Migrant force who returned to villages from India dwell on staying backMost choose to work in their own fields or development projects in the villages and seek employment opportunities from the local government.
On May 13, 18-year-old Tula Bahadur Saru of Dhatiwang in Pandini Rural Municipality, Arghakhanchi was busy constructing an irrigation canal in his village. Under the Smart Agriculture Programme, he has been employed to construct the Damai-Urleni irrigation canal at Rs 700 daily wage. Tula Bahadur said, “I came to the village before the nationwide lockdown started. I came back to apply for my citizenship but I can’t go back now with the lockdown and the risk of contracting coronavirus.”
He had gone to Bhopal in India in search of employment a year ago.
Tula Bahadur’s friends, who returned to the village along with him, are also busy working on various development projects since their return. Maniraj Paudel, a local of Dhatiwang, also returned to his village from India recently. “I have spent so much of my life toiling in a foreign country. I think now I will stay back in my village,” said Paudel.
Kamala Kumal, from Dhurkot in Gulmi, returned to her village also from India after both Nepal and India put the lockdown in place. She had stayed in a quarantine facility for 14 days after her return to the local unit. She reached her village from the facility a couple of days ago. “I back in my village now but right now there’s no work available here,” said Kumal. “If the local unit creates job opportunity for us here, I’d like to stay back rather than returning to India as a wage worker.”
Tuka Bahadur Saru, a local resident of Purbakhola in Palpa, is busy in household activities these days. He also recently reached to his village after spending 16 days at a quarantine facility in Siluwa. “I had gone to work in Mumbai. But now, I don’t want to,” he said. “I will find something to do in the village itself.”
According to the data available at various local units, more than 2,000 individuals entered Gulmi villages; 1,300 entered Palpa and 2,500 entered Arghakhanchi from India and other countries after mid-March. But the local units have not made any plans and policies to manage the labour force who have returned in huge numbers.
Bhupal Pokharel, chairman of Dhurkot Rural Municipality in Gulmi said that they are working on ways to utilise the labour force at home.
Nuna Bahadur Thapa, chairman of Purbakhola Rural Municipality in Palpa, also said the local unit plans to keep the workforce in the villages. “We will create some job opportunities and make a conducive environment for them to stay in the villages.”
According to Topa Bahadur Saru, the ward chairman of Pandini Rural Municipality Ward No. 6, the rural municipality has decided to provide up to 75 percent grant for locals who would want to start commercial agriculture including vegetable farming. “We have started to collect data of newcomers in the settlements. We must create an environment for them to settle them in the villages,” said the ward chair.
Likewise, Ribdikot Rural Municipality in Palpa plans to mobilise the migrant workers in the construction of rural roads, irrigation canals and other development activities. Narayan Bahadur GC, chairman of the rural municipality, said, “We will provide daily wages to the workers for their work. This will also help in the development of the rural municipality,” said GC, adding that they also plan to provide cash relief to the workers on the basis of their work performance. Ribdikot Rural Municipality has been collecting the data of newcomers to provide them with employment opportunities at the local level.
Meanwhile, migrant workers, who recently returned to Ghorahi Sub Metropolis Ward No. 1, have started to cultivate cash crops in lands that have lain barren for want of human resource. They also aim to make their ward self-sufficient in food grains and avoid a possible financial crunch. They have started to cultivate ginger, turmeric and lemon plants in the barren lands at Terchhegaun. Around five bighas of land in Terchhegaun lay barren since most of the population had migrated elsewhere in search of employment in the last 12 years. Out of the 30 households in the ward, there are only eight families who live in the village all year around.
Tekan Bhandari, a native of the village, who had been working in India for the past 12 years as a daily wage worker, said, “Fifteen of us returned from India and all of us have started to cultivate ginger, turmeric, and lemon in the barren land.”
Agriculture and Women groups in the local units have also started encouraging locals to use their vocational skills to make various household items these days. “We have asked them to make bamboo baskets, leaf plates and other items locally. We will help them sell those products in the market,” said Dhruba Raj Paudel, chairman of the Sarbottam Multipurpose Cooperative Limited in Ghorahi.
Durgalal KC in Dang contributed reporting.