A solution must be found to the stateless children, whose problems will only compound as they grow up

Nepal rakes in billions of dollars in remittances every year, providing the much needed foreign exchange to keep the country's economy running even in the face of negligible exports. But the remittance economy has come at a cost, with more than a thousand youths returning home in coffins annually, many more maimed for life after suffering severe injuries, and single mothers with children who have no nationality. At least 200 children born to women while working abroad have been rendered stateless and deprived of their basic rights, the most fundamental being the right to have their births registered in the country they were born. While the women are denied birth registration of their children abroad, they are left in the lurch after the local authorities here too refuse to do so for lack of provision in the existing laws. Most of the women gave birth while working in the Middle East countries, although a few got pregnant while working in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Russia.

The government has put a ban on women taking up jobs as housemaids in the Arab countries, following reports of sexual abuse and other forms of exploitation.

However, the ban has been challenged by rights activists who see it as gender-based discrimination as it curtails their right to mobility and also opportunities to a better future. The government finds itself in a dilemma as the ban was put in place with good intention, but this has not stopped women from landing in the Gulf countries. In fact the ban has made them only more vulnerable to traffickers, who help them reach the Gulf countries through illegal channels. Given the lack of work opportunities and the difficult financial condition back home, women are willing to take the perilous journey to faraway lands to make ends meet for their families.

Apart from using Indian airports, women have been known to travel to Manipur in northeast India to cross the Indo-Myanmar border, from where they are taken to different destinations in the Gulf countries.

A solution must be found to the 'forgotten children', whose problems will only compound as they grow up – from registering in a school, later college, finding a job, to owning property and travelling abroad if they are stateless. Given the tremendous contribution made by migrant workers to keep our economy afloat, the state has the responsibility to protect and look after the children born to Nepali migrant women workers under unforeseen circumstances.

Certainly, there must be many more than the 200 'stateless' children born to migrant women workers. It is heartening to note that the National Child Rights Council under the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare has given word to take full responsibility of the 'forgotten children', expedite the process of their birth registration and eventually ensure that they are granted citizenship certificates.

While we do our bit, Nepal must apply diplomatic pressure on countries to grant birth rights to children born there from Nepali migrant mothers and where feasible also track the father. Otherwise, we will be seeing many more single mothers returning to Nepal with children who are denied birth registration in the country of birth.

Ban on plastic bags

Plastic bags and other plastic-related products to be used by consumers are the main source of environmental pollution in the urban centres. The whole world is facing the problem of plastic-related pollution, which not only blocks sunlight into the oceans but also chokes the drainage system in the cities, causing inundation in the entire settlements during the rainy season.

Against this backdrop, Byas Municipality in Tanahun has decided to ban the use of polythene bags, making it a polythene bag-free area. All 14 wards of the municipality have imposed a ban on its use to make the urban centre neat and clean. Other municipalities had also made similar announcements, but they ultimately failed to implement their decision as they could not offer an alternative to the polythene bag. Apart from raising public awareness about the environmental and health hazards polythene bags pose, all the municipalities must encourage businesspeople to produce bio-degradable bags for daily use so that people can gradually switch to environment-friendly goods. The government also cannot shut down the polythene bag-producing industries without giving them an option. Recycling plants can help mitigate the plastic-related pollution.

A version of this article appears in the print on March 10, 2022, of The Himalayan Times