J&K mulls to provide security to non-local workers

A Kashmiri boy looks out from his damaged family house after cross border shelling in Jura, a village of Neelum valley in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. (Photo by Reuters)

Developmental works have come to a standstill in the Valley in the last three months due to the exodus of the non-local labor force, Jammu and Kashmir administration mulls to provide security to those willing to return for work.

Thousands of non-local laborers fled Kashmir in the first week of August when the Parliament scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and bifurcated the state into two union territories. Since then work on most of the developmental projects have been stopped.

A government official said the authorities have passed directions to executing agencies to resume work on developmental projects at the earliest. "The executing agencies have been directed to ensure return of outside state workforce, assuring security and other facilities to all laborers," he said.

The official added that the administration has directed deputy commissioners and chief engineers to ensure the resumption of works on all projects in their respective jurisdictions at the earliest.

The killing of a driver, a laborer, and an apple trader - all non-locals - in south Kashmir last week has created fear among those who had stayed back despite the prevailing situation in the Valley. 

"I had resumed work on one of the pending projects in Pulwama (south Kashmir) by arranging skilled non-local laborers. However, after last week's attacks on non-locals in Shopian, I had to stop the work again," said Umar Bhat, a contractor.

The outside laborers constitute around 80% of the workforce required in the construction and development sectors in Kashmir. "If government is willing to provide security to non-local workforce, it is a welcome step. However, it is to be seen how can they provide security to laborers working in countryside," Bhat asked.

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