Forced to migrate for job, workers bring home pains

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By Gokarna Dayal,Baitadi, May 2: Many workers compelled to leave home for India and third countries for work due to limited job prospects at home lack accident insurance. 

Many young men from the village have departed seeking work abroad out of necessity to support their families. Unfortunately, workplace accidents frequently lead to fatalities and severe injuries, causing profound distress to their families.

This Baisakh only, two migrant workers from Baitadi, employed in India, lost their lives in a tragic accident. 

Road incidents, perilous job conditions, and exposure to polluted environments continuously jeopardize the lives and health of Nepali workers working in alien land.

Himal Bista of Patan Municipality-6, has returned home from India bearing a severe injury. His right hand was severed by a machine during his work as a wage labourer in India. 

At 26 years old, Bista had traveled to India with aspirations of supporting his elderly mother, wife, and six-year-old daughter. However, his injury has not only robbed him of his livelihood but has also thrown his family into troubles. 

According to statistics of Sudur Paschimeli Samaj in India, approximately 500,000 Nepalis from the region have migrated to India in search of work.

Bishnu Datta Bhatta, president of the Sudur Paschimeli Samaj of Azadpur, India, informed that over 50,000 Nepali workers solely from Baitadi district are currently working in India. 

He further emphasised that countless labourers employed in India lack accident and health insurance coverage for themselves and their families.

Bhatta expressed the agony of having no one to share the grief and speak about those who passed away untimely in foreign lands.

He said that the number of people migrating to India was on the rise due to the local government’s inability to generate employment opportunities in the villages.

In the absence of accident insurance for the family’s primary breadwinner, who travlled abroad in search of employment, and health insurance for the family, the entire families of the labourer are exposed to significant risks. 

Migrant workers are calling for free health insurance for households employing foreign workers and accident insurance for labourers, funded from the Rs. 2 million allocated in local level for medicine purchases.

Women workers’ hardships 

Women working as daily wage workers in the country endure significant hardships. Women labourers are being paid less than their male counterparts despite the same work. 

Meera Bhul, a labourer from Badilek, Dasharathchand Municipality-4, highlighted the issue of receiving unequal wages for performing the same tasks as men, despite putting in equivalent effort. 

She expressed her disappointment over this disparity.

She lamented that female labourers were being deceived by contractors, even regarding the wages they rightfully earned from their day-long toil, by crushing stones.

Female labourers reported that despite spending the entire day crushing pebbles by the roadside, the contractor refused to compensate them for 

the crushed stones taken at the rate of Rs. 70 per sack.

Kalawati Bhul, another female labourer from Dashrathchand Municipality-4, voiced her distress over the wage disparity, noting that women were paid only Rs. 600 compared to Rs. 850 for men, despite the same work. 

Though the government has fixed equal wages for equal work, many female labourers still get paid less than male counterparts.

Likewise, Gaumati Bhul shared her anguish, revealing that the contractor vanished without settling the payment of Rs. 40,000 for their labour, during 

which they crushed stones even as blood dripped from their fingers.

Not just Gaumati, Mira Bhul also shared her distress, stating that the contractor had disappeared without paying Rs. 35,000 owed for the crushed gravel. 

They shared the hardship of barely making their ends meet since losing contact with the contractor. 

The majority of these women labourers belong to freed Haliya families. Despite the declaration of liberation, freed Haliya families continue to lack proper housing and accommodation. 

Consequently, the men from these families are compelled to seek employment in India, while the women are left to work as daily wage labourers within the country.

Lack of health insurance

The women labourers, who have been working in dust and soil for years, have reported suffering from kidney stones, gastritis, and various uterine-related health problems.

They are forced to endure their illnesses due to the inability to afford treatment expenses. Additionally, the health of the children of female workers is also suffering, as they lack access to nutritious food.

They claimed that they were unable to enroll in health insurance programmes due to the struggle to afford even basic necessities after their daily wage labour.  

Insurer halts scheme 

Meanwhile, the organisation that offered free accident insurance to migrant workers employed in India has discontinued its scheme. 

Rural Development and Environment Management Society (RUDES), Baitadi had been offering free accident insurance for workers from Patan Municipality and Dasharathchand Municipality who sought employment in India. 

Last year, the organisation enrolled 1,096 migrant workers from Patan Municipality in accident insurance worth Rs. 500,000 each.

Kamal Singh Bohara, deputy-mayor of Patan Municipality said that the programme had been terminated despite enrolling approximately 400 individuals for accident insurance this year.

Govindaraj Joshi, executive director of RUDES, Baitadi, informed that the programme, which received financial support from Oxfam Nepal and technical assistance from RUDES Baitadi, has closed due to the end of the programme’s tenure.

He further informed that a request for the programme’s continuation by the local authority has been forwarded to the donor agency. 

Wife of Pramod Singh Bohara in Patan Municipality-1, awaits Rs. 500,000 accident insurance payout following her husband’s tragic demise in a work-related accident in India.

Bohara was enrolled in the free accident insurance programme introduced under the municipality’s leadership and with the support of local partner organisations. Following the sudden demise of the family’s sole breadwinner, his family now find themselves in distress.

After the passing of the sole breadwinner, his wife believed that the insurance programme would offer some assistance in maintaining the household’s livelihood, even if the amount of insurance was small. 

Officer at the Patan Municipality Office, Rajendra Prasad Bhatta, who came to look at the insurance programme, informed that a file had been prepared with the demand for payment to provide insurance amount to the family of the victim.

Unions fail to ensure rights 

The labour organisations affiliated with political parties have fallen short in safeguarding labour rights.

Stakeholders claimed that despite the presence of labour organisations within various political parties, party leaders have not prioritised the rights and welfare of workers.

Workers lament that political parties only exploit their concerns during elections. 

Mahesh Wad, a land rights activist, emphasized that despite being invited to join parties, the fundamental issues faced by workers remain unaddressed.

He noted that despite the support of labourers and farmers in efforts to reform the system through political parties, issues such as unemployment, landlessness, squatting, as well as Haliya and Khaliya concerns remain unresolved.

Excavator takes away manual jobs 

Following the restructuring of the state, there has been a loss of employment opportunities due to the use of heavy equipment in the development projects of wards and municipalities.

After winning the election, many leaders in Baitadi are purchasing their own bulldozers and employing them in local development initiatives.

The number of young individuals seeking employment in India has surged following the arrival of leaders’ bulldozers for road construction.

Maniram Bohara from Purchoudi Municipality stated that he migrated to India after working as a wage labourer in the village to sustain himself. 

Additionally, individuals like Narey Dhami from Sigas Rural Municipality, Bishnu Bhatta from Patan Municipality, and numerous other youths have also sought opportunities abroad.

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