Rolpa, August 5:

At a time when people in urban areas of the country are connected with the world through satellite television, telephones and high-speed internet, people in Rolpa district are still dependent on age-old Katuwal system to get information about recent happenings in their surrounding.

Under the Katuwal system, a person is assigned with the responsibility of conveying important messages to all the villagers in village. The Katuwal, as the communicator is termed, beats a drum to grab people’s attention and conveys the message orally in loud voice. Most of these communicators belong to the Dalit community.

“Villagers select a person with a loud voice to circulate the messages to every household in the village. Their duty may range from looking after one to three wards of a village as per the requirement,” Maniraj Buda, a teacher at Korchawang village, said.

He also said that villagers preferred someone from the Dalit community to carry out the task, as they were honest and responsible towards their work. “Dalits are selected also because their economic status is far below the people from other communities,” he added.

In some villages, several generations of the same family are carrying out the duty of Katuwal. Religious activities, local festivals, villagers’ meets, and any information that concerns the society are the messages conveyed by the Katuwals.

Katuwals even inform the villagers about the death of someone in the village. Earlier, they were also assigned to settle minor disputes in the villages.

Every six months, Katuwals get cereals like maize, wheat and barley from every household of the village as remuneration. Lately, local community forest user’s groups have also started hiring Katuwals as watch-men for their forests.

“As I have been working as a Katuwal, it is very easy for me to look after the needs of my family,” Bhote Sunar, a Katuwal of Ward No 2 of Jugar VDC said. “Earlier we had to do whatever the villagers said. But we are enjoying some freedom nowadays,” he added.

There are some 300 Katuwals in different villages of Rolpa district. “Katuwals are of great help to us when it comes to getting information about the happenings in our village and other areas. They are very sincere to their work,” Bhawani Singh Buda, a local of Gairugaun village, said.