Paddy cultivation on in Kashmir despite lack of migrant labor

Despite restrictions and the absence of non-local workers, Kashmir’s paddy transplantation season is going on in full swing as locals are busy sowing paddy despite the global pandemic.

For over two decades, most of the agricultural processes involved in paddy cultivation in Kashmir have remained dependent on non-local labourers. The migrant workers who come from Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and other states have earlier been engaged in all paddy cultivation processes – sowing, transplantation, de-weeding and harvesting.

Since there are no migrant workers in Kashmir because of lockdown, local farmers have taken up the challenge in the right earnest. Hundreds of local farmers are engaged in paddy transplantation and every member of the family, including men, women and children are toiling in the fields.

The irrigation department has made all irrigation canals functional in the valley since paddy plant is a semi-aquatic plant and its stock must remain immersed in water till the ripening stage which starts in September-October here.

Interestingly, while engaged in paddy transplantation, most locals are wearing masks and are trying to maintain social distancing. Given the size of agricultural land holdings in Kashmir it is possible to maintain social distancing without hampering the paddy transplantation process.

Farmers are making use of tractors in most areas to carry manure to their fields and also ferry paddy saplings from one place to the other.

Authorities have already announced that there would be no restrictions on agricultural activities and this relaxation has come handy for the paddy transplantation season.

The transplantation process is time bound as all paddy saplings have to be transplanted to the fields from the nurseries before June 21.

What is encouraging this season is that instead of depending on outsiders, locals are not only working in their own fields, but are also seen lending a helping hand to other farmers on a rotational basis.

Despite the restrictions imposed on other movements, officials of the irrigation department are regularly visiting areas to ensure that there is no shortage of water during the Paddy transplantation season.

After many years, it is heartening to hear the Kashmiri farmers sing traditional songs in a chorus which were iconic of this season in the past.

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