Prolonged winter in Chenab region pushes wage labourers to the verge of starvation

  • Tahir Nadeem Khan Yusafzai
  • Publish Date: Mar 11 2019 6:02AM
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  • Updated Date: Mar 11 2019 6:02AM
Prolonged winter in Chenab region pushes wage labourers to the verge of starvationPhoto: Kashmir Ink

Prolonged and continuing winter starting with an unseasonal snowfall mid-November last year has brought hundreds of labouring families in Chenab region to the verge of starvation as daily-wage work has halted for nearly four months.Families have started selling their cattle and other household assets to survive and meet emergency expenses.

The mountainous region received its 17th snowfall on March 4, adding to the worries of poor families dependent on daily-wage labour.Traditionally, people in this rugged region prepare for two months of harsh winter conditions through December and January, especially those residing at high altitudes who work hard in summer months and save up to sail through the cold period.

This year winter has extended into March, eating into working season of the laboring classes."Every year we keep a contingency plan at the most for two months by toiling hard till mid December, but this year heavy snowfall started from 15th of November and it's still going on, keeping us confined to our homes and without work for more than 4 months,” said Mohammad Butta Kasana of Dodu-Sartingal village who sold the little family jewelry to take his ill wife to a hospital in Jammu.“Since last one month, I have been selling my belongings to feed my family."Some families have begun to prepare for migration out of the snowbound areas to find work.

According to available statistics, some 45 percent population in Doda and Kishtwar districts living in Bhadarwah, Bhallesa, Dessa, Gundna, Kastigarh, Chatroo, Marwah, Dachan, Warwan, Padder, Dashnan and Bonjwah is still confined to their houses as the area is under 3 to 8 feet of snow. Many in the region, especially the tribal Gujjars complain payments and work under MGNREGA in the area has been stopped since 2015, further deepened the crisis for labouring classes."We are without work since four months. Earlier, during this time of the year we used to remain busy with MGNREGA and earn some money during off season. Under the given circumstances, MGNREGA would have been very handy for our survival but we have been denied that also since 2015,” said Karam Din Khatana of village Dhadkai, Bhallesa.“I sold my cattle to make both ends meet; now I am left with just one cow. I hope someone will come to our rescue."Many in the snowbound areas say the local administration has not reached out to the poor, but some volunteers and small philanthropists have started distributing food grains and other essentials to the most needy.

Devinder Kumar Bhau, a top administration official of Doda refuted the allegation that work under MGNREGA has been suspended, saying work under the rural employment scheme will start as soon as weather allows.

"Due to unprecedented snowfall this year, we were unable to carry any work under MGNREGA. Most of the area is still under snow. As soon weather improves we will restart all the suspended works," Bhau said.