COVID lessons: As deadly virus keeps non-J&K workforce away, Kashmiris resort to traditional means of self-dependency

COVID lessons: As deadly virus keeps non-J&K workforce away, Kashmiris resort to traditional means of self-dependency

‘At fields, construction sites, locals everywhere in sight’

Suhail Khan

Srinagar, June 27: The COVID pandemic has forced the people to sow paddy saplings on their own as this time around the pandemic has barred non-locals, who would otherwise sow rice crops across Kashmir and earn their living.

Paddy crop across Kashmir is sown in the month of June and this time around not a single non-local worker is in the fields. Amid pandemic, workers from outside the Union Territory could not come to Kashmir, leaving Valleyites with the no option other than to do it on their own.

“I had been repeatedly calling Rajum from Uttar Pradesh, who had been working for us for years now. But he has not been able to book a ticket due to the pandemic. He along with his half-a-dozen friends would sow our rice crops and I would pay them their wages well on time every year,” Abdul Samad Khan, a resident of Baramulla district told news agency (KINS).

At the same time, Mahesh Pranav, who would reach Kashmir in the first week of April, couldn’t make it to Valley this time around due to the pandemic. “I would lead a group of 50 to 100 people, all from my village Gorakhpur in Bihar, to Kashmir every year. Majority of them would work in fields both at the time of sowing paddy crop and at the time of harvest as well,” he said, adding all his efforts failed to travel to the Valley this time.

Every year, thousands of non-locals would throng Kashmir in the month of March-April to earn their living by engaging themselves in various jobs—painting, construction, sowing varieties of crops, harvest etc. These people would stay in rented accommodations across Kashmir and remain busy in work from April to October. “In October, they leave for their respective places in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh only to spend five months in their homes. From March onwards they flooded Kashmir,”he said.

Bhuvesh Kumar, a painter by profession, faced huge losses this time. “I couldn’t make it to Kashmir this year due to the pandemic. Somebody told me, if I reach Kashmir somehow, I have to spend two weeks or more in quarantine. I thought better to stay home,” he said, adding that he had already booked 26 houses in the Pampore area of South Kashmir’s Pulwama. “This year has  been full of losses. We have been waiting for the virus to end, but it is spreading fast. So my chances of going to Kashmir is very bleak.”(KINS)

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