11 years on, many Haliyas struggle for their rights
September 8, 2019 03:05 AM NPT
By: Bira Gadal
Freed Haliyas participate in a rally organized in Baitadi district recently. Photo: Bira Gadal/Republica
BAITADI, Sept 8: The state had outlawed the Haliya system, a system in which an agricultural bonded laborer works on another person’s land, 11 years ago. The Federation of Freed Haliya and the government had signed a five point-agreement on September, 5 of 2008 which was supposed to show a roadmap to enable the freed laborers a dignified life ahead. For many Haliyas in the district, this has not been the case.
Kumari Luhar, 60, has gone through many hassles since then in the process of making attempts to get her rights and live an independent life. “It has been 11 years, and they have not included me in the list of Haliya. Many other ex-Haliyas like me have already received the government relief and support,” she lamented.
Kumari, a local of Dasharathchand Municipality – 5 is not able to understand why they missed out on her. During the verification process, her name did not make it into the list. “I am already sixty. Do not know how many years will I live, I wish to live a comfortable life before death,” she stated.
According to Kumari, she appeared in both oral and written interview. Yet, ‘nobody cared’.
In Baitadi alone there are 60 percent Haliyas who are still struggling to be recognized as former Haliya, according to Rajuram Bhul, a central member of Haliya Resettlement Taskforce.
Bhuwanram Luhar had taken a loan of Rs 40,000 for his sister’s wedding seven years ago. The local of Dasharathchand Municipality – 6 has been working for the landlord since then. “I have been plowing his fields to cover for the interest,” he said.
Earlier, he had taken loans from landlords for treatment of his mother and for his own marriage. This is the greatest evidence of his being a Haliya. By definition, Haliyas are those who reel under the burden of loan for a lifetime and pay it off by contributing labor to the landlord who provides the loan.
Such families get entrenched in a vicious cycle of poverty as the landlords exploit them endlessly. When the government had abolished the inhuman system in 2008, it had also announced waiver of such loans, apart from resettlement of the victims.
Bhuwanram is very poor, and every time some problem befalls in life, he has to rush to the landlord for yet another loan. There is no way of him getting free of this painful situation. “But the government has not identified me as a Haliya,” he lamented. “Actually they noted my name several times, but they do not take it to the end, or else how come my name is always missed,” he wondered.
In Baitadi, 2,022 people have been verified as freed Haliyas. Among them, 1558 have received identity cards and are being resettled. But others who have not received identity cards and who are yet to be included in the list, have an uncertain future.
“I applied for it several times,” stated Nanda Koli of Dasharathchand Municipality – 6. “But only those who had a connection with political leaders made it to the list, poor ones were left out,” she claimed.
Nanda lamented that poor people like her have a question of survival. Neither a proper house to live in nor any job in hand, the freed Haliyas are even helpless than before, she said.
Those who failed to get the status of freed Haliyas, continue to pay the loan and interest to landlords. And they are agitated against the government.
The Haliyas, scattered in 12 different districts of the western region have urged the government to address their problem.
According to a local of Dasharathchand – 5, Rajendra Ram Luhar, many Haliyas are still bonded laborers. Because the government failed to act fairly, the situation of real Haliyas did not change, he said.
“Many fake Haliyas took benefits, but genuine ones were ignored, look at our situation!”
Rajendra works for his landlord day and night, and yet he cannot save any money. “No matter how much we work, it is considered as the coverage for the little amount we some time took from them,” he said.
The Haliyas waiting to be recognized as former Haliyas think that the authorities concerned and committees did not do enough to bring the problems to an end.