3000 laborers of Bani stuck in various States due to lockdown

JK people at a quarantine centre at Sujanpur, Punjab on Thursday.
JK people at a quarantine centre at Sujanpur, Punjab on Thursday.

240 JK people on hunger strike in Punjab
Avtar Bhat
JAMMU, Apr 16: While about 3000 unorganized sector laborers of Bani tehsil in Kathua district are stuck in various States of the country, 240 people of J&K including daily rated laborers and private sector employees who have completed 14 days quarantine at Sujanpur in Pathankot district of neighboring Punjab on April 12 have not been allowed to leave for J&K by Punjab administration forcing them to resort to hunger strike in protest yesterday.
According to sources, about 3000 laborers of Bani tehsil in Kathua district working in neighboring Himachal Pradesh (HP) Delhi, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh etc are stranded there since the announcement of nationwide lockdown on March 24 after the Global COVID-19 Pandemic spread across the country and whose chances of return to their homes in J&K have become bleak. 240 persons who completed their 14 days quarantine on April 12 at a marriage hall in Sujanpur area of Pathankot district in Punjab have not been allowed to leave for their home towns in J&K till date.
Perturbed over the Punjab Government’s delaying tactics in relieving them from the quarantine centre as the quarantined people are anxious to meet their families, they resorted to hunger strike in protest yesterday.
Later DC Kathua, O P Bhagat visited the Quarantine Centre during night hours and informed the people on protest that they will take measures to take them to their hometowns soon and asked them to call off the hunger strike.
When contacted, Bhagat said that the administration can’t take any decision on its own regarding the people quarantined in different centers in Punjab. He said whatever Government of India will decide the UT administration will go according to that. “We have to go as per directives of MHA in this regard and these people have to be in quarantine centers at least up to April 20’’, he added.
Sources said the laborers from Bani tehsil due to poverty visit the other States for seasonal work during two -three months of winter to earn some money to support their families. Usually they were returning to their hometowns in the first week of April as the cultivation of maize and other crops begins in this month. However, this year they could not return due to announcement of nationwide lockdown on March 14 and are stranded in their respective states, sources added.
They said that with the extension of lockdown up to May 3 these people have lost all hopes of returning to their homes and they are facing many hardships in the respective States where they are putting up while at home their families are also worried for the welfare of their bread earners.
Ramesh Kumar a seasonal laborer working in cold storage at Ahmedabad Gujarat along with other 30 laborers from Bani said that he comes every year to Gujarat to work there for three months in winter to earn some money to support his family. “As usual we return in the first week of April every year but this year we are stuck at Ahmedabad due to lockdown and our hopes of retuning in near future are also bleak with the extension of lockdown, ‘’he added.
He said the money which he earned has also been spent to feed and also on rent of the room. “My family members are also worried as the season for sowing the wheat and other crop in our area has started and the family is totally dependent on me’’, he added.
Shakti, another laborer of Kanthal Panchayat in Bani said that he had to return on April 2 as per programme but could not leave due to lockdown. He said the laborers are facing many hardships as 50 people are living in two small rooms in Ahmedabad and there is no social distancing also. “Moreover, no agency came to provide any relief to us either from Government or NGOs and the money what ever we have saved to support the family is getting exhausted due to our prolonged stay’’, he added.
“Our families are worried and are in panic’’, said Yog Raj another laborer from Bandhar, Bani. He said that his wife is pregnant and she is expecting the baby next month. But under the prevailing circumstances he is unable to leave for his home town. “I am worried for welfare of my family and they are worried for my welfare. Moreover the cultivation of land in our hilly area has begun as like plains we can’t cultivate the land throughout the year and if it is delayed then we will be deprived of this year’s crop ‘’, he added.
Kuldeep Singh of Kathal Bani who is working in Kallu HP along with his seven colleagues as a daily labour has same story to tell. He said that whatever money was earned by them during last three months has now been spent on feeding themselves at Kallu. He said they have taken the rooms on rent and being idle they have to pay the rent out of the money they have earned and saved for their families.
Meanwhile, 240 people who have completed their 14 days quarantine at ACP Garden, a Marriage Hall in Sujanpur Pathankot district of neighboring Punjab on April 12 have resorted to hunger strike today as the authorities have failed to send them to J&K. The quarantined people from J&K said that they have been told by the Punjab Police that J&K Government has not granted permission of reliving them from quarantine centre which forced them to resort to hunger strike yesterday.
Dillawar Singh from Basohli in Kathua district said that the people kept in this quarantine centre are from different districts of J&K including Kashmir valley. He said they are in the quarantine now for last 17 days and their families at home are worried for them. Moreover, 240 people have been kept in one hall where there is no social distancing also, he added.
Dillwar who is working as laborer in Delhi said that they stayed in the quarantine centre under compulsion for 17 days but still the authorities are not relieving them which is unfortunate and highhandedness on their part.
Riyaz Ahmed of Kupwara, who is working in Jodhpur, Rajasthan said he had returned to visit his home on March 30 and since then he is in the quarantine Centre at Sujanpur along with other 240 people. “We don’t know when we have completed the quarantine period why the authorities are not allowing us to leave for our hometowns. This way we as well as our families are becoming panicky’’, he added.
Sources said there are over 1000 people of J&K in various quarantine centres in Punjab who have completed their 14 days quarantine and still are not being allowed to leave for their home towns.


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