LAMAHI: Though Dang was declared a Kamalari-free district one-and-half-years ago, this tradition of bonded labour is still entrenched across the district.
The government had allocated Rs 12 crore to enhance the capacity of Kamalaris and for their rehabilitation. However, this budget was never sent to the district.
Bhagirath Chaudhari, director of an NGO working for the welfare of Kamalaris, said the evil tradition could not be eliminated because the government did not send the budget allocated for Kamalaris in the last fiscal year. So, the freed Kamalaris were compelled to return to their masters. He also informed that some young girls had also become Kamalaris.
The district was declared Kamalari-free on February 19, 2009 at the initiative of different government and non government organisations. According to Gaddu Chaudhari, a member of Freed Kamaiya Assistance Society Nepal, 430 Kamalaris have been freed since then.
A monitoring team headed by CDO Rishiraj Dhakal was also formed to monitor implementation of the declaration. CDO Dhakal claimed the administration had launched various education, health and employment programmes for freed Kamalaris. However, he said 149 Kamalaris are yet to be freed in the district.
CPN-UML CA member Shanta Chaudhari opined that the tradition could not be eliminated due to lack of education, awareness and crushing poverty. She added, ‘’The state should adopt a clear policy for eliminating the Kamalari system.’’
According to Bhagirath Chaudhari, 91 Kamalaris, ranging from nine to 14 years, have been under the care of his organisation in the district. He added, “We are planning to construct some more buildings to house 100 more freed Kamalaris.’’
According to advocate DC, the law has provisioned either one-year sentence or fine of Rs 50,000 or both punishments for anyone keeping Kamalaris.