“If he sent money they would eat, otherwise no” — UP migrant worker killed in Pulwama was the sole breadwinner in his family
Five months in a year, labourers from villages in Uttar Pradesh migrate to Kashmir where they work as daily wagers at brick kilns. Yesterday, one of them, Mukesh Kumar, was shot dead in Pulwama. Gaon Connection met his family.
Sumit Yadav 31 Oct 2023 1:19 PM GMT
Bhatpura (Unnao), UP
When the phone rang at 1.30 pm yesterday, on October 30, little did Kusuma Devi expect that it was a death knell.
A call from Mukesh Kumar, her husband, usually every day, was a sundry conversation about his day or theirs, or at times it was to inform her that he had sent home some money.
But, yesterday, it was someone else on the phone who told her that Mukesh Kumar, who worked as a migrant labourer at a brick kiln in Pulwama in Kashmir, had been attacked by terrorists.
The 39-year-old labourer, who hails from Bhatpura village in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, was on his way back from the bank after sending money home for Diwali he was shot at in Pulwama and killed. The place where he worked is home to several brick kilns that employ a lot of labourers from Uttar Pradesh.
“He was at Pulwama in Kashmir where he worked at a brick kiln. He has been going there for five months in a year for the past 10 years or so,” Suresh Kumar, the nephew of Mukesh, told Gaon Connection. When he was not there, the deceased worked as a daily wage labourer in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh.
Mukesh Kumar is survived by his old parents, his widowed wife and four young children.
“Papa [my father] had called two days back and said he will send money and I should buy patakha [firecrackers] for Diwali,” Pankaj, the14-year-old-son of Mukesh Kumar told Gaon Connection.
A visit to their house shows the utter poverty the family lives in, and why Mukesh Kumar was forced to go far away from home to earn a living in Kashmir.
The home looks like an unfinished construction — exposed bricks, bamboo and tin-shed. But it is where he and his family of a wife, two daughters and two sons, have lived for 10 years. The chulha looks as if it has not been fired for a few days, a packet of salt leans forlornly against an unplastered wall and on a sling from the ceiling is a small vessel with rice. A bucket here, a plate there… nothing more.
A cycle is parked on the side and few clothes hang from a clothesline indoors. A big trunk sits unmoving on one side, perhaps holding whatever valuables the family may possess. But there is nothing valuable visible to visitors.
“They have no vessels, no cot, nothing. He was the only earning member of the family. They have nine biswa of land that only a few months ago they managed to recover as it had been taken away by miscreants,” Suman Devi, sister-in-law of the deceased, told Gaon Connection.
“If he sent money they would eat, otherwise no. We heard he was on his way to the bank to send money home. We are not sure if he actually managed to transfer the money or was shot before that,” she added.
With the breadwinner not returning home, the future of his 19-year-old daughter Nisha, 14-year-old son Pankaj, another 12-year-old daughter Khushi and the youngest 10-year-old Ankush has just become darker. None of them goes to school.
There are four other men from Bhatpura village who are in Pulwama right now. Like Mukesh they are there to earn a living. “People from here routinely go to Kashmir, over 1,200 kilometres away from home, as they earn up to Rs 12,000 a month in the strife-torn region, which is impossible to do in or near their village,” Suresh Kumar said.
It is in the rainy season when work is scarce in their home state that these men set out to go to J&K where they work for five months in a year, either at brick kilns or other odd jobs.
“Jobs here are erratic. If they get work for four days, they invariably sit at home for four more days, and they can never earn more than Rs 250 a day which is barely enough to put food on the table,” Suresh Kumar said.