MIRCHAIYA (SIRAHA), June 6: Majhau village is located close to Mirchaiya, an emerging business hub in Siraha district. Recently, the village was merged with Mirchaiya Municipality. Becoming part of a municipality has not changed the face of the erstwhile village.
Majhau locals come to Mirchaiya bazaar for their essential purchases. Most of the youths are away working in the Gulf to help support their families.
Unlike many in his age group with dreams of foreign employment, Sunil Kumar Mahato moved to Mirchaiya two years ago with an aim of succeeding in businessman and avoiding the need to work abroad. He rented some space at the heart of Mirchaiya bazaar and opened a fancy goods shop.
His expectation were not belied and his business expanded. Encouraged by good earnings, he decided to scale up. He easily obtained a loan from the bank, which felt reassured about his businesses acumen.
As Mahato's was the only shop in Mirchaiya with a range of items and brands, it was the ultimate destination of all fancy goods shoppers. To diversified the business, he installed a photocopy machine in the shop. The earnings from photocopy were sufficient to cover the shop rent.
Encouraged by his success, Mahato abandoned all thoughts for foreign employment. It was his wife who had suggested he go into business after learning of his plan to go abroad.
He made as much money as he would have working abroad, he recalls. And he did not have to leave his family behind.
All this was before the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) called a general strike in Madhes. Business and industry soon ground to a halt. In the beginning, all businessmen and locals, including Mahato, pulled up their shutters and joined the protests.
But the protests did not end in 10 or 15 days as they had expected. Many of them, but not Mahato, took to dealing with petroleum products and exchanging Indian currency. And they prospered.
But Mahato's fancy store remained mostly shut, and he has not even been able to pay off his bank loan. The six-month Madhes protest has left him bankrupt. He has now been compelled to sell his shop to pay his bills and his creditors.
"The prolonged protest has ruined small and mid-size businesses like mine," he said. He had dreams of expanding his business but these have now been shattered.
"I always wanted to make good in business but it was not to be," said Mahato, who is now thinking of trying his luck in the Gulf after all. But after working five or 10 years overseas, he intends to go into business again.
Senior Vice President of Siraha Chamber of Commerce, Ashok Kumar Sah, acknowledged that the six-month protest called by Madhes-based parties has ruined businesses. These have not been able to bounce back following the end of the protest.
According to him, the protest led to the closure of six businesses in Mirchaiya alone.
Likewise, bankers in Siraha district said that many traders have sought additional loans following the end of the protest in the tarai.