Srinagar: Last two years have been difficult for 45-year-old construction worker Shabir Ahmad. With limited workdays, he has been dependent on NGOs and Mohalla Committee for food and essentials.
Come May 2021, he is pinning hopes on the government which has announced a relief package for COVID affected families, daily wagers, laborers, and senior citizens.
“We are eagerly waiting for financial help from the government. The administration needs to ensure that it reaches deserving people,” he said.
Against an income of Rs 17000 a month, Shabir is currently earning only Rs 3000 a month given the lockdown. “The situation is the same for almost every laborer and the government should extend a helping hand,” he said.
Last week, Jammu and Kashmir government announced a financial package to help the people in distress. Under the package, Rs 1,000 will be paid to all the registered construction workers, palkiwalas, pithuwalas, and ponywalas for the next two months.
An official said the government has started the process of distributing the relief to the beneficiaries, who are registered with the labor and the social welfare department. “The number of such beneficiaries has been reviewed and the relief distribution will begin soon. The scheme is valid for two months. We will review the situation after two months,” he said.
The government is also gearing up to provide Rs 3 crore financial assistance to the tourism players.
Under the package, Rs 2,000 financial assistance will be provided to each of 4,444 registered Shikara owners, 1,370 tourist guides, 6,663 ponywalas and 2,150 others including those who rent palanquins for yatris. The money will be paid for two months.
Secretary tourism Sarmad Hafeez told The Kashmir Monitor that the government is currently utilizing time to build infrastructure to prepare for upcoming seasons.
“ We witnessed a good flow of tourists during winter. The tourism industry is affected worldwide due to the pandemic. We are utilizing our time for capacity building and vaccination of stakeholders,” he said.
Sarmad said the government has also started providing financial assistance to shikarawalas, ponywalas, dandiwalas, tourist guides under Prime Ministers Development Package.“Government is conscious of the problems being faced by the tourism stakeholders of Kashmir and accordingly a helping hand is being extended to them,” he said.
The financial assistance has generated hope for thousands of boatmen in Dal Lake. “The financial assistance is for two months. We demand an increase in the allowance from Rs 2000 to Rs 5000 so that every family can manage daily expenses, food, and medicines,” said Wali Muhammad Bhat President of Shikara Union.
Tour operators have demanded bailout package so that they can restart their lives. “Tour operators are the worst sufferers. The government should announce a bailout package for us. We have communicated to the Lieutenant Governor and hope he will act in this regard,” said president Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK) Farooq Ahmad Kuthoo.