Nepal | January 16, 2021

Wage earners hit hard due to prolonged lockdown

Ujjwal Satyal
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Kathmandu, May 27

Padam Bahadur Thapa, 48 , who was spotted at Kaushaltar area of Bhaktapur at around 3:00pm, was riding a cycle cart to reach a house where he was assigned some work. He was promised Rs 200 for the work.

Thapa is facing a hard time these days as his income has been limited to Rs 200 to Rs 400 on an average.

This amount is not enough to feed his family two meals.

Things were not the same before March 24 (the date from when the nationwide lockdown was imposed).

Earlier, he used to earn Rs 1,800 to 2,000 per day.

“These days, the maximum I can make is Rs 200 to Rs 400, that too if I am lucky enough to get work,” Thapa told THT.

A similar plight is faced by the couple — Rohit and Sarita — who were spotted at Sanothimi area working on an under-construction house. The couple told THT they were compelled to work for survival as they could not continue with their business due to the lockdown. The couple said they had recently opened a momo shop at Pepsicola, but a few days later they had to pull down the shutters due to the lockdown.

“We invested all our saving on the shop, now we don’t have enough money to feed ourselves,” said the couple, adding that they were thus forced to work as construction labourers.

“But, since we are not fit for that work, we are underpaid,” Sarita said.

Thapa and the couple are among thousands of unaccounted daily wage earners employed in the informal sector, who have been hit hard by the over two months of lockdown imposed in a bid to stem the spread of coronavirus. Thousands of wage earners have been stranded in city areas due to the lockdown. But, neither the local government nor the federal government has any record of these workers.

The local governments, who had started distributing relief to needy people a few weeks after the lockdown, have now stopped distributing such relief.

“We realised that distributing relief was not the longterm solution to the problem, we thus are planning to introduce some programmes for a long-term solution to the problem created by the lockdown,” said Aanjana Devi Madhikarmi, deputy mayor of the Madhyapur Thimi Municipality.

She said that the municipality was preparing to provide part time jobs to these workers in exchange for food.

Majority of local governments now have started thinking of providing employment to daily wagers. A few days ago, Kathmandu metropolis had introduced a similar programme called ‘food for work’ for the needy people.

Man Dangol, ward chair, said around 350 families had benefited from the programme that started last Saturday. Dangol said needy people were glad to do the assigned work as they felt that they had earned food for themselves rather than depending on others’ mercy for food.

A version of this article appears in e-paper on May 28, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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