Srinagar: Kashmir is witnessing a scarcity of skilled and non-skilled workforce after tens of thousands of expatriates from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and some other states of the country fled the Valley in past fortnight.

Four to five lakh seasonal labourers from these states turn up in the Valley with the onset of spring every year to earn better wages in comparatively amiable work and weather conditions. They include masons, carpenters, painters, plumbers and other skilled and non-skilled workforce. Most of them return home in November, before the start of harsh winter in the Valley.

Over the years, a great number of expatriates had, however, made the Valley their permanent home. They were running hair salons, sweet and tailoring shops, eateries and munchies kiosks in Srinagar and at other places.

As Jammu and Kashmir, mainly the Valley, has been caught in turmoil in the aftermath of the Centre’s stripping the state of special status and splitting it into two Union Territories, majority of these non-local labourers and smalltime traders have moved out either on their own or were coerced to run away by local residents or, in some instance, by the security forces.

An ‘advisory’ issued by the State Home Department on August 2, asking tourists and Amarnath pilgrims to cut short their trip and return to their respective states “as early as possible”, played havoc also with these non-local labourers. Terrified by this official caveat, many of them started leaving for home immediately. There are many instances in which expatriates were reportedly asked to make tracks by the security forces after the issuance of this ‘advisory’.

Many of those who chose to stay put, including the ones, who were running small businesses or were working as barbers, tailors, embroiderers, woodcarvers and other craftsmen in the Valley over the years, have been forced to leave by the locals. The local people are openly voicing apprehension that the main motive behind the Centre’s scrapping Article 370 and Article 35A, could be to pave the way for the “outsiders” to get their hands on the land and other immovable properties in J&K in the run up to change the demography of the Muslim majority region.

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With non-local labourers and artisans moving out, the Valley is facing dearth of both skilled and non-skilled workforce, bringing many construction projects to a standstill. The local population is facing difficulty in their day to day lives, also in absence of non-local barbers, tailors and other craftsmen.