CONSUMED CAREERS
Kashmir Life|April 11, 2021
Successive governments have mindlessly “hired” people on an ad-hoc, provisional and temporary basis. They keep the government’s service delivery show going on at almost half of the daily wage guaranteed by law. Merely surviving on a hope that one day their services will be regularised, these more than 60,000 families are dying almost on daily basis. They are at the core of a social crisis, reports Yawar Hussain
Yawar Hussain
Members of casual daily wagers staged a protest in Press Colony in Srinagar.On one wintry November 29, morning in 2020, Farooq Ahmad Dagga long wait ended with his death. He was lowered in his grave and the funeral shroud included his hope that one day he will be a regular employee of the Jammu and Kashmir government and his family will reap the benefits of his sweat and blood that he contributed to the department he worked for.

Farooq was part of 61000 workers engaged on a temporary basis in Jammu and Kashmir since the 1990s with the promise by each government of getting them regularized after a gap of seven years. He was one of the hundreds who worked Public Health Engineering (PHE) Department as a Daily Rated Worker since 1996.

Farooq’s brother, Latief, who also is engaged with PHE, says his brother died on duty while working in Soura.

“He got two dozen stitches on his back. We sold our ancestral land for his treatment because the government provided no aid,” Latief regretted. “But last year he passed away with the hope of getting regularized one day still in his heart.”

Latief, who himself has only four years of service left also, has his family split. His wife separated from him and it ended in a divorce, a crisis he attributes to his poor financial condition.

“I got married 14 years back,” Latief said. “My marriage ended seven years back as the relation between me and my wife deteriorated due to lack of finances.” For years, he said, the daily wagers had to do without a monthly salary on time.

His brother, Latif said, was 37 years old, and used to eagerly follow news bulletins in anticipation of any news related to their regularization.

“The assurances by the successive government’s between 1996 and 2020 have all been a hoax but they have kept our suffering alive,” Latief regretted with a sense of defeat. “We used to think that we will be made proper permanent employees which, however, never happened. We live because our sufferings make us to live.”

Unlike Latief, Farooq was not married. He was actually waiting for his regularization so that he could raise his family.

There are many Farooq’s now underground, in eternal sleep, who sailed in the same boat when they were alive. Kaunser Ahmad Shah was engaged in 1994. He was also a daily-rated worker who died with a hope etched in his heart of having a normal family of his own. Shah, like Farooq, died while on duty with nine years left till the retirement age of 60.

NOT JUST ONE TRAGEDY

The stories of social discord and growing psychological problems among these workers and their families are ubiquitous. It is a huge crisis. There are countless cases in which these workers survived with injuries on “duty” and were discarded to fend for themselves.

The Power Development Department (PDD) tops the list of government departments where most of the deaths have taken place and where a huge number of people were reduced to invalids on “duty”. Records available with the respective association suggest that 175 people have died while on duty in PDD. Currently, 250 others are living with crippling handicaps. The PDD is followed by PHE which has so far recorded 45 deaths on the duty of these workers while 60 have been handicapped.

Ghulam Qadir Mir from Chadoora’s Dooniwara was engaged as Daily Rated Worker 22 years ago in 1999 during the National Conference government. He says he was promised regularization after four years which has extended to 22 years now.

“I will be retiring soon. I believe my life has been a waste,” he asserted.

Mir currently feeds a family of nine including the wife and two children of his deceased brother.

“They give us Rs 6750 per month. How are we supposed to survive on this,” he says, adding that their per day salary is Rs 225 which is even lower than what is mandated under the Minimum Wages Act.

“We have been asking the government to implement the Minimum Wages Act which is one of the many legislations that the central government had claimed to have implemented in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370.”

Mir claimed he has had to sell off some of his father’s property to survive at times.

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