Sunday, 20 June, 2021
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OPINION

Rautes Should Adapt To Change



Parmeshwar Devkota

Rautes, an endangered nomadic community of Nepal, live in the jungles of Karnali and Sudurpaschim States. Leaders of this unique community are called 'Mukhiyas' (chieftains). They, however, have been able to influence the leaders and rulers of different periods. During the Panchayat system, the Raute chieftains had taken the then kings and ministers into confidence. Even today, they are able to leave an impression on the leaders of different hues.
Recently, a news item related to the Rautes received a wide coverage in different media outlets. It stated that the Chief Minister of the Karnali State pledged an additional Rs. 2,000 as monthly allowance to each member of the Raute community. They have been receiving Rs 3,000 as allowance every month from the federal government. With an extra Rs. 2,000, their monthly allowance has increased to Rs. 5,000.
Rautes are known for their wood-carving skill and their products are liked by other communities. They do a brisk trade of wooden objects such as Sandus (chest), jhappan koshi (big bowl), Dadu (ladle) and Paniyu (large-sized spoon) and stools, with their knack to influence potential buyers.
The allowance of Rs. 5,000 plus their own income is more than enough for Rautes for their better survival because they live a frugal life in the jungle. They also do not wear stitched clothes. Neither do they send their children to schools.
Interestingly, their lifestyle and health condition never improve over the years. Shrewd and adamant attitude of the chieftains and negligence from the part of the state have pushed them into such a vulnerable situation. The chieftains are all in all in their community. They are strict to their nomadic rules and values. They do not let others enter into their community. Since the chieftains receive all the allowances, it is not certain whether all the members of the community get the money equally or not.
Every community has rights to protect and promote their language and culture. But they cannot deny the education rights to their children, medical facilities to a dying patients and nutritious diet to pregnant women and malnourished children. Seeing physical structure of Raute youths, women and children, it can easily be said that they hardly pay attention to nutritious food and adopt other hygienic measures for better life.
One of the most interesting aspects is that the Raute chieftains do not like permanent settlement, stitched clothes, allopathic medication and modern education system. But they are fond of consuming alcohol.
So, it is not the responsibility of the state just to give allowances to Rautes but also help improve their living conditions. Therefore, the state must set some preconditions for the Raiute chieftains before giving allowances to them.
First, they should be asked to stay in one place permanently if they want to secure allowance from the government. Second, the allowances should be distributed individually. Third, they must be convinced to send their children to school or allow teachers to teach their children in their huts.
Fourth, they should be asked to use the allopathic medicines in case of illness. Fifth, they should also use toilets. If they are not ready to abide by those conditions, the allowances should be reduced significantly. If their vulnerable health condition persists for long, the whole community may one day perish due to the outbreak of the diseases like COVID-19.