SOUTH DINAJPUR: A total of 138 labourers who went to Jammu and Kashmir to earn a living were brought back to West Bengal after five workers from Murshidabad were killed by terrorists in the Valley last month.
The five migrant labourers were shot dead in Jammu and Kashmir's Kulgam on October 29.
While the workers are happy to return to West Bengal, they said that if the Mamata Banerjee-led government does not provide employment opportunities to the migrant workers, they would have no option but to return back to the Valley, despite the tense atmosphere in the region.
"We went to Kashmir for plywood work. We were brought back here after five labourers were killed in Kashmir. If the government gives us proper facilities to stay and give us jobs then we will stay here. Else, we have no option but to return to Kashmir to feed ourselves," a labourer said.
Another worker, named Mohammad Mustafa, echoed similar sentiments and said labourers have to continue earning for a living as they are financially backward and need to support their families.
"We have been working there (in Kashmir) despite threats of terror attacks. Right now, it is difficult to work there under such circumstances. When we used to leave for work during the day, there is a fear that we may be attacked," he said.
Narrating what had happened post-the terror attack, the labourer said, "The army asked us to return to our homes. They said that they don't have issues working in Kashmir, but said that they cannot give us 12-hour protection. We were brought to Jammu and a police procession from there took us to Kolkata," Mustafa said.
He further said, "If the Chief Minister gives us jobs, we will stay here. We are poor and we need to work. If no jobs are provided, we are ready to migrate to other places like Kashmir or Mumbai. We will think of going back to Kashmir if the situation improves there."
As labourers raised their grievances, Sub-Divisional Officer South Dinajpur Debanjan Roy stressed that the migrant labourers will be provided all necessary assistance and efforts will be made to provide them employment under the state government's 100-day work scheme.
"Labourers who were working outside the state have been brought back under the directions of the state government. Upon their arrival, assistance has been given to them on priority. They have been sent to their families in villages. We will enroll the labourers under the 100-day work scheme. Assistance will be provided to them on priority," he said.
"If they wish to begin their own businesses, we will provide them with necessary assistance as well. If they require more support, the state government is ready to help them," the official added.
The 138 labourers reached Kolkata by Jammu Tawi Express on Monday. While 133 of them hail from West Bengal, five are from Assam.
Speaking to reporters, Kolkata Mayor and minister in-charge of Urban Development and Municipal Affairs Firhad Hakim had said the migrant workers will be sent to their homes as their families are concerned about them.
Asked whether the workers will get employment in the state, the minister said the labourers had gone to Jammu and Kashmir for seasonal work and will have prospects of employment.