J&K: Kashmiri Pandit Employees Decry Official Apathy as Many Face Medical Emergencies
Srinagar: Kashmiri Pandit employees, who are demanding a relocation outside the Kashmir valley, on Friday said that they are facing official apathy despite assurances from the UT administration.
According to one employee hired under the Prime Minister's special package for relief and rehabilitation for the migrants, the community members are grappling due to alleged harassment from the administration, especially those suffering from medical emergencies.
Sanjay Tickoo, the head of the community's rights group, Kashmir Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS), said that many of these employees are patients suffering from serious ailments and that at least one employee died in December 2022 without receiving his last salary.
Tickoo told NewsClick that he is writing to the Prime Minister's office to highlight the plight of other patients.
"Six PM package employees are suffering from a deadly disease, i.e. cancer, but the concerned drawing and disbursing officers (DDO) are not releasing their pending salary. On the one hand, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir issued verbal orders but no response from DDOs. Will take the matter to the PMO," KPSS tweeted.
The employees from the minority community suspended their over 300-days-long agitation last week after assurances from the administration that their demands would be heeded. The demands included renewed security measures because of the targeted killings by militant groups and relocation of the employees outside the Kashmir valley, given the emerging threat.
Ranjan Jyotshi, an employee recruited under the special package, told NewsClick that many DDOs have resorted to "harassment" of the employees and continue to withhold their salaries.
"These include at least a dozen employees who are medically weaker and are suffering from issues like CA, liver sclerosis or have other physical disabilities. Should not those with medical problems be dealt with on humanitarian grounds?" Jyotshi asked.
Jyotshi told NewsClick that the community members were shocked to witness the plight of Chand Ji Bhat, who suffered from liver ailments.
"He was surviving on medicines that cost between Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000. Even his salary was withheld, and it is no wonder that the situation may have worsened his health condition," he said.
The political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, including National Conference (NC) and the People's Democratic Party (PDP), have criticised the administration for failing to deal with the protesting employees kindly.
The UT administration had withheld the employees' salaries in view of their agitation. It began last year in May after one revenue official Rahul Bhat was killed inside his office in the Budgam area of central Kashmir. In February 2023, the administration released employees' salaries, who resumed their duties in Kashmir. Days later, the killing of a bank guard Sanjay Sharma in Pulwama on February 26 renewed the fear amongst the community.
"We did not complain for more than a decade and even during the unrest of 2016. We stayed back in the valley, knowing that we had support on the ground. But, the situation has changed, and several threat lists have been published by militant groups like TRF (The Resistance Front)," Jyotshi said.
He added that their landlords in Kashmir valley are also facing inconvenience due to the security threat.
"In the absence of the infrastructure, homes and land, our families are left behind, and in the case of ailing employees, they do not receive the care from their families," he pointed out, adding that relocation of the patients is vital.
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