The unending flow of migrants into Ladakh seems to be increasing. Migrant workers have been a part of Ladakhi workforce for many decades now. In the summer season, one can see hundreds of migrant workers on the streets of Leh.
It is believed that more than half of Ladakh’s workforce now consists of migrant workers from other states. They build our homes, work in our fields and help us in our everyday chores. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that they have become a part and parcel of our life. It seems that without them, we are helpless.
Aren't we becoming too dependent on them? I see it as a sign of deteriorating social fabric as it has replaced our old traditional system of ‘langdey system’ or helping each other in agriculture work, and in other areas.
Earlier, all the family members used to work in the fields, but today you see only migrant labours. Not only are we giving up our tradition, we are also breaking our bonds with each other. One of the reasons that we are shifting from agriculture to other business is that our work is done by the migrant labours. And we are forgetting our own work. Today the local people don’t want to engage themselves in agriculture. The fact is that there is no gain.
Do we really need migrant workers to serve our economy and our needs? Why can’t Ladakhis serve their own economy and meet our own needs? Those who are financially strong, they can hire workers, but what about the poor who cannot afford. They are left with no choice but to work alone in their fields.
Over-reliance on migrant workers can have serious consequences, and that is why we should look at ways to reduce dependence on them. Ladakhis need to understand that there is no shame in doing manual work as a means of earning their livelihood. We need to instil a sense of dignity for labour, especially among the youth. But, today, no one is willing to work hard. The over-dependence on migrant workers is definitely hurting our economy.
We have examples here where Nepali labours have been staying here for 20-30 years without proper papers. Till July end this year, we had 7,595 labours registered, out of which around 5500 are locals and the remaining are one-time registered workers from other states, according to the labour office, Leh. But, according to SHO, Leh, the total registered workers are 2708, out of which 2057 are Indians, 270 Nepalis and 381locals. The actual number, including the unregistered ones, is much higher.
Some of us call this “migrant explosion”. While a few people are worried that the migrant workers are robbing the local labourers of their livelihood, the demand for these labourers only keeps on increasing. While on the other hand, some are accusing them of stealing jobs from Ladakhis, spreading diseases, being ungrateful and committing crimes.
Look at the main areas of water sources. The army labours have polluted the water sources which are the only source of drinking water for villagers. Take the example of Skampari, where 7-10 laboures are living in one room without toilet and kitchen facilities and they are creating a mess around the area.
Without any check on the flow of migrants, we are inviting a whole lot of problems for Ladakh. Proper registration and verification should be done. It is high time our lawmakers and authorities concerned wake up and act. As responsible citizens, we too need to raise our voice to keep Ladakh clean and safe.