Labourers are digging trenches for foundation to rebuild a house in Melamchi Municaplity.
SINDHUPALCHOWK, Feb 1: More than 200 laborers and technicians from Nepal’s southern and more western districts of Banke and Jajarkot have flooded into quake-hit districts to rebuild houses. Some of those laborers interviewed in Sindhupalchowk report that they earn more in Nepal than they would working in the populous state of Uttar Pradesh in India.
Many others are on the way. The workers stay for 4 to 6 months and then go back home with the money, just as they do working in the cities of northern India.
Mohan Lal Budhathoki, a resident of Kohalpur VDC in Banke district, came here in October last year in search of work. In December, he and eight others from Banke and Jajarkot were digging the foundation for a concrete house in the Sindhukot village of Melamchi municipality.
“We just heard that we could get some work in quake-hit districts and came here last year and we have been working here since then,” said Budhathoki.
Ganesh Gurung, a noted labor expert in Nepal said, “Movement of those jobseekers to quake-hit districts itself is an interesting phenomenon. This is a completely new trend for the people of the western hills to either migrate to lower plains permanently for easier lives, or to travel to Indian cities for jobs.”
Budhathoki and some of the others from western Nepal have already built seven shelters for the Nepal Army in Khursanibari near Barhabishe, and built separate shelters for Nepal Police in Irkhu VDC. “Initially we got the job to clear quake-damaged houses and also worked in road maintenance and building bridges thereafter,” said Budhathoki.
Ready, able and willing, but untrained
Budhathoki and the other workers said they would love to attend masonry training to learn quake-resilient skills - but they are not permitted to sit in the trainings organized by NGOs and INGOs in these districts.
NGO officials say their trainings are meant to give job skills to locals in poverty. “Our masonry training is designed in an approach of ‘learn masonry skills and build homes as a group project’,” said Subas Subedi, team leader for the Employment Fund, Helvetas.
For future Helvetas training programs, up to 25 percent of participants will be non-locals.
“Had we got training we could earn more,” complained Budhathoki, saying they have to remain idle on some days, unlike trained masons.
Man Bahadur Karki, another laborer from Banke, said that he traveled to Sindhuli to work on building a model community of 65 houses for the marginalized Tamang community at Giranchaur, Sindhupalchowk. He went home in October with handsome savings“ “I saved Rs 60,000 in two months while working in Giranchaur and also had got free lunch and dinner there,” added Karki.
Dhurmus-Suntali Foundation Project Coordinator Arjun Neupane said that the organization had imported 20 masons and another 20 laborers from Banke and Jajarkot districts because they couldn’t find local workers. A total of 50 masons and carpenters worked on the project -- but only a handful were trained.
“We had to bring laborers from the west, as locals see labor work as disrespected and hesitate to work in their own village,” said Neupane. Project leaders have placed a new order for another 50 laborers from the western hills, for a second project in Bardibas, Sindhuli. The foundation has begun constructing another 51 houses for marginalized communities of Musahar and Dalits there.
Two weeks ago, Karna Bahadur Basnet, left his home in Jaktipur village of Jajarkot district, headed to India for work. On his way, he heard that there is work available in Sindhupalchowk. Basnet made a quick detour and wasted no time in getting to Sindhupalchowk.
After all, he said, “It’s better and much safer to work within the country than in India.
This story was part of a Center for Investigative Journalism-Nepal project, and received a grant from the Fund for Investigative Reporting in Washington, D.C.