Elderly couple bereft of proof of citizenship

Manoj Shrestha

Biratnagar, January 14:

An octogenarian couple has one great regret in life — that, neither has been able to procure a citizenship. Ruplal and his wife Phool Maya have been working on the banks of the river, breaking stones for the last 55 years. The couple does not have any child. Even their relatives are long dead.

Explaining that they came to this place long before the construction of Mahendra Highway, Rup Lal said, “It is our daily routine for the last four decades. I bring stones from the river and she breaks them.” Phool Maya has a problem speaking properly because of her deformed mouth. Ruplal complained that the land they were staying on for decades has still not been registered in their name. “Once the highway construction began, there was plenty of work. We even managed to save some money but we had no way of putting it in a bank because we did not have citizenship certificates.” The couple has even forgotten how much money was stolen. They have a faint idea that they had come there from somewhere near Dhulabari but cannot recall the exact place. Their neighbours said the couple did not even remember why and how they had landed there.

“This place was a forest when we first arrived here. People started settling here after 10 years of our arrival,” Rup Lal said. He said they break a truckload of stones into gravel over five months. That fetches them Rs 1,700. They are managing ‘somehow’. Phul Maya complained that the Maoist conflict had affected the sale of the gravel. About 70 families work along with the couple in the area. Earlier, they had settled in deforested land, north of the highway but have shifted to the riverbanks after orders from the District Forest Office.