Non-local workforce makes a comeback in Kashmir

Jammu: Rohingya refugees at a settlement in the Kirana Talab locality of Jammu city of Jammu and Kashmir. (Photo: IANS)

Srinagar Rajkumar has a packed work schedule lined up for the next fortnight. After returning to Kashmir last week this migrant worker from Punjab, who does the job of tenting for marriage ceremonies, has got back to work right away.

Rajkumar was one of the thousands of non-Kashmiri migrant workers who left Kashmir after Article 370 was scrapped.

“I suffered a big financial loss after leaving Kashmir two months ago in the middle of the marriage season”, Rajkumar said. “Things are now looking up once again”.

Rajkumar is not alone. Since October many migrant workers, especially, barbers and labourers have returned to the valley and resumed work.

On August 2, the Jammu and Kashmir government issued an advisory asking Amarnath Yatris and tourists to leave Kashmir ‘due to the prevailing security situation’. This triggered a panic reaction leading to a mass exodus of non Kashmiri migrant workers. The communication blackout further created insecurity among them.

But, while almost all non-Kashmiris left in a matter of few days after scrapping of Article 370, some like Raju Bhai decided to stay on. For the last three decades the cloth merchant from Gujarat has been living with his family at Karan Nagar in Srinagar. Most of Raju Bhai’s relatives left in August, but he was confident that no harm will come his way.

“I didn’t feel unsafe”, Raju Bhai said.

“I had full faith in my Kashmiri friends, they have always supported me”.

Kashmir’s economy is intricately linked with the non migrant workforce working in Kashmir despite years of turmoil and violence. Thousands of non migrant construction workers, vendors and labourers come to Kashmir to earn their livelihood. They are also hired during the season of sowing and harvesting of crops.

With the communication clampdown being removed, more non-Kashmiri migrant workers are
trooping back.

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