“I feel good about working in Kashmir because people here work at a relaxed pace.” These words of Shaarib, a resident of Lucknow who is working as a migrant labourer in Kashmir says a lot about the increased inflow of migrant labourers to the vallley of Kashmir.
Kashmir has been depending on migrant workers to fulfil the increase in the demand for skilled labour for decades now.An estimated five lakh migrant labourers from Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab come to Kashmir every March and return during November as the working season ends. As per news report in DNA dated July 20, 2016, “Better wages, a cool environment and enough of work have been the main driving forces for the migrant labourers who number between 200 thousand to around half a million at the peak of summer.”
Out of these “ 46.93% of the migrant labourers belonged to Bihar, followed by 15.33% from U.P. 8.86% belonged to Gujarat, 8.60% from Rajasthan and 8.14% from West Bengal.”, as per the details published in Kashmir Life, of a survey carried out by Department of Sociology at the University of Kashmir.
Most of these labourers work on construction sites or as daily wage labourers. However, due to the recent Kashmir unrest that was triggered on July 8 after security forces gunned down militant commander Burhan Wani during an encounter, most of these labourers had been forced to leave Kashmir to their home states. The reason being that the unrest brought the construction work department to a standstill robbing many of these migrant labourers of their jobs and wages. Also, most of them who work as peddlers of perishable goods like fruits were left without customers as the unrest cost Kashmir four to five lakh tourists in five months as per preliminary reports.
Life is returning to normal in Kashmir at a very slow pace as the unrest was followed by demonetization which crippled the tourism economy and local businesses. The various cultural festivals being inaugurated in an attempt to attract tourists in recent weeks give hope for migrant labourers to return to the valley of opportunities.