Freed Kamalaris staying at Dang hostel seek help for sustenanceFor a lack of sufficient funds, the living conditions for 37 students in the hostel have worsened.
Padma Chaudhary, a former Kamalari (indentured girl child labourer), is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree and stays at Lawajuni Hostel in Lamahi. She has been staying at the hostel since 2013 when the government declared the abolition of the Kamalari system.
For former Kamalaris like Padma without guardians and residence, the government provides hostel expenses up to grade 12. But now that she is pursuing her Bachelor’s, Padma no longer qualifies for the hostel facilities.
She is now restless for a lack of options and having to fend for herself without the support of the government.
A total of 37 freed Kamalaris have been staying at the Lamahi-based hostel.
The government provides expenses for only 19 people, according to Padma. “The authorities ordered that those of us who have already graduated grade 12 cannot stay in the hostel,” she said. “But we don’t have a home or guardians to go to. Where do we go now?”
According to her, the hostel took a loan of Rs 200,000 to manage food for all the freed Kamalaris it housed.
Another hosteler, Reshu Chaudhary, is a grade 12 student. She is worried about her future as she gets closer to completing grade 12. “Our senior sisters are under pressure to leave the hostel because the government does not support them anymore,” she said. “My batchmates are also worried that we have to face the same dilemma next year. We have been staying at the hostel for several years now. This is our home and family, so we don’t know where we will go once they ask us to leave.”
For a lack of sufficient funds, the living conditions of the 37 students in the hostel have worsened.
“The government declared the abolition of Kamalaris but it did not think about our rehabilitation,” said Shiwa Kumari Chaudhary, another freed Kamalari. “We have shortages of food and other essentials at the hostel. We don’t even have the funds to seek medical treatment if needed.”
The federal government provides Rs 4,000 per month to each student staying at the hostel for 10 months in a year.
Ankita Chaudhary, another student staying at the hostel, said the amount provided by the government is not enough even to manage food in the hostel. “And the scholarship amount is not enough to manage stationery expenses,” she said.
A scholarship amount of Rs 150 is provided to each student up to grade 8, Rs 180 for the students of grade 9 and 10 and Rs 500 for the students of grade 11 and 12 who are staying at their own residences. A Bachelor-level student who does not stay in the hostel gets Rs 1,000 per month.
The government declared the abolition of the Kamalari system on 18 July 2013. But efforts to rehabilitate the freed Kamalaris, mainly those who are orphans, have fallen short.
Manjita Chaudhary, central chairperson of the Freed Kamalari Development Forum, said that the government did not think about the rehabilitation, education, shelter and employment of the freed Kamalaris. “The amount provided by the government is too meager to manage food and educational expenses,” she said. “Some of the freed Kamalaris are forced to work as daily wage workers for a living.”
Some freed Kamalaris quit their studies and married since it was getting harder by the day to manage their expenses, Manjita said.
According to the Freed Kamalari Development Forum, there are 12,769 freed Kamalaris in the western Tarai districts of Dang, Banke, Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur.
Nirmala Chaudhary, the forum’s secretary, said a total of 1,274 freed Kamalaris have been studying in different schools. Five hostels are in operation in different districts to accommodate 166 freed Kamalaris who do not have houses and guardians.
The provincial government admits that it could not address the problems of the freed Kamalaris while allocating a budget in the past.
Indrajit Tharu, Lumbini provincial minister for Health, Population and Family Welfare, said that in the current fiscal year, the government presented a Rs4 million budget to gradually address the problems related to education and health of the freed Kamalaris.
“We are facing issues to resolve the problems faced by the hostellers as there was no budget released for them,” Tharu said. “However, we are working towards finding possible solutions because the students at the hostels are struggling even to manage food.”