‘Government money too less to build houses’

Kathmandu, July 8

The government’s plan to rehabilitate all freed kamaiya and haliya within this fiscal year did not succeed as the federal government outsourced the job to local governments saying the jurisdiction had been shifted from the federal to local governments in the federal set up.

Kamaiya are bonded labourers and haliya are bonded agriculture labourers.

Information Officer at the Ministry of Land Management, Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation Gopal Giri said his ministry had sent Rs 1.36 billion to the districts concerned for rehabilitation of kamaiya and equal amount for rehabilitation of haliya.

Similarly, the ministry has sent Rs 200.4 million to the local levels concerned for rehabilitation of kamaiya and   Rs 260.1 million for rehabilitation of haliya.

As per government data, there are 16,953 freed haliya and 27,570 freed kamaiya.  MLMCPA says that 98 per cent of freed kamaiya and 80 per cent of freed haliyas have already been rehabilitated by now.

“The ministry has decided that it will complete the rehabilitation of those projects it has already initiated. As for new rehabilitation programmes, the ministry has told local governments to carry out new projects,” Giri said.

The government has decided to provide either free land for housing to freed kamaiya and haliya and in case the government cannot manage land for them, then it will provide Rs 225,000 to those wishing to be rehabilitated in the Tarai and Rs 325,000 to those wishing to be rehabilitated in the  hill areas.

The government has also decided to provide Rs 125,000 extra for repair of houses of those kamaiya and haliya who have already been rehabilitated.  The government has also decided to provide Rs 155,000 to each freed kamaiya and haliya to build their houses.

Chair of Mukta Haliya Mahasangh Ishwar Sunar said the amount provided by the government to freed haliya was too less.

“We cannot buy residential plots for Rs 200,000 in urban or semi-urban areas. With this amount, we can buy plots only near the river, but then we cannot take up any employment in those areas,” Sunar said. He said the local levels had just got letters about the money they were being provided by the federal government.  “These local levels have no experience in rehabilitating freed kamaiya and haliiya and they are too busy with their own work. How can they do this new job?” he wondered.

Chair of Kamaiya Pratha Unmulan Samaj Basanti Chaudhary said that although the government was preparing to declare end of the kamaiya rehabilitation programme in the next two weeks, 400 freed kamaiya had not received land plots from the government yet. She said another 400 freed kamaiya had received land ownership certificates but their land plots were being used by other people and the real beneficiaries had not been able to use those land plots. According to her, 300 freed kamaiya of Kailali who have built their houses in government land plots in six villages have been living there for the last 18 years and they want the same land plots, but the government was not ready to provide them those plots.

“Those who have got land plots are not getting any support from the government for meeting their health and employment needs. Their children have not been able to get free technical education,” she said, and added that freed kamaiya could not grow vegetables in their small land plots due to lack of irrigation facility.

The Supreme Court had issued a directive to the government last year telling it to start rehabilitating freed kamaiya within three months and to complete the process within three years.

The SC had also ordered the government to start  the process of completing the remaining work related to freed haliyas’ rehabilitation, including the process of issuing identity cards, constructing quake resistant houses, providing   safe, arable land and employment opportunities. The court also told the government to provide nutritious food to freed haliya families till they got the chance to harvest their crops. The court also told the government to take care of education and health needs of children of freed haliyas.

The government had decided on 6 September  2008 to end the haliya system, which was prevalent in 12 districts of Surkhet, Jajarkot, Humla, Kailali, Kanchanpur, Dadeldhura, Doti, Achham, Bajhang, Bajura and Darchula. The government had decided on 17 July  2000 to end the kamaiya system, which was prevalent mainly in Dang, Banke, Bardiya, Kailali, and Kanchanpur districts.

Sunar and Chaudhary said despite the SC’s order, freed kamaiya and haliya were not getting health, education, employment and nutrition needs addressed by the government.