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Casual Labourer’s melancholy;what it means to be a Daily Wager in Kashmir

Inside a single story house located in the Srinagar outskirts is Firdous Ahmad, busy playing with his two daughters. In his home, the mood is jubilant with relatives offering greetings to Firdous and his wife.
Firdous is one among the 61 thousand daily wagers whose services have been finally confirmed by the state government and who shall from now be eligible to draw a fixed salary along other service benefits. However, the much awaited government announcement has made Firdous nostalgic, opening up the deep wounds of the past and the every struggle he had to overcome while working as a need based employee. “When you have a wife and two daughters, only God knows what it is like to sustain on meagre 4000 rupees a month,” Firdous told KNS.
A computer graduate, Firdous was offered a job at R&B as a computer operator on the monthly wage of Rs 2500, in the year 2005. Confident and enthusiastic, Firdous accepted the offer. He says he was optimistic that his skills would pave way for his regularisation soon. Months passed and then years, Firdous kept working in the department from 10 to 4 without fatigue and least display of exhaustion. “I worked three times more than that of the permanent employees. Even they used to leave bundles of files on my table and would task me to complete the most rigorous works in the office. I never turned my head away. I accepted every task I was entrusted upon,” recalls Firdous.
He says soon after he got married, responsibilities spiked and so did the expenditures. A year later, he was the father of twin daughters. I can’t even tell you my feelings then, says Firdous and added, “I was happy and I was even worried over the fate of my family. People would spend double the amount of my monthly wages for fuel in their cars.”
He says he vividly remembers how the previous regimes in the state undermined the sufferings of the daily wagers and of their families. “I even remember the time when Naeem Akhtar sahib in 2015 termed us the mess of the previous governments. I wept bitterly that day, wondering about the fate of my two little daughters,” Firdous recalls.
He says even though his wages remained meagre, he was determined to give good education to his daughters. Firdous admitted them in a private school though there were suggestions pouring in from the relatives that he should consider the option of government schools. “I never wanted to give an impression to my daughters that they are the children of lesser God. I had resolved that even though me and my wife had to sleep with empty stomachs, we would never ever compromise with the daily needs and education of my daughters.”
Now when the government has ordered the regularisation of the services of Daily Wagers in the state, Firdous has reason to rejoice. “I would say something is better than nothing. We can now avail leaves and have yearly increments. This is encouraging,” says Firdous.
However, this 42- year-old tech savy says that the years of the rigorous struggle as a daily wager has taught him the valuable lessons of life. “These years taught me to be compassionate and live without fear. These years taught me to smile infront of my children, no matter how bruised I used to be within.” (KNS)