Jobless southerners take to smuggling gasolineSmuggling gasoline has become a major source of livelihood for many low-income people in the eastern and central Tarai who have been out of work due to the long-running agitation in the southern plains.
Smuggling gasoline has become a major source of livelihood for many low-income people in the eastern and central Tarai who have been out of work due to the long-running agitation in the southern plains.
Daily wage earners and transport and industrial workers in Sunsari, Saptari and Rajbiraj have taken to smuggling gasoline from India to Nepal where there is a severe fuel shortage due to the trade embargo mounted by the southern neighbour.
They have been unemployed for the last five months as factories, transportation and markets have shut down as a result of the protest movement launched by Madhes-based parties to express their displeasure at parts of the newly promulgated constitution.
“We don’t have work. And bringing oil from India and selling it here has been the only alternative means to earn a living,” said a worker in Bhantabari, Sunsari. “The work is risky, but I earn Rs500 to Rs1,000 daily by selling 20 litres of petrol,” he said. “I feed my family with this income.” Life has been hard for people in the eastern and central Tarai as there is no sign of the unrest ending soon. Riots, looting and violence have engulfed the Tarai districts.
Meanwhile, many industrial and transport workers have started migrating to India in search of jobs as they see no hope of things improving in Nepal. As per an estimate, nearly 75 percent of the transport workers have migrated to India in a short span of time.
“Five months have passed hoping that the unrest would end tomorrow or the day after tomorrow,” said Dhirendra Burma, a workers union leader of Rajbiraj. “It seems there will be no end to the unrest.”
The protest has largely affected people living in the area between Inaruwa, Sunsari and Dhalkebar, Dhanusha. “Low-income people have survived by borrowing money. And now, they don’t have any collateral to put up for further loans,” Burma said. “So, the only alternative left for them is to migrate to India.”
There are more than 9,000 transport workers in Saptari district alone. They mostly migrate to Delhi and Punjab in India.
In Biratnagar, a large number of workers are still out of work even though a few public vehicles have resumed services, said Kishore Dhamala, Koshi zone president of the General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions.
Surendra Sah, another trade union leader in Siraha, said workers were having a hard time arranging even one meal a day. “They are broke,” he said. “They don’t have money for food and their children’s school fees.”