Amid coronavirus scare, migrant workers asked to leave Valley

Suhail Bhat
SRINAGAR, Mar 30: Over 22-migrant workers who are living in rented accommodation in Budgam village of Chadoora in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district have been allegedly asked by locals to leave the area in view of COVID 19 outbreak.
The workers told Excelsior that the locals who see them as the potential carriers of COVID 19 infection asked them to leave the village. “They did not threaten or abuse us but have been repeatedly asking us to leave. We are scared to step out of our accommodation,” Shahabuddin, a migrant worker said.
They said that their stock of essentials would last only for a few days as shopkeepers have shut doors for them owing to the mounting debt. “We owe around Rs 8000 to the local shopkeepers for the material that we bought on our arrival. Since we are out of work they think we won’t be able to clear our debt. So they have stopped selling anything to us,” Mohammad Ibarat, another worker told Excelsior.
They are being harassed despite the fact that they had undergone the necessary screening before entering into the Valley on 12th March. “All of us were screened at Lakhanpur checkpoint. Despite that, the locals would inquire whether we have been screened or not. They are right on their part,” Sadam other migrant workers said, adding to put the apprehensions of the locals to rest they also got themselves screened at a local health centre.
They lamented their problems mounted with the announcement of 21-day lockdown in the country as it came hardly a week after their arrival. “We had just started to work when the announcement came. We were yet to earn anything and had taken a loan to meet the expenses of the first month,” he said.
The workers said that they even tried to visit the local police station to apprise them about their situation but were stopped by the security forces deployed on a local bridge. “They disallow us to proceed towards the police station. They shoved us away. I even lost my slippers and walked three kilometers bare feet,” another migrant worker said.
Aijaz Yousef, their landlord said he is unaware about the issue and has lent the workers money to survive. “I lent them money out of my own pocket and arranged some rice for them as well. They must be worried as they have no work and everything is also shut. I try to help them in every possible way,” he said.
Assistant Labour Commissioner Budgam, Hafsa Qayoom, told Excelsior that she would look into the matter and follow a standard procedure to deal with it. “The workers are in distress and I will first contact them. They will be provided every possible help,” she said.