Incident Reports

Tarai unrest imperils livelihood of daily wage earners


Tapeshwar Sah, a laborer from Mahottari district, used to earn around Rs 400 everyday. Working at construction and sanitation projects, he was somehow managing to feed his seven member family. Since more than last one month, however, Sah has not earned a penny. He has found no work since the Madhesi Morcha launched its protests against some provisions in the new constitution. The protracted shutdowns have forced him to sit idle the whole day and wonder whether life would ever get back to normal. "I am the only earning member in my family. Since over a month, I have not been able to find a single opportunity to work. No work means no money. Without money I will not be able to feed my family members," lamented Sah. "If the situation does not get better soon, my whole family will starve," he added. Banda in Madhes entered its 52nd day on Tuesday. And those most hit because of this crisis are the laborers who depend on daily wages for survival. Sah says he has nothing to do with the ongoing protests and that he is extremely dissatisfied with the government and the agitating parties for turning a blind eye to the plights of people like him. "If this situation continues, we are certain to die of hunger. Why can't they solve this problem through talks?" he suggested. dukhipariba11r.jpg On Monday afternoon, dozens of laborers gathered at Mahendra Chowk, Jaleshwar, were desperately waiting for getting hired. Meanwhile, Sah informed that he reaches the spot early in the morning in the hopes of finding an employer before others. "I reach here before sunrise. Although it wasn't difficult to find work earlier, nobody has come to hire us for weeks," Sah reported. Karan Das, a local of Jaleshwar municipality-3, sounded very critical of the ongoing agitation in Madhes. "It is the agitators who will hold or have access to power. Our situation will not change. It has become our destiny to undergo such sufferings for nothing," said Das. He said laborers like him, who also work as peasants, have been hard hit because they have not been able to work the fields in lack of fertilizers. "We needed fertilizers for our fields, but due to bandas, even the fertilizers are in short supply. Weak monsoon had affected our crops and now their will be further damage in absence of fertilizers," he said. Das said that there are thousands of poor people like him in and around Jaleshwar, who rely on menial jobs for their daily survival. "But these days all we do is look at each other's face and pass our time. When we go back home in the evening, there'd be barely anything to eat or feed our family members," Das said. Sonu Kapar, a local farmer, said he is increasingly worried about the growing pests in his field. He said that it was not fair for the Morcha to bring life to a complete halt. "They shouldn't imperil the lives of so many people like this. Although it is time for us to spray pesticides in our fields, we have not been able to do so because of banda. This year, we may not be able to grow vegetable or crops at all in lack of fertilizers and pesticides," he lamented. Hundreds of youths and older people in several parts of Madhes depend on daily wages for livelihood. The prolonged banda and two weeks long India imposed blockade has crippled the entire country, which has been reeling under acute shortage of fuel and other essential goods. "Whenever there is any crisis in the country, it is the people like us who have to bear the brunt. Neither the agitating parties nor the government is bothered about us," Sah maintained.