February 24, 2019 10:46 AM NPT
By: DB BUDHA
A passenger bus is seen parked next to a ticket counter in Jumla in this file photo. Photo: Republica
JUMLA, Feb 24: Bhim Prasad Dhital was feeling good on returning back to his village from Kalapahad. He had left for Kalapahad right after Dashain. Locals in Jumla go to various parts of India in search of employment and refer all those destinations collectively as Kalapahad.
“It is our seasonal visit. People around here generally head out for Kalapahad right after Dashain and return home around this time of the year. It feels very good to be at home,” an elated Dhital said from Sija Rural Municipality.
Soon after celebrating Dashain with their family, men from Jumla rush to Kalapahad to earn a living for their families. In lack of employment opportunities locally, they say that it is necessary to provide for the family’s need.
“We spend less time at home and more time in India working as labor. And yet, it hardly suffices to meet our family’s essential needs. Poverty is a curse you know,” laments Dhital while adding that most of his village folks spend all their youth working hard in a foreign land.
For years, Dhital has yearned to stay at home and work while living with his family. This year also he has started the search for employment at home and shared that if he gets one he won’t be going back to Kalapahad. But if he doesn’t, he will have to go.
“Heading out in the dusk to catch the bus for Kalapahad, coping with all the hassles on the way, and bear all the unnecessary troubles of the Indian security personals on the way to our job destination makes me feel that I would never return to Kalapahad. But what to do, in lack of employment opportunities, I have to go,” he said.
Dhital had been hunting for local jobs for many years now, but so far he has not been able to get one. He even tried to employ himself by trying many things, including farming. “I tried farming vegetables, and one time I even tried my hand working at construction sites. But I could not earn much,” he reminisces.
This is the peak season of cultivation in his village now. Across the district, people are gearing up for the cultivation of several crops. Though those villages look devoid of young males the other times, those like Dhital are getting back home in the last few weeks.
“At least over one hundred migrant workers like me are making way back home these days. All feel so good in the first few days. The excitement is high,” Dhital shared.
It always feels good to see the smiles on the face of your children and wife when you return home, they say. On their return, these migrant workers bring gadgets, clothes, shoes, home appliances, and all their earnings. “Some of us even have our parents and grandparents waiting for us at home. It feels very good to be with them at home,” Dhital said.
“If you go to the bus station, you will see many buses arriving with people like us. You will find that each of these migrant workers carries luggage that consists of household appliances, clothes, and various gifts for their family members,” Dhital stated.
Karnali Highway is the route those migrant workers get back home. Extra vehicles are operated this season in the view of greater demand. Most of the workers reach home by the end of February.
Another migrant returnee Dube Budha was happy to share that he could see his child for the first time since he was born. When he had left for Kalapahad in Dashain his baby boy was not yet born. “I could hold my child for the first time, I was counting days to return home and see him,” he said.
Coming home of the workers has ‘lightened up’ the villages and towns in Jumla. Unlike other days, men and women are seen working together in farms and elsewhere.
“It is family time. We all feel so great. Had the government provided us with employment opportunities here who would go back? Who would love to work in other’s land?” Dube remarked.
Locals are upset that even after the local government came into existence, their days of suffering have not ended. Poverty in their life is as it was.
“We had hoped that the government would bring some programs for the people like us. We are not educated and left with no choice than to sweat in foreign country,” lamented Dube.
Elderly people in Sija Rural Municipality say that the lack of young populace in the village has affected the entire lifestyle of the communities. Even during emergencies, they get no support. Most of the youths from the western side go to Punjab, Bareli, Simla, Ludhiyana, Himachal, Mumbai, Kolkota and Delhi among other parts of India for employment. Depending on their quality of service or their ‘fortune’ they get paid.
“We don’t have a fixed wage. If we are lucky, we make good money. Or else, we are paid poorly,” Dube said. “If our government had taken some initiatives, maybe we could do far better in our own country, we are rich in resources. But our potentials have always remained untapped.”