WITH the onset of winters and heavy snowfall several essential services are interrupted annually here in Kashmir. During these harsh colder months we also observe a department facing enormous flak from the people for not being able to ensure their services to the subscribers, which to an extent is completely understandable and justified. Yes, I am talking about the Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Department, a department which always remains on the receiving end of the blows from the people for providing erratic power supplies to Jammu and Kashmir, when a major proportion of it is being produced here and more production avenues are being explored and worked on. Although this is an acceptable fact that the higher officials of this department face genuine criticism but, there is a section of employees who are paid meagre amount of wages after months while they leave no stone unturned to discharge their duties. Pictures of daily wage workers of the PDD department surface on the internet often, showing them on the top of electric Iron poles in snow and rain trying to restore the power in areas affected by snow. Another side of these pictures is their financial sustenance, serious injuries and even deaths of such workers while fulfilling their duties due to electric shocks. Unpaid wages and the lack of regularisation of their jobs, and the Minimum Wage Act not being implemented, is hurting casual labourers in Jammu and Kashmir, especially those in the PDD. They not only suffer due to the apathy they receive from the government alone, their families also have to go through an enormous amount of pain and trauma at a time when such a hard-working daily wage worker is rendered physically disabled for life or if such a worker dies on the field. A person employed as a casual labourer is entitled to receive a meagre amount of Rs 225 as their daily wage, many workers have a disdain towards the government claiming that their meagre wages are paid to them after months in installments. Meanwhile, the government’s promise of implementing the Minimum Wage Act in the UT of J&K has not seen the light of day. PDD workers have been demanding the implementation of SRO 381 (part of Recruitment Rules) which promises the regularisation of daily wagers who have completed seven years in the department.
Around one lakh casual labourers – daily wagers, need based workers and others – have been engaged in different departments including PDD
The Minimum Wage Act if implemented in Jammu and Kashmir will ensure an amount of Rs 520 on a daily basis to the workers. These unsung heroes deserve appreciation and acknowledgement of their efforts from us, while the government should also acknowledge their high risk job and implement The Minimum Wage Act which can raise their wages and ensure some sort of financial stability of their household.
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