The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world to the core. It is probably the first global event as it has affected almost everyone, irrespective of his/her country of residence or socio-economic class. When the pandemic will be over, people will have the same stories to share with their friends and relatives living abroad. They will exchange feelings about virus outbreak, lockdown, isolation, lost jobs, declining wages and so on. As the coronavirus became the global harbinger of disease and deaths, so is its economic fallout. In the beginning, the COVID-19 flare-up was primarily seen as the health crisis but it soon triggered large-scale socio-economic troubles. Like the pandemic spread from one county to another in no time, economic woes too proliferated across the nations with extended lockdowns and restrictive measures. It hit the needy, poor and marginalised communities the hardest.
COVID-19 tore apart both rich and poor nations but those living in the industrial society have enjoyed certain level of social security. Unemployment allowance and social benefits was a big respite to them in the time of joblessness and recession. Poor countries lack robust social security and financial protection measures for vulnerable people. As a result, many people have been pushed to the vicious cycle of poverty. Nepal faced similar predicament in the midst of the pandemic. When the extended lockdown deprived the low-income people of their livelihoods in the cities, they returned to villages to solve their hand-to-mouth problem. Many migrant workers also returned home to escape the scourge of virus in the alien land or for losing the job.
Heart-rending scenes came to the fore along Nepal-India border, especially in the far-west region as thousands of Nepalis came back home after they were laid off in India. However, their stay in Nepal also did not bring them any luck. Their hopes for better survival in native land were dashed. Their condition had gone from bad to worse in the absence of basic earnings and relief package. They were forced to return to their labour destinations in India to save their families from hunger. According to a news report published in this daily, thousands of people make a beeline at a check point of Nepal-India border near Dhangadhi to enter India. They lamented that the government failed to provide them jobs. Most of the people in Sudurpaschim Province go to India in search of jobs. Over 35 per cent of its 2.5 million people have already gone to India. Some are moving to India with their entire family. With mass exodus to India, villages in the province have worn deserted looks.
Owing to the geographical proximity and better job prospects, people from the far-west go to India. But their mass departure to the other side of the border paints a sorry picture of joblessness at home. This also exposes the regional disparity and imbalanced development situation. The region has always been in the country’s economic backwaters. The centre’s apathy may be one factor behind the region’s inequality and backwardness laid bare in the wake of virus breakout. With the country adopting the federal system, the region has every right to enjoy fair distribution of budget which can be invested in education, establishment of industries, commercialisation agriculture, promotion of trade and tourism, among others. This will create adequate jobs for the local people so they will no longer have to toil in the foreign soil for a living.