A family’s fight for compensation after losing their sole breadwinner in KuwaitRishi Raj Trital was killed in a road accident in 2014. His family claims he died while on duty and deserves compensation, but have not received a single rupee so far.
After a failed work stint in Qatar, Rishi Raj Trital was ready to try his luck one more time. This time in Kuwait—another popular destination in the Persian Gulf for Nepali migrant workers.
In November 2011, Rishi, originally from Jhapa, migrated to work as a driver for a waste collecting and recycling company in Kuwait.
“There were outstanding loans from his job in Qatar, where he had stayed only for one-and-a-half years,” Yog Raj Trital, Rishi’s father, told the Post from Goldhap of Haldibari Rural Municipality in Jhapa. “We were weighed down by loans. Even feeding the family was a struggle.”
The new job was expected to salvage the Trital family, for whom younger son Rishi was their only hope.
It had been 27 months since Rishi left his family in Nepal and flew to Kuwait for the job when tragedy struck.
“It was Saturday afternoon when I got a phone call from a person who was also in Kuwait. He asked me if I had had my lunch and I immediately knew there was something wrong with my son,” said Yog Raj. “The man on the phone told me that Rishi had got into a road accident.”
Rishi died on March 16, 2014. He was 27.
A day before the fatal accident, he had called his parents back home.
“He talked to all of us for nearly one and a half hours. He told us not to worry about the loans,” recalled Yog Raj. “My son had also told me that he had bought a new mobile phone for me and would send it soon. Only his body came back in a coffin.”
It’s been nearly seven years since the Trital family lost their sole breadwinner, and their struggle to manage their bare necessities continues. The family members say they have not received any amount in compensation from anywhere.
The Tritals have continued to fight for the compensation they think they deserve for their loss.
According to Yog Raj, he had received Rs172,000, which friends, well-wishers and Nepali communities had collected as a relief amount for the family.
“Besides that, we have received nothing from the Nepal or Kuwait government. Even my son’s employer has not offered anything,” he said. “We have knocked all the doors but to no avail .”
Rishi had been working for Kuwait Waste Collection and Recycling Co. His family claims that he was on duty at the time of the accident, making his family entitled to the compensation.
“Nothing can compensate for the loss of a son, who was young and healthy and was taking care of his family,” said Bishwanath Rijal, another family member and brother-in-law of the deceased. “The family got nothing. Even the vehicle given by the government for transporting the body of deceased migrant workers was not free of charge.”
According to Rijal, who has been reaching out to concerned agencies, documents show that his family must get compensation from the employer.
A letter sent by the Kuwaiti employer to the Nepal-based recruiting agency Vision & Values Overseas Pvt Ltd, which had supplied Rishi to the company, mentions that the company would cover the workers’ medical facilities and workplace insurance.
“In the last seven years, I have reached out to concerned ministries, government offices and labour rights groups in Nepal and have also approached the Nepali embassy in Kuwait,” said Rijal. “All I have got in response is that they are working on the case. No one seems sincere when it comes to addressing the plight of migrant workers and their families. We can imagine the situation of tens of thousands of migrant workers in those countries and their families back home.”
Every year, hundreds of Nepalis die in foreign labour destination countries. Families of migrant workers who die working abroad receive compensation from the Nepal government only if they had migrated through formal channels and their labour permits are still valid.
A recent development has given some hope to the Trital family.
“The Nepali embassy in Kuwait had told me that they would be filing an appeal in April for claiming the compensation. All these years, even the embassy was careless,” said Rijal. “Even after all these years, we are hopeful that the family would receive whatever the amount it may be as Rishi had lost his life while working for his employer. We have got all the documents.”
If nothing works, Rishi’s father Yog Raj plans to go on a hunger strike, according to Rijal.
Yog Raj laments his decision to send his son for foreign employment. But the family had no option as they were under the burden of a loan that was taken at a high interest rate.
“Poor families like ours do not have choices. We are compelled to send [our dear ones] abroad the risks involved,” he said. “He was the only person taking care of us. We hoped he would earn, pay the loans and the family would live happily.”
The Tritals say they are still in debt which amounts to nearly Rs150,000.
Yog Raj, now 55, cultivates a piece of land to feed his family. What bothers him apart from the ever-mounting loan is the condition of his house. He wants to replace the roof of his house in Jhapa.
“When it rains, the roof leaks as the zinc sheets have got old and rusty. There are several holes,” said Yog Raj. “If I get some money, I would at least change the zinc sheets before the upcoming rainy season.”