DHANGADI, Sept 12: Gopal Bishwokarma from Kailali is set to return to Mumbai with a heavy heart. Dashain, the great festival of Nepalis, is just two weeks away but he desperately needs a job. "It feels sad. But poverty gives you no option," he laments.
'The culprit is the COVID-19’. Or else, he would have made pretty good money by now and returned home with a beaming smile to celebrate the festival with his family.
"I feel so heartless about going there when Dashain is right at the door. But the situation demanded this," Bishwokarma, who had returned to Nepal from Mumbai just two months ago, further said.
After getting back to Nepal, Bishwokamra had changed his mind. In fact, the global impacts of COVID-19 pandemic had made him feel that staying close to family and rather staying at one's own homeland is the best choice to make in life. 'Because, life is so fragile'.
But his dreams to find work in his home country and support his family did not come true. Amidst the ongoing abnormal situation, nothing worked. "Months passed and the situation did not improve. I've no penny left to carry on," he shared.
The ambience at the Indo-Nepal border points, such as Gaddachauki of Mahendranagar and Trinagar of Dhangadhi, reflects Bishwokarma's pain. Youths like him are seen anxiously standing in the queue to head to different destinations in India.
"When the pandemic hit in March we all were quite terrified, many returned home then. We thought things would improve with time, but now we are simply dying of hunger. How can we celebrate Dashain in such a situation?" asks Hari Singh Kunwar of Krishnapur Municipality – 1 from Kanchanpur district. "Even if we work in the fields, the productions don't suffice for more than three months, how to feed the family?"
According to Dr Hemraj Panta, Professor at Kailali Multiple Campus, he had never seen this heart wrenching situation before. No matter what, Nepalis would love to come home during Dashain. Having to go back to someone else's land due to the fear of starvation at the time of festival is nothing but a mockery of the so-called government of the two thirds majority, he noted. "Our people are forced to leave home at Dashain eve due to starvation. What can be more shameful than this”? he remarked. "There is local government, provincial government and federal government but look at the situation of these people," he fumed.
The police record shows that 11,000 Nepalis left for India through Gaddachowki and Gaurifanta border points in the month of Bhadra. Similarly, within 26 days of this month, Asoj (Sept/Oct) over 24,000 have already left home.
"The number to leave for India is increasing every day even though it is the Dahsain season. Laborers from Kailali, Kanchanpur, Banke, Bardiya and other places have been making the trips," said DSP Amar Bahadur Thapa who's stationed at Kanchanpur Police Office.
It is estimated that over 700,000 people from the far west work as wage earners in India. Following the pandemic, around 300,000 had returned home in the last few months.