EDITORIAL: Corruption galore

Government institutions supposed to facilitate migrant workers have turned out to be breeding centres of corruption

Before the restoration of democracy in 1990 Nepalis used to go abroad for work on their own initiatives without any formal channels. When a large number of people started working as migrant labourers manpower agencies flourished and a similar number of people faced a lot of hardships cheated by the labour suppliers. In order to address these problems the government had to create various institutional mechanisms and even had to pass a foreign employment law so that the migrant laborers would not face such hardships within the country and outside and the manpower agencies also followed the law. But whenever the government intervened in the foreign employment profession the problem did not mitigate; it rather became more complicated. The government created a number of institutions and laws and appointed officials to regulate the foreign employment, only to land the migrant workers from the frying pan to the fireplace. The officials who have been designated to facilitate the migrant workers for safe work in host countries are often found to be engaged in malpractice, irregularities and even involved in receiving kickbacks from the manpower agencies and migrant workers.

The latest of such a case is that the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Wednesday arrested Bishwo Raj Pandey, the Director General of the Department of Foreign Employment, on charges of his involvement in taking Rs. one million as bribe from a manpower company earlier blacklisted by the DoFE which was removed from the blacklist after winning the case from the Patan Appellate Court. This came to the light after the CIAA arrested red-handed DoFE Section Officer Tripti Ballav Poudel and Non-Gazetted Officer Khadga KC while taking the bribe promising to settle the case. Interesting to note is that DG Pandey was set to retire from his office within a week due to his age.

The Nepali labourers working in Abu Dhabi, where they were sent by Nepali manpower company called SRS Overseas, had to return home empty handed after the company they were working had shut down within six months after their joining the job. The workers had sought compensation from the manpower supplier company which was black-listed by the government. But the manpower supplier moved the court which upheld its demand that it be removed from the blacklist. But the DoFE did not allow the SRS Overseas to resume its work even after the court verdict. Subhadra Rijal, the proprietor of the SRS Overseas, approached the CIAA for intervention and the DoFE officials were brought into the CIAA net. This is not the first time that the DoFE officials have been arrested on charges of corruption and irregularities. The manpower agencies have time and again complained that the DoFE officials demand from Rs. 500 to Rs. 1,000 as bribe from the manpower agencies for issuing labour approval on the basis of salary a labourer earns in the labour destinations. The National Vigilance Centre, a government entity, in its report, had recommended strong actions against the DoFE employees to control irregularities and corruption. The government institutions which are supposed to facilitate the migrant workers have turned out to be breeding centres of corruption and malpractices.

Threat to health

Cases of patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are on the rise in the Kathmandu Valley. In the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital alone 70 per cent of the patients visiting the hospital have this disease. Around a hundred patients visit the hospital daily. The main causes for this disease are exposure to tobacco smoke and also the combustion of cow dung, wood and other forms of air pollution. COPD can cause irreversible damage to the lungs. This disease is seasonal with more patients during the winter. As there is less precipitation the particulate matter increases which leads to bacterial and viral infection.

Doctors advice people to avoid smoking and also the alternative use of energy and to wear surgical masks to prevent them from contracting COPD.

The World Health Organization predicts the increase of the disease to be more than 30 per cent in the next 10 years. This calls for immediate action to reduce the risk of being inflicted with COPD. COPD could become the third leading cause of deaths by 2030.