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Return Of Migrant Workers

Issue April 2020

Return Of Migrant Workers

Siddhi B. Ranjitkar


Prime Minister Oli had broken the record of physical tolerance fighting against the disease, and then surviving, he broke the record of the tolerance of the irregularities (corruption?) in his administration, the record of not taking the actions against the corrupt ministers rather protecting them and covering up their misdeeds, the record of misinformation (lie?), the record of being loyal to the feudal lords and royalties setting up the statues of Prithvi Narayan Shah, and letting his ministers to set up the statue of Kalu Pandey: general of Prithvi Narayan, and the statue of Bhimsen Thapa: the prime minister of Shah kings, the record of working for the private companies, the greatest record he broke of was probably doing injustice to the workers that had been the vote base for the communist party, he led. Prime minister Oli would really break the record of doing something for the country if he would bring back 4-5 million Nepalis youths working abroad and use them as the most valuable asset to the fast socio-economic development rather than sending them to sell their labor at the dirt-cheap price in the foreign countries.


Here, I would mainly deal with the concerns of the Nepali migrant workers working in different foreign countries, and in different urban centers in Nepal after the stay-at-home order the coronavirus had forced the Oli administration to impose on for protecting the thirty million Nepalis from the deadly demonic virus that did not discriminate caste, color or status of any folks but attacked and disabled them if not destroy.


The Oli administration has ordered Nepalis to stay wherever they are. If they are at home, stay at home, if they are abroad stay there where they are, as if anybody were to dare come out then the coronavirus might attack, and would send him or her to heaven; if anybody were to survive even from the attack of the virus then s/he would be a potential transmitter of the virus and make others to sick. So far, no vaccine or medicine has been in the market for the folks to buy and fight against this deadly evil virus. So, stay at home or wherever anybody is the only remedy. If any body were to contract the virus and became sick then nobody would have access to the sick person even after death. So, the stay-at-home is the recipe for all to be safe and to be beyond the reach of the virus, and to avoid the possible disability and even death.


Stay where anybody is the order the Oli administration has wisely made keeping the thirty million Nepalis safe from the malicious virus. That is fine from the point of view of the safeguarding the citizens from any fatal enemy such as the coronavirus but the question is what if anybody is not having sufficient food, drinks, medicines, and even money to buy such essentials.


If anybody had listened to the Radio Nepal or read the state-run newspaper “gorkhapatra” recently s/he would find that the honorable minister for foreign affairs speaking to foreign counterparts to make sure that the concerned foreign administration would take care of Nepalis working there. Very nice, the Oli administration had taken so much of troubles to ensure that the Nepalis migrant workers working in the sizzling sun in the Middle East earning foreign currency for the country and bread and butter for themselves would be safely kept.


Now, if anybody had access to youtube, and watched the news24 TV the anchor Ravi Lamichhane had hosted then s/he would understand the very miserable conditions most of the Nepalis had been facing in the Middle East. Those who had contracted the virus had to stay where they were and had to survive on the warm water, as nobody was there to assist. Those who were healthy but had to remain in a group in a dormitory or anywhere they had no chance to come out and return to home and be with the families in Nepal.


What the Nepalis foreign minister had spoken to his counterparts in the Middle East had obviously not reach the Nepalis migrant laborers working there, as none of the Nepalis had enjoyed any support from anybody even from the Nepalese embassy. The officials at the embassy simply told the Nepalis stay where they were.


TV anchor Lamichhane questioned why the Nepalese embassy in the Middle East vacated one or more buildings for Nepalis migrant workers to have a temporary accommodation, and then bring them back home sending a jet plane to carry them back home as the Oli administration did for bringing back home the students studying in the virus-ravaged Wuhan, China.


TV anchor Lamichhane also released the footage of how Nepalis in Kerala, India had been doing there after the stay-at-home order. Obviously, they were there isolated from the rest of world without any support from anybody for them to have food and drinks to survive the period of isolation. It might be only one of many such cases of Nepalis stuck in India and having such a miserable condition to endure even though the press report had been that Nepal and India had agreed on the citizens of both countries taking care of as they do for their citizens in their respective countries. In other words India will take care of Nepalis in India, and Nepal will take care of Indians in Nepal. Evidently, this understanding did not work in some cases. Some questioned why the Nepalese embassy in India could not help those Nepalis held in India without food and water in many possible ways. The ambassador could have made a phone call to the Indian ministry of foreign affairs and tell the officials how some Nepalis had been staying in Kerala without food and water.


Back home also thousands of migrant workers had ventured to walk hundreds of kilometers for home, as they had neither the resources to live on during the stay-at-home period nor they had received any relief packages (one package contains relief materials worth of one thousand rupees) even though some of these packets contained rotten rice and lentils and expired salt as reported in the media, because of the landlords or ladies did not want to certify them as their tenants for fear of the local government asking the tax on the rent they received. The officials of the local governments did not exempt any rules from following for distributing the relief packages even though they ignored many rules and regulations while purchasing and packaging the relief materials.


Again anchor Lamichhane questioned why the Oli administration could not use thousands of vehicles parked elsewhere and even some helicopters for helping the migrant workers walking home to reach the final destinations nearest area to their homes. If the Oli administration had done so, Prime Minister Oli would have set another record in his lifetime. However, Oli could ignore them even though his party and he had secured the two-thirds majority most probably receiving the votes from the workers, as his communist party had committed a luminous life for anybody voting for the candidates of his party. Thus, Oli had broken the record of not keeping his commitments made to the people.


Now, another suggestion for Oli is to set a record of the fast socio-economic development using the migrant workers.


