to Kashmir will be brought in a guided movement from Lakhanpur in Jammu.
“Labourers will be tested at Lower Munda in Jammu before they enter Kashmir. In the past 5 days we have taken more than 10,000 samples. There is no reason for worry,” Pole said, adding that people should be more worried about people not wearing masks and not maintaining social distancing.
Pole also said that there are no guidelines which restrict the number of labourers working at brick kilns. He also said that labourers coming from Jammu do not need to be tested for Covid-19 before they enter Kashmir.
As of now, the brick kiln industry in Kashmir has only about 1,000 labourers in place, against the required 25,000 in 300 brick kilns. The lack of enough labour is affecting production and the prices of bricks have been rising sharply in recent weeks.
Due to the weather conditions in the valley, brick kilns operate from mid May until the fall of November. Allied construction sectors such as masonry, carpentry, and painting are also facing a labour crunch. The arrival of more labourers will be a relief for the industry, for now.