On July 22, dozens of temporary employees of the forest service in the Bandipora area of north Kashmir went on a five-day hunger strike.
They want the department to pay them on time and treat them fairly. The workers are protesting day and night outside the divisional forest officer’s (DFO) office gate at Chitrernaar.
However, they only get pay for three to four months of the year, despite the workers’ claims that they had been employed by the department for at least 15 years. Additionally, they claim that the department often delays their payments and pays them for fewer than 30 days every month.
The demonstrators claim that the division “bungled” the cash and that they will be “threatened” with disengagement if they raise their voices any longer. They requested that the lieutenant governor’s office look into the situation and check into their case.
“The officials here in the division tell us that the salary of just 11 labourers is released which they divide among 45 of us,” Naseer Ahmad, the president of the protesting labourers association, said. Because “we were appointed by them,” he questioned the department’s policies and urged them to be transparent.
Iqbal Ahmad another protector said, “We do all the basic and essential works for the department, from making plant nurseries to putting out forest fires. We have to buy ration at higher rates as we are not considered below poverty line. Our situation has affected our mental well-being as well,” he said.
Manzoor Ahmad, who is also on the strike, said that they are not going to be intimidated by the threats and seek justice from the higher authorities. He said that they will continue their strike till their demands are met.