J-K Staff Strike: Headman, Youth Club Show The Way12 April 2010
The Indian Express
Srinagar: As the strike by Jammu and Kashmir’s 4.5 lakh government employees enters its seventh day, the anger among people is palpable. The striking employees have been demanding the release of pay arrears and enhancement of retirement age by two years and in the process led to the crippling of essential services like health, education and municipalities in a state where private sector’s presence is negligible. Frustrated by the strike, villagers in north Kashmir’s Tangmarg area had on Saturday decided to open government schools with 300 unemployed post-graduate young men and women volunteering as teachers. Even as the employees toughened their stance on Tuesday and extended their shutdown call till April 17, the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC), the employees’ body that organises the strike, has decided to let the schools open with different timings. The people’s voluntary movement has been initiated by a village head in north Kashmir’s Tangmarg area where a local youth group - Gulmarg Youth Club has joined in to lend educated unemployed local youth to replace the striking teachers. “We have a local numberdar association and a voluntary youth group together in this effort. I am a numberdar but I am a parent too. We saw the children of employees going to school because they are studying in private schools while our children are home because of the strike. How can we let them (striking employees) to do that to us,” said Abdul Hamid Wani, numberdar (village head) of Wusan. Wani is also vice president of the numberdar union across the state and he said he would rope in the village heads across the Valley to replicate this voluntary effort. “We have already opened around 50 schools - primary, middle and high school level. We have engaged 300 educated unemployed youth, most of them are postgraduates. We are planning to open every school in our area”. He said the striking teachers did object to their effort at Kunzar locality but they couldn’t stop them. “Our demand is simple. If government employees are seeking rights, they have to know that they have responsibilities towards us, common citizens, too. How can they jeopardise the careers of our children and let our patients die in hospitals only because they want more money from the government,” he said. “And we know it is the children of the poor who suffer. People with money including these employees send their children to private schools. We have had enough hartals and strikes in past 20 years and we will not allow our education and health care to suffer”. With the government being the single largest employer in the state, the suspension of work by employees has affected the services sector the most with both schools and hospitals defunct. The Agriculture department, one of the biggest government departments in the state, is totally defunct which has serious ramifications for the entire farming community as this is the seed distribution time.