In Valley, govt staff go to work looking over the shoulder, attendance thin

Adil Akhzer
The staff said that the communications blackout added to the difficulty.

Aijaz Ahmad, a resident of South Kashmir s Pulwama district, travels more than 30 km to reach his office in Srinagar. But the journey is not easy these days. He hitchhikes and walks, past paramilitary personnel and angry youths.

I am wearing slippers instead of shoes. I don t want to be recognised as a government employee, says Aijaz, sitting in his office here on Thursday. The boys on the roads are angry. If they know I am going to office, I don t know what will happen to me.

In the last two days, Aijaz was stopped by youths twice. He told them he was going to a hospital.

While the attendance in government offices here is well below normal, the employees say that going to work is a daily struggle that entails risk.

Aijaz s colleague, a resident of Baramulla in north Kashmir, sports a shalwar kameez instead of shirt and pants. If my neighbours find out I am going to office, there will be a reprisal, he says.

I have kept my departmental card at home. Instead, I am carrying an Aadhaar card. Someone threw a stone at my car when I was going home, he adds.

After the morning prayers on Monday, local residents reportedly made an announcement from a mosque in Srinagar s Alamgari Bazar asking government employees to stay home.

The Indian Express visited six government offices here on Thursday, where officials said that attendance was more than 50 per cent. At the office of Chief Engineer of Irrigation and Flood Control Department in Rajbagh neighbourhood, 17 of 35 employees were present at 10.30 am. Nearly 50-60 per cent employees are attending offices, said an official. Some employees come from faraway places, but in the present circumstances it is difficult to reach.

Attendance was nearly 60 per cent at the Public Works Department office, located near the Flood Control Department. Some of the staff is able to reach office. But we deal with the public, and hardly anyone visits us these days. We are sitting idle all day, said an employee.

According to the government, there has been a gradual increase in employee attendance. However, the employees said it is difficult to commute, especially with no public transport in the city. We know we are risking our lives to reach office. Is there any option? There are strict instructions from higher-ups to come to work. Even though there is no public transport, said Mohammed Younis, an employee.

The staff said that the communications blackout added to the difficulty. After we leave home, our family members are anxious through the day. A similar situation is faced by our colleagues when we leave office. There is no way to communicate, to know if everyone reached home safely, said an employee.