About 2,000 non-Ladakhi labourers are sitting outside Leh airport for the last two days, demanding that they be airlifted out of the town.
But the district administration wants them to stay back and help in the rescue work in the flood-ravaged area.
“The issue of these labourers was discussed in a meeting with Prithviraj Chavan, minister of state,” Leh Deputy Commissioner T. Angchok said. “It was decided we will give them daily wages and provide accommodation. We can’t let them go as they are needed the most.”
But the labourers are in no mood to stay. “I survived this disaster but I don’t have any money left,” said Ratinder Kumar, who came from Bihar 15 days ago. “I just want to go back and never return.”
The labourers, who are mostly from UP, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, can earn as much as Rs 300 a day here compared to the Rs 100 they get back home.
“I am left with only Rs 30,” said Javed Ahmad (24), who has come from Kashmir. “The contractor is not giving me my money. I can’t survive here...”
R.K. Khanna, a businessmen working in Leh for the past five years, said it was wrong on their part to leave Leh at this juncture.
“They earn their livelihood here,” said Khanna, who hires about 20 labourers every season. “Now it’s their duty to stay and help with the rescue work.”