4 migrant labourers at Jammu quarantine centre eager to return home

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Jammu: Hard hit by the double whammy of lockdowns due to abrogation of Article 370 and the COVID-19 pandemic, four migrant labourers at a quarantine centre here are eagerly waiting to return home.
The group of labourers from Punjab, which had left Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 in August last year, returned to the Valley in March this year but is now stuck at the quarantine centre.
“After staying away for over seven months, we returned to Srinagar on March 16 in search of work but were forced to stay indoors due to the coronavirus lockdown. The local administration provided some sort of relief but that was not enough,” Joginder Singh (30), a painter, told PTI on Saturday.
Singh and his colleagues — Ajay Kumar, Sahil and Akash — were returning to their homes in Punjab in a truck from Srinagar but were stopped by the authorities in Jammu and placed under quarantine.
The four were tested for COVID-19 at Government Medical College (GMC) hospital the next day and their reports came negative four days later.
“We have been coming to Kashmir to earn our bread and butter from the past few years, but we have never faced any problem like this (lockdown),” Singh said.
“Sometimes you feel hapless before the situation,” he said.
Singh has been coming to Kashmir for work from the past five years and Kumar from over a decade, they said.
“We were eagerly waiting to make our sojourn to the Valley but never imagined about the pandemic. We have not earned a single penny after landing in Kashmir and the prevailing situation has also left our families worried and tense,” Singh said.
Kumar (32) said, “In Srinagar, the government provided some ration but it finished within days. We had no money to buy food and pay the room rent so we approached the divisional commissioner’s office for permission to return home.”
Even after all the formalities, including getting screened at SMHS hospital Srinagar, the permission was not given, he said.
“We then left the city without permission to save ourselves from starvation,” Kumar said.
“Eight days have passed since we landed in Jammu and underwent the COVID-19 test. Still nobody is doing anything to facilitate our return to Punjab,” he said, requesting Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to take a call on their return as soon as possible.
Kumar, however, added that he has no complaint over the facilities being provided at the quarantine centre.
Singh said “We have talked to some truckers from Punjab who are frequently visiting the valley with essential commodities. An acquaintance is returning from Kashmir tomorrow and we have contacted him for a lift to our hometown.”
Akash, in his late teens and the youngest in the group, said he is spending time sleeping and playing games on his mobile phone in the quarantine centre.
“The major problem here is the slow speed of the internet,” he said referring to the 2G mobile internet service which is available in Jammu and Kashmir instead of 4G like other parts of the country. (PTI)