Decade passes with hope, casual laborers await regularization
By: Ahmad Shabir
Anantnag: More than a decade ago, the then government decided to develop Lidder Valley golf course at famed tourist spot, Pahalgam on modern lines and upgrade it from 9 to 18 holes. For expansion of the golf ground, the authorities acquired land from locals, promising them jobs in the golf course.
The residents agreed to provide their prized land for upgradation of golf course with the hope of that their jobs as casual laborers will be regularised. However, more than a decade has passed; dozens of these laborers maintaining the 18 hole golf course continue to await the promised made with them.
Speaking to Precious Kashmir, many of these laborers rued that the successive governments have failed to do justice with them despite they working very hard to maintain such a big golf ground.
“It was not only at the time of acquisition of our land that the then chief minister promised jobs to the member of land owners each in the golf course but later in 2015 , the then chief minister, late Mohammad Syed also visited the golf ground and announced jobs to the locals having provided land for the expansion of the golf course. But more than 12 years have passed there is no end to our exploitation,” a group of these laborers told Precious Kashmir.
Pahalgam golf course is the most picturesque golf grounds of the country with modern facilities. Surrounded by alpines and mountains, the golf course is spread over 1200 kanals of land.
The golf course is being developed and maintained by the Pahalgam Development Authority, which is under the administrative control of the tourism department.
The PDA for all these years has been outsourcing the maintenance of golf course and spends around 70 lakhs to one crore rupees on it every year.
The laborers maintaining the Lidder golf ground say that they had a prized proprietary land which was acquired by the tourism department more than a decade ago.
“The only reason for providing our land to the then government was the job in the golf course promised by two chief ministers during their tenure but we have been virtually reduced to the servants of contractors being allotted the maintenance of the golf ground every year,” said a laborer.
He said that they have approached almost all the corners with their pleas to at least enhance their wages but ‘nobody seems to be listening’.
“It is irony that lot of contractors earned huge money out of this golf course but the laborers who put the blood and sweat on its maintenance continue to get the same wages for last more than a decade. Injustice is being done to us. This golf course has spoiled our lives. We appeal Lieutenant Governor to please look into the matter,” said another laborer.
Outsourcing of the maintenance of the golf course, according to sources, costs government much more than the amount required for its maintenance.
“Over 40 crore rupees might have been spent on the maintenance of golf ground in last several years but the revenue comes from it is too less. One wonders why the tourism authorities spend so much amount on the golf course but fail to promote it as international golf ground despite the availability of world class facilities,” said an official in the PDA requesting to remain anonymous.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA), Masrat Hashim admitted that the golf course has not been professionally maintained so far.
“This year it is already outsourced. But from next year we will set the professional para-meters for its outsourcing and allot the contract of its maintenance to some professional agency as happens in Delhi. These laborers are now working there for 10 to 12 years and when a professional agency will pay them good wages, they will surely work more hard in a professional way,” CEO said.