Remittance earnings boost villages — usually

A village in Achham district, Far-western Nepal, 2017.
A village in Achham district, Far-western Nepal, 2017.

The remittances that migrant labourers send back to their countries contribute massively to those economies, but the impact on poverty reduction is much more complex, as a new book by Ramesh Sunam details

This article was published in Nepali Times on 15 September 2020.

As you might expect, the remittance village is punctuated by smooth, concrete houses rising among their weary-looking brick, mud and bamboo neighbours, a settlement where shiny motorcycles whine back and forth.

 But in the remittance village you will also find residents who cannot even afford the price of a flight ticket to join the growing queue of fellow villagers trooping overseas to earn. It is also a place where going to work abroad actually drives some households into poverty instead of lifting them out of it. 

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Nepal’s labour migration trap

Malaysia-bound migrant workers at a Kathmandu-based facility, where their passports and fingerprints are scanned for Immigration and Security Clearance. ©Nepali Times

Experiences from other Asian countries show that people who have gone abroad to work can be reintegrated into the economies of their home countries but it’s a complex process that requires government leadership.

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Covid-19 cases soar in Nepal as migrant workers return from India

People returning from India, line up at the border point in Birgunj, on Wednesday, 27 May 2020. Photo: Ram Sarraf/THT

The wait-and-see is over. Many of us living in Kathmandu have speculated during the past four months about where and when multiple cases of Covid-19 would finally appear after Nepal confirmed its first infection on 23 January, a student from from the disease’s epicentre in Wuhan. Small numbers of infected people have been sneaking across the Indian border despite it being closed since 24 March, but this week the trickle became a surge.

As many as 7,500 people are now crossing into Nepal daily, according to media reports. Some are not being screened for the coronavirus or put into quarantine, and of those who are being confined, some say conditions are not safe or comfortable and that they are not being provided food.

The returnees are some of the roughly 2 million Nepalis forced to migrate to India for months and even years at a time because they can’t earn livelihoods at home. Many are daily wage earners, whose work dried up soon after India went into lockdown on 24 March and have been making their way homeward ever since. Some have been forced to wait for weeks at the Indian border.

Nepal cannot legally block citizens’ return, experts say

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Nepalis wait after being blocked at the border in Darchula district, in the far west, on 31 March © Nepali Times

My latest article for Nepali Times, published today, 31 March, focused on the Government of Nepal’s policy of not letting citizens into the country since a lockdown began one week ago. Hundreds of people, most of them day labourers who were left without work after a similar lockdown in neighbouring India, are being blocked from entry at the India-Nepal border.

Nepal and India stop citizens from returning

Nepali workers in India headed home on foot and by bus only to find their own country was not allowing them in.

With thousands of Nepalis stuck on the Indian side of the border, legal and human rights experts say the government of Nepal cannot legally deny entry to its citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue reading

COVID-19: News, mainly from Nepal, 27 March

Migrant workers in India, carrying bundles and containers in their hands and on their heads, leave the capital Delhi for their villages, on foot.

Migrant workers in India leave the capital Delhi for their villages, on foot. © Tribhuvan Tiwari/ Outlook India

India — Hit By Coronavirus Lockdown, 90-Year-old Kajodi Trudges Home, 400 Km Away

Thousands of migrant workers are leaving cities after the central government announced a three-week nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. — Outlook India

Nepal Supreme Court refuses to order government to repatriate migrant workers

The Supreme Court refused to issue interim order sought by advocates Madhav Kumar Basnet and Mina Khadka Basent to allow Nepali citizens stranded in foreign countries, including India, to return home. — The Himalayan Times

No exceptions with COVID-19: “Everyone has the right to life-saving interventions” – UN experts say

GENEVA (26 March 2020) – The COVID-19 crisis cannot be solved with public health and emergency measures only; all other human rights must be addressed too, UN human rights experts* said today. — UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

 

Women in climate hot spots face challenges adapting

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The workload for women like Nanimaya Dhungana in Kavre district in Nepal (above) has likely increased because of the climate crisis. PHOTO: Kumar Acharya/ Nepali Times

This article was published in Nepali Times on Friday. I found the arguments difficult to follow, but I think the main point is that even when support appears to be available to assist women to adapt to challenges, like the impacts of climate change, they still lose some of their power as they are forced to adapt.

Given that programmes are being developed to assist those hardest-hit by climate change — mostly in low-income countries — that finding is important. Please read on!

Women in Asia and Africa hardest hit by climate change have a tough time adapting to the climate emergency, even with support from family or the state, finds a new study. The results raise questions for global agreements designed to help people adapt to the climate emergency, it adds.

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Nepali migrants are building Kathmandu

Rocking_baby_SMConstruction is happening everywhere in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. Within a square kilometre of where I live there must be dozens of projects going up, mostly houses but also hotels, and other projects.

The work, such as mixing cement and hammering nails, is almost all done by hand, and the workers are not equipped with special clothing or safety gear. Passing many sites it’s obvious that the workforce lives on-site, sometimes in tents but, as I discovered writing and filming this article, sometimes in the cement shells of the buildings themselves.

Most of the workers are from other parts of Nepal, and neighbouring India. In Hotel Kutumba, where I spent some time, there were groups of 4 or 5 from various districts. Read the full article on the Nepali Times website or watch the video below: