Wednesday, 23 September, 2020
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EDITORIAL

Expedite Rescue Of Migrant Workers



Nepal has one of the highest remittances to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio with the former contributing about 27 per cent to the GDP. Remittance has played a vital role in reducing poverty in addition to contributing to greater health awareness, literacy and entrepreneurship development. It has been a big respite for the government because the foreign employment opportunities not only engaged the job-seeking youths but also helped them acquire new skills and knowledge and thus supported in skill and technology transfer. It was the remittance that helped the villages to turn into the towns and towns into the cities. There were some social costs, however.
These migrant workers who are the backbone of the economy and major source of foreign exchange are in big trouble due to the coronavirus pandemic that has been ravaging the world for the last eight months. Many of them have lost their jobs and income sources while many are overstaying in foreign countries. More than 68,000 Nepalis have lost their job due to the pandemic, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Hundreds of thousands are still stranded in the Gulf that alone sends more than 50 per cent of remittances to the country, and other major labour destinations such as Malaysia and European nations. The government had announced the rescue programme for the migrant workers immediately after the pandemic hit those nations but its efforts were not insufficient so far. With the virus showing no sign of abating and death toll from it rising, Nepali migrant workers in foreign land want to return home at any cost.
More than 210 Nepalis have already succumbed to the virus abroad. In order to save its citizens from pandemic and starvation, the government has already rescued about 63,000 Nepalis from different labour destinations while about 150,000 more are waiting for their turn to come back home. The rescuing task seems herculean as the government is bringing in only a maximum of 800 Nepalis a day. Considering the gravity of the situation, the Industry, Commerce, Labour and Consumer Welfare Committee of the Federal Parliament had the other day directed the government to rescue all Nepalis left high and dry in foreign land within a month. The prolonged wait at the time of economic distress has exacerbated their conditions each passing day. They are getting frustrated as the financial hardship is coupled with the fear and anxiety due to the pandemic.
The government should immediately forge collaborations with the Nepali missions abroad, Non-Resident Nepali Association, airlines companies and the respective governments to expedite the rescue of its citizens. The everyday rescue quota of 800 should be raised to about 3,000 to 5,000. Since the returnee migrants have their recent PCR tests, they can directly be sent for home isolation or at the quarantines maintained at the respective local bodies. Apparently, the federal government is bearing lesser responsibility towards the returnee migrant workers. The time is running out. The government must not delay in rescuing its own unsung heroes, who have been throwing a lifeline to the national economy for decades. 

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