Post 45, Chandak, Poonch

11 a.m.: I accompany munshi Mansoor Alam to the local branch Jammu and Kashmir Grameen Bank where he wants to withdraw INR 10,000 with which he can pay his workers their wages. But the cashier takes one look at his account details and hands back the slip.

“You withdrew INR 10,000 on the 1st, another INR 10,000 on the 2nd and INR 4,000 on the 3rd. Don’t you know you can only withdraw INR 24,000 in a week,” the cashier told Mansur tersely, referring to the regulations enforced after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation drive.

Dejected, Mansoor walks away, grumbling: “If I can’t pay the workers, they are going to be very upset at me. But you saw what happened- what can I do?”

2 p.m.: The contractor who recruited Mansoor for procuring labour is at the site: the workers refer to him as the thekedar. Pradeep whispers to Mansoor to ask the thekedar for money to pay them their wages. Mansur tentatively approaches the thekedar and requests him for a loan:

The labourers will leave for their homes next week. If we could pay them off, that would be nice. They want to buy clothes for their families. All of them are planning to leave by the 12th.

The thekedar shrugs:

Oho, the 12th is a long way off. Why are you worried? And clothes? If they come with me to the Chandak market, I can get them clothes on credit. They need not worry about anything.

Mansoor persists:

The clothes are cheaper in Jammu. If they could have the money, they can purchase it at less prices in Jammu than having to buy at exorbitant rates here.

Pradeep mutters:

Even if he does pay us, how does it help? We have bank accounts with Bank of Baroda and Central Bank of India. Neither of these have branches here. State Bank of India does, but we don’t bank with them. Shanti, my wife, tried to open an account there last month (hyperlink to Journal entry 30), but has not been successful so far.

The munshi cannot convince the thekedar to loan him any money to pay the workers their wages.

9:00 p.m.: Dinner over, Pradeep and the rest of us tune into the only radio channel available, Voice of Kashmir, at 105.8 FM. The programmes are broadcast from Rawalkot, across the Line of Control. Interspersed with discussions on the political situation in Kashmir and Pakistani film music are advertisements about English-language schools in Kashmir, whitening creams and tourist agencies offering competitive deals for pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina.