November 22, 2022
KATHMANDU – Umesh Rijal, a resident of Khorsane in Sundar Haraicha Municipality 10 in Morang district, reached Kathmandu on Wednesday to collect his passport. He did not apply for a passport from his home district as it takes around two months for him to get the travel document.
It cost Rijal more than Rs25,000 to acquire the passport from the Department of Passports in Kathmandu since he immediately needed it. Getting the same document from the district office would have cost him Rs5,000. He had to come to Kathmandu twice—once to apply for it and then to collect the document. Travel fares, hotel charges, and expenses on food while staying in the Capital cost him more than the fee for the passport.
“I didn’t have time to wait until the district office prepared my passport,” said Rijal. “I had returned to the motherland seven years ago, committing not to seek foreign employment again, and to do something here in the country itself.”
This is a common refrain of several migrant workers, who had returned to the country thinking of pursuing a vocation here, but were forced to go back, especially at a time when the entire country has been preparing to vote in the federal and provincial assembly elections.
A large number of people have already left the country for foreign jobs and many are desperate to go abroad due to the financial woes inflicted by local unemployment and growing inflation.
In the fiscal year 2021-022, on average, 1,745 people left the country for foreign employment every day, according to data provided by the Department of Foreign Employment. And, the number is set to further increase in the current fiscal year, as 76,403 labour permits were issued from mid-August to mid-September—2,546 each day, which is a monthly record.
“I am trying to go abroad for employment as soon as possible, as it has been clear that the longer I stay here, the more problems I will have to deal with,” said Rijal. “If I stay longer here in the country, I may not be able to even give continuity to my children’s studies.”
After returning from Saudi Arabia about seven years ago, Rijal started his own vegetable farming and dairy business. But, he could not succeed at either. Then, he engaged in farming food crops, but incurred a heavy loss.
“It is not easy to be a farmer in this country,” complained Rijal. “Neither the chemical fertilizer is easily available in the market nor the market to sell agricultural products is secure. The farmers don’t even get reasonable prices for their products.”
The problems are not germane to the farmers and daily wage earners alone. People from all walks of life are facing them.
Bhim Maya Tamang, a local of Kakani Rural Municipality -6, Nuwakot said that her two daughters, 19- and 21-year-olds, were forced to seek jobs in Qatar and Dubai within a span of a year after they completed their school-level education.
She could neither afford to continue their education nor could pay the rent for her small restaurant.
“We had no option. My husband returned from abroad in a fragile health after an accident,” said Tamang. “Besides, our restaurant business is not yielding sufficient profits for us to survive on.”
Rising inflation and growing unemployment in Nepal have also lessened the food intake of people, which will ultimately hit the overall development of the country, experts have warned.
“Nepal not only imports commodities, it also imports inflation,” said Biswas Gauchan, executive director at the Institute for Integrated Development Studies, an independent think tank. “And, I don’t think the authorities concerned will do anything to prevent this.”
According to the Nepal Rastra Bank, the price rise in September more than doubled to 8.64 percent from 3.49 percent in the same month last year.
Experts say when the country depends on imported commodities, it imports inflation too, which has a direct adverse impact on the day-to-day lives of people. And, the issues which concern experts the most are unemployment and inflation—issues that haven’t been raised seriously by any of the political parties.
“People have to suffer when the government fails to show its presence and doesn’t show concern for the sufferings of the people,” said Bishnu Timalsina, general secretary of the Forum for Protection of Consumer Rights.
“None of the political parties are serious about addressing the plight of the people and neither have made any pledges to address issues of growing unemployment and rising inflation in the country. This is very unfortunate for the people and the country,” Timalsina added.