Rajbiraj, October 27
Dambar Khang Khatwe visits Rajbiraj, the district headquarters of Saptari, early every morning in search of work. But he has been returning empty handed as there is no work available with markets closed for over two months due to the ongoing agitation of the United Democratic Madhesi Front.
Similarly, Jaleswori Devi Yadav from Pakari VDC-4 walks a five-kilometre distance to Rajbiraj everyday looking for work. She fares no better.
Dambar and Jaleswori represent the plight of hundreds of other daily wage laborers. For the past two months, daily wage earners, who had been eking out a living by working as laborers, painters, construction and transport workers, are out of work.
“We have no work as markets have been closed due to the agitation in the Tarai,” said Bhola Ram, a labourer. Bhola lamented that he had no money to celebrate Dashain as he was out of work. “As the agitation has been stepped up after Dashain, I wonder if I will even be able to manage two square meals a day for my family during Tihar and Chhath festivals,” said Bhola.
Recounting that she had plenty of work last year, Jaleswori said, “For the past two months, I have had work just for two days.” Daily wage earners say that they supported the UDMF’s agitation for some days. “But, we cannot starve our kids in the name of agitation,” she said.
“How long should we keep our children hungry?” questioned Dambar. He shared that his children had nothing to eat when he returned home without working.
Daily wage earners complain that their lives were getting harder as the situation was deteriorating. They demanded that the government hold talks with the agitating parties and meet their demands. They have also urged the agitating parties to adopt other forms of protest and stop tormenting the poor.
Meanwhile, Saptari coordinator of United Democratic Madhehsi Front Ramprit Yadav accused the government of being apathetic to towards their agitation. “Agitation is not our choice but compulsion. The agitation has been prolonged due to the indifference of the government,” Yadav added.
A version of this article appears in print on October 28, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.