Millennium Post

Economic shock and more

Although people from other parts of India would not consider residing in Kashmir for reasons known too well, migrant labourers in the valley have come to acquire a significant prominence owing to their sheer number. The local economy runs on the backs of an estimated 1 million-strong migrant worker population coming from states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal. They earn their living as masons, carpenters, farm labourers and embroiders and even in gold ornament shops. As it has been happening recently, targeting migrant workers in Kashmir and killing them is a result of the abrogation of the special status of the erstwhile state of J&K granted under Article 370. The Central government unilaterally scrapped the state's special status and the ensuing clampdown on communication and restriction on movement have created an impression—rather fear that terror groups are exploiting—that scrapping of Article 370 will alter the Valley's demography. The month of October saw sevaral targeted killings of workers from outside the UT. The deadliest strike was on October 29 when militants marched five workers from West Bengal out of their rented home in Katrasoo village of Kulgam district and gunned them down. Only one of these daily wage workers survived the gunshot wounds. This was the day a 23-member delegation of parliamentarians from the EU had arrived in Srinagar to assess the situation in the Valley. Labour is indispensible to an economy and targeting labour in this manner is detrimental to the economy; and especially when this labour force is migrant, it only creates a situation of inter-regional tension. Labour migrates in search of work and where they are hired, there is also a need for their services. Hence it is a symbiotic and mutually beneficial situation whereby migrant labourers contributed to the economy of Kashmir. Targeting non-locals may be linked with the emerging wave of identity but now, as tables have turned with the J&K becoming a UT and law and order coming under the Centre's control, one can only wait for the expected changes.

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