People returning to India despite Covid-19 risksAround 600 migrant workers from Lumbini, Karnali and Sudurpaschim provinces cross the Jamunaha border point into India on a daily basis.
Mohan Thapa had returned home to Surkhet in the second week of April after most Indian cities went into lockdown due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.
The situation was the same when Thapa reached Nepal. So he remained confined in his home for several months.
There was no work to be found but he had to meet his household expenses which he managed by taking a loan from neighbours. With no prospects of income and mounting debt, Thapa decided to return to India although the risk of Covid-19 has still not subsided there.
“I stayed in the village for months but I could not find work. I had to borrow money to take care of my expenses. I can’t live on borrowed money for long so I decided to head back to India in search of jobs,” said the 40-year-old, who had reached Jamunaha border point in Banke on his way to India on Thursday.
Thapa was accompanied by five of his friends.
Like Thapa and his friends, a large number of migrant workers from Lumbini, Karnali and Sudurpaschim provinces have started returning to India in search of jobs. Hundreds of people, mostly youths, enter India through Jumunaha crossing on a daily basis, according to the border police.
Purna Khatri, sub-inspector of Area Police Office, Jamunaha, said around 500 to 600 individuals are entering India on a daily basis.
“Most of the people are headed to New Delhi, Chandigarh, Gujarat, and Mumbai. They had returned to Nepal some three to four months ago,” Khatri said.
Ramesh Dhamala of Banke also returned to India after seeing that there were no employment opportunities at home.
“I wanted to stay home during the pandemic. But I have no alternative but to go to India for work,” said Dhamala. “Our government did nothing for people like us. They have left us to fend for ourselves.”
Most of the India-bound migrant workers said they were compelled to go to India because there were no job opportunities in Nepal.
Jasabir Budha of Dailekh had returned from India in mid-April. He tried to find a job in his home district for months without avail.
“I am going to India again for a job because I could not find one in my own country,” he said.
A majority of the young population in the hill districts of Lumbini and Karnali provinces go to various Indian cities every year in search of jobs.
The movement of people along Jamunaha border has also increased due to the local people of Banke who visit Rupaidiha Bazar for their daily shopping.
“The government has not opened the borders officially yet. However, the Jamunaha border is open only for daily shopping,” said Khatri, the sub-inspector at Area Police Office, Jamunaha.
Dirgharaj Upadhayay, assistant chief District officer of Banke, said, “The cross-border movement of people at Jamunaha crossing has been relaxed considering the daily needs of the local residents. We have not received an official letter from the government to open the border point.”
According to the District Administration Office in Banke, Indian nationals, Nepali workers and employees are allowed to enter into Nepali territory only after conducting health checkups.