Patna: For the family of 56-year-old Virendra Paswan, who was among the four civilians gunned down by terrorists in Srinagar on 5 October, his loss has been compounded by another woe.
The family rues the fact that they couldn’t attend the funeral rites of Paswan, who was cremated in Srinagar on 8 October.
“We did not have the money to go. Even the money sent by the Srinagar administration (A cheque for Rs 1 lakh and Rs 25,000 in cash) came to us after he was cremated,” his son Vikram Paswan (19), told ThePrint.
Virendra Paswan was the sole earning member of the family and has left behind two sons, four daughters and a wife in his native village of Baleshadpur in Bihar’s Bhagalpur district.
He sold pani puri at a thela in downtown Srinagar.
“It was through the money sent by my father that our family survived here,” Vikram Paswan said. “He had told us that he would come home during Durga Puja.”
According to Vikram, before 2019, Virendra worked as a welder in a factory in Kolkata but was forced to move back home when the factory shut down.
“There were other villagers who worked in Kashmir who convinced him to move there, saying that the income was good and he could support his family. So my father went there and started a Panipuri stall in Srinagar,” Vikram said, adding that at least 50 people from the village worked in J&K.
“Some of them have been there for over a decade,” Vikram said.
He added that there was no initiative by the authorities to bring the body back to his native village.
Bhagalpur DM Subrat Kumar Sen said that he did not have any information on why the body was not brought back home.
Bhagalpur MLA Ajit Sharma of the Congress told ThePrint that the administration has sanctioned Rs 2 lakh for the family.
“I met the family and even talked to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The CM sanctioned Rs 2 lakh to the bereaved family,” Sharma said. “An official of Bhagalpur administration visited the family and handed them a cheque of Rs 20,000 and 50 kgs of foodgrain on Thursday.”
Paswan, however, is not the only migrant labourer from Bihar killed in Jammu and Kashmir.
Last month, Shankar Choudhary, a migrant labourer from Katihar district was killed by terrorists in Kulgam district of Kashmir. In the same district, nine Bihari and Nepali workers were gunned down in 2006. Ironically, Virendra went to Kashmir when migrant labourers were fleeing the state in 2019 following the killing of 11 workers in the Valley.
Bihar’s migrant labourers
The tragedy of the Paswan family is one that is all too familiar to migrant labourers forced to leave due to inadequate jobs in the state.
In 2020, when images surfaced of migrant labourers walking on foot to make their way home to Bihar, following the nationwide lockdown, the Nitish government claimed to have transferred Rs 1000 to the account of 29 lakh labourers.
Around 20 lakh migrant labourers returned as the state government claimed that it was creating jobs in Bihar. It did not work as almost all of them returned to Punjab, Maharashtra, Bengaluru, Chennai and even Kashmir when Covid wave ended.
“People like Virendra even go to states like Kashmir because they do not have alternatives. The government has failed to create new factories and infrastructure to create jobs,” said MLA Ajit Sharma pointing out that migrant labourers’ contribution to Bihar economy through the money they send back will be around Rs 60,000 crore.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)