Millions of Nepalis migrant workers working elsewhere in the world would need to return home immediately if the condition as of today were to arise, the coronavirus has created so cruelly and unexpectedly; then, how the Oli administrations was going to manage the huge and the most valuable human resources sold at the dirt-cheap price abroad. Those workers had built and have been building everything anywhere in the world for the unbelievable cheap prices before the coronavirus threatened them to take their lives if they were to dare to come out. They were doing so at the cost of denying Nepal the dire need for such human power to move fast to the socio-economic development.


First of all, the duty of the Oli administration is to bring those migrant Nepalis workers home at any cost, and safely keep them in isolation for the virus incubation period, as did for the students studying in Wuhan some weeks ago. So, bringing our youths from abroad should be the first priority of the Oil administration. Forget all other businesses except for tackling the coronavirus at the time of the current national rather international coronavirus crisis, and focus the attention of the Oli administration on managing the 4-5 million Nepalis migrant workers when they come home. Mr. Oli must have seen how the migrant workers have built the most of the urban center so fast. Same thing the migrant workers could do for the nation, too.


As the human resources is the most valuable asset any country could possess, and using the human resource as wisely as possible could make the country prosperous. Currently, Nepal is abusing the most precious asset selling at the dirt-cheap price in the international market. It is a damn shame on the nation. So, the Oli administration needs to preserve the human resources in the country for the economic growth and what not.


If those millions of youths working abroad were to come home the Oli administration might be overwhelmed but it was not needed to be so. Rather the administration could properly use the so prized asset for developing the future human resources. How, some of the folks in the Oli administration might ask. The answer is to use such an important asset for education and health.


Education and health make the human resources even more valuable. So, the country needs to teach the skills in various crafts putting the emphasis on the modern computer craft. The country also needs to keep such human resource healthy and capable.


So, recruit teachers and health workers from among those millions of youths, who came back home from abroad. They could go as teachers and health workers to every corner of the country to teach the young Nepalis all the skills they needed to work in the country and live humanely, and keep them healthy at any time of a year. This action alone would create a future manpower required for building the nation.


Teachers could be in the computer sciences, building, construction, repair and maintenance, what not. The US agency in 1950s had laid the foundation of building the technical manpower training youths in different technology, agriculture, even in journalism, and surely in the health sector creating hundreds of health assistants and nurses as they were called at that time.


After taking power from the elected prime minister and killing democracy in 1960, the so-called visionary and development-oriented King Mahendra reversed the fast moving economic development course, and rescinded all the activities of producing the basic technical manpower in the country, and used all resources for making some people educated only to be loyal to the royalties and for controlling the entire populace.


Then, came the people’s movement in 1990 that threw out the royal system Mahendra had imposed on the people to control everything, and freed the entire population from shackles of the poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and all the ills the king had imposed on the people. People took back the freedom of expression, fundamental human rights, and the rights to live humanely.


Then, the elected government in 1990 immediately opened up the economy for all the folks, who wanted to work hard and earn a better livelihood the kings had denied them in the past. Thousands of private businesses cropped up creating hundreds of thousands of jobs but that was not enough for the pent-up youths. So, the government opened up the door to the foreign employments. That was how Nepalis got to work abroad.


The evil corruption endemic in the state administration, and in the cabinet of ministers had totally hindered the development work the State was supposed to do. The large development and construction projects the State had launched became the projects for the ministers and their colleagues, friends, families and political cadres to make money in millions and billions today. Hardly any large projects completed as scheduled making the cost overrun and time overrun.


The tendency to making the large projects the victims of the corruption had been so visible during the last two years of the Oli administration. The most unfortunate things had been that the Oli administration tried to cover up the widely visible corruption cases, and even expressed the doubt about the evidences of the corruption encouraging the people in power to make as much money as possible even during the coronavirus crisis. This would certainly not help anybody to make Nepal a thriving country.


The Oli administration treated the press and reporters, TV and radio anchors as enemies as they had been successful to expose the misdeeds of the administration and the ministers in particular of those who had been acting as the agents taking commission from the business dealers rather than the ministers accountable to the service delivery. It is natural as nobody wants somebody revealing his or her secret deals with someone particularly for the untold financial gains. Not only the press and reporters became the adversaries but also the ministers, who had resisted his dictation. So, Prime Minister Oli had kept only those ministers totally loyal to him, and did whatever he liked even though they had been absolutely mismanaging their concerned ministries but abiding by the orders of the prime minister. So, ministers even apparently doing very good jobs had to leave the Oli administration.


If Prime Minister Oli were to continue to follow the current path his administration had taken and would not divert to the right path, Mr. Oli would surely miss the chance of making the country prosperous and he would probably let his party to ruin in the next elections, as his ministers and he himself could not cover up whatever the irregularities in billions of rupees worth of businesses the small country like Nepal could not afford to squander. Almost every week, the regular media had been exposing the incident of one minister or another involving in unscrupulous dealings. How long Nepalis could tolerate such things happening in the administration remains to be seen.


Prime Minister Oli needs to be tough on corruption not in words but in deeds, use the State resources for building the national capital of human resources for using them for making Nepal a flourishing country. Corruption had been a cancer and it had infected every body in the State administration. That lethal cancer would kill not only the ministers and prime minister but also their political party. Currently, only the private sector in every business including the press has been keeping the country alive and the democracy vibrant otherwise the Oli administration had demonstrated its intention and even attempts made to reverse the political and economic gains, as did King Mahendra in 1960. However, Nepalis would not allow anybody to reach nearer to the state of 1960 not to mention let anybody be a King Mahendra to take over.


April 17, 2020


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