Squadron Leader Anil Sehgal
FRESHLY drawn cow milk is delivered to us, in Gandhi Nagar, by a handsome middle aged man every morning. This man is not a milk delivery man. He is a skilled worker engaged in creating beautiful frames for pictures. He works in a shop that deals in framing of pictures. He delivers milk as a gesture of reverence to my better half who he adores as a singer of great merit.
Subhash hails from Begusarai in Bihar. He left home to battle poverty that was thrust upon him being born to a poor man, a small time farmer, with no means. His financial struggle and aspirations to lead a better life forced him to leave his birth place. Whilst still a student, he worked as an assistant compounder to a bone setter in nearby Khagariya where he would be paid five rupees for each patient. He was not happy. Soon enough, he reached Delhi, in the year 1995, for better prospects.
His elder brother worked as a glass cutter in Panchkuian road furniture market. He worked under the guidance of his brother and rose to earn a salary of 250 rupees a month by 1997. That was the time Sardar Vijay Singh of Jammu was looking for a glass cutter for his picture framing business in Gandhinagar.
Subhash was daring and smelled a good opportunity. He accompanied Vijay Singh to Jammu.
Starting on a monthly salary of 3,500 rupees in 1997, today Subhash earns 30,000 rupees a month with three meals a day added, and stays with the owner of the shop free of charge, just like a family.
He has lived in Jammu for 25 years now, and has no plans to leave the city ever. He says he is cordially accepted as an individual by the residents of the city who don’t consider him an outsider. ” People here are gentle and live an all inclusive life. Nobody has an issue that I am not a local. Life is so pleasant here and the weather suits me fine. Moreover, Sardar Ji, the owner of the business, treats me as his own kith & kin “, says Subhash who understands Dogri well and can manage to converse in the language too.
He informs me there are very many skilled and non skilled personnel from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa in Jammu region, and the locals have welcomed them with open arms. Rakesh Kumar, manager of Punjab National Bank, Gandhi Nagar branch near Auqaf market hails from Samba. He still lives there and commutes the distance every day. He loves his village. Rakesh Kumar informs that in the lush green fertile fields of Samba, R S Pura, Chatha and the areas around most of the labour from Bihar is gainfully employed. “You can easily spot the well- to- do land owners ride their motorcycles, cars and bicycles to deliver food to these workers in the fields ! That speaks volumes for the care given to the labour by the employers in the Dograland. ” Workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and other States are looked after well on humanitarian grounds and there are no complaints of workers not being paid their dues in time. I find no exploitation of outsiders and I am proud of it “, says the banker with a Buddha like peace emitting demeanour.
Similar views were expressed by Rajan Jamval, who runs a hotel in the holy city of Katra. This proud Jammuite from Purani Mandi-Raj Tilak Road area says: I had a dhobhi from Bihar, who brought his own unemployed friends from the native place because he is treated well and paid on time. Today, I have four of them in my employment”.Rajan informs that many Biharis, and the UPites come to Jammu region for four reasons : one, they are unable to land a job in their hometown, two, the Dogras treat them well, three, they are paid well and in time, and four, there is no animosity against outsiders.
Going around the city of Jammu, I find many fruit and vegetable sellers on the streets of Jammu who are not locals. They have been living in the city to earn their livelihood. They speak a mix of Hindi-Punjabi – Dogri. They look well fed and satisfied. I talked to a few who said they love the city and her residents !!
The question arises: where are the locals ? Are they so rich that they need no employment ? Are there no unemployed people in the region ? I find even the plumbers, electricians and the courier delivery boys are from other states.
I needed a sensible plumber and, believe me, none was available for two weeks. I found one guy called Bittoo in Gandhi Nagar on the recommendation of a hardware shop owner Raju Gupta. It was revealed that he is a Nayak from Cuttack in Orissa who self acquired a name Bittoo to give a local touch. He has spent 15 years in Jammu and tries his best to pass off as a local Dogra. He, however, ditched me at the last moment, after wasting my eight days’ time. Finally, and with much difficulty, I could find a Dogra plumber who charged me almost twice the usual rates.
Now that the Jammu is going to be a smart City, may I suggest that a system be put in place wherein only the trained plumbers, electricians and carpenters are permitted to practice these skills.
We have an ITI (Industrial Training Institute) working in the city limits since 1958. Surely, the trained personnel from this institute can be roped in to create a hub of trained, safe and reliable technicians to provide the services at reasonable rates.
This should be a win-win situation for both the parties. We need give it a serious thought. This way, the trained personnel will be gainfully employed, the citizens will get reliable services, and the administration will get a better sleep when the accidents and mishaps are reduced to near zero levels.
I recall large number of thefts of clothes hung outside to dry in Gandhi Nagar, in the late sixties and the early seventies. Police found labourers from Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh, were the culprits.
We have really travelled a long way. Today, the same people are much trusted in the city !
A thought for Jammuites
Squadron Leader Anil Sehgal