There’s a lot of hard work that goes behind Asia’s largest tulip garden, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden (formerly known as Siraj Bagh) in Srinagar, which opened for tourists on March 25.
Spread over 200 kanals or 10 hectares, the garden showcases more than 12.25 lakh tulips of over 40 varieties. The opening of the garden signifies the start of the tourist season in the Valley. Some 130 workers work round the year in the garden so that in March every year tourists can enjoy the glorious display of rows and rows of the tubular flowers. Every year in June when the flowers wither, the workers then pull out the bulbs, segregate and store them in greenhouses where the temperature is maintained around 15 degrees Celsius which is conducive for these exotic flowers. It is a very labour intensive job and has to be done manually and takes almost one and a half months. Later in November, the ground is ploughed with a tractor, the beds are made and then the bulbs are replanted. This again takes a month and a half.
However, the workers who work on a daily wage basis in the gardens are paid a pittance for the laborious work they do. According to a source this reporter met at the garden, their wages were earlier a meagre Rs 4000 per month. After much demands, this has now been raised to Rs 6000 which is still not adequate keeping in mind living costs. The workers have also been demanding to be made permanent employees. Every year the government promises to look into it but there has been no decision in this regard, informed the source.
Situated at the foothills of the Zabarwan Range near the famous Dal Lake, the garden was opened in 2008 by the then chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad with the aim to boost floriculture and tourism in Jammu and Kashmir. Several other varieties of flowers have been added to the tulip garden this year such as hyacinths, daffodils, narcissus and other ornamental plants.