With no jobs at home, hundreds of Nepalis travel to India to pick apples every yearAlthough migrant workers include people of all ages, it is mostly the unemployed youth that leave for work in Shimla.
Every year, at the end of the paddy plantation season, hundreds of people from Nepal’s mid and far-western hills travel to the Indian town of Shimla.
These traveling bands, which include teenagers and elderly alike mostly from villages in Dailekh, Rukum and Dang, leave in groups of tens and twenties every day across the border to pick apples in Shimla’s orchards. By the beginning of autumn, many of them collect just enough money to return home and celebrate Dashain.
Some men travel solo while others take their wives and children with them, in hopes that their family would assist them to make a little extra money.
Bharat Baduwal, from Aathibas Municipality in Dailekh, was one among the hundreds making the trip to the mountainous region in northern India this week.
Baduwal is a young man with a fading smile. He’s getting ready to cross the border and get into India via Nepalgunj. “If we don’t travel across the border four times a year, it will be hard for us to run our household,” Baduwal said, adding that he bears the sole responsibility of earning for a family of ten. “This is the life we poor people live.”
Baduwal’s next stop is Rupaidiha, in India, where he and hundreds like him rest for the night, before taking a bus the next day to the ancient city of Haridwar. In two days, the group reaches Shimla. “Our hope is to earn about Rs 50,000 and return home for Dashain,” he said.
Madhav Rijal, chief of the Jamunah Area Police Office, said that even though migrants include people of all ages, it is mostly the unemployed youths who leave for work every year.
“More than a hundred people cross the border every day, and the number seems to be on the rise compared to previous years,” Rijal said.
Ram Kumar Oli, for instance, became unemployed recently. Oli, from Tribeni Rural Municipality in Rukum, worked under the Prime Minister Employment Programme, which provides work for Nepalis from rural areas for a full month. But after the month was over, Oli was jobless. “I earned Rs 15,500 during my one-month stint. I would have loved to continue the work but the policy of the programme allows only one month of work,” he said.
“I tried searching for other jobs, but I was offered only a meager salary,” said Oli. “I was uncertain of the future so the best option was to head to Shimla.”
Dipendra Kumar Oli, from another group, shares the same plight, except that he has been to Malaysia and to Saudi Arabia as a migrant worker.
Dipendra didn’t disclose how much he earned overseas, but said that he is compelled to travel to Shimla. “The money I earn in the village is not enough to make a living for the family,” said Dipendra. “I’m extremely sad to be separated from my family time and again. This is not my desire but an obligation.”
Dipendra added that he hopes to return to his village to celebrate Dashain.
While Baduwal, Ram Kumar and Dipendra are relatively new to the trend, Dil Bahadur BK, from Dailekh, has been travelling to Shimla for nearly a decade. This time, BK has also taken his seven-year-old daughter, Sushila, with him.
“Even though she has school, I couldn’t find a place to leave her behind,” BK said. BK’s wife died of cancer recently. “So she will travel with me and stay with me while I work in the orchards.”