Nepal | November 30, 2020

EDITORIAL: Migrants’ woes

The Himalayan Times
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What is quite surprising is that road accidents are a major killer of Nepal’s migrant workers in the destination countries

It is indeed sad that 21 Nepali migrant workers are lying in a coma and undergoing treatment in hospitals in different countries abroad. Of them 20 are in the Gulf countries while one is in South Korea. This has put the government in a dilemma as to what it should do with them. The government has said it is ‘concerned about the condition of the comatose migrant workers’ and would support their treatment. But they just can’t be picked up from a hospital and flown home in a plane like other patients. On the other hand, the government is also required to take consent of the family members of the patients, some of whom seem hesitant to have them home because they would have to foot the treatment bills for an unknown period of time. Leaving the patients to their fate in the hospitals abroad makes it look like the government is not doing the needful. So the government is planning to send a medical team to the different countries to collect information about the patients and look for possibilities to bring them home.

Of the 21 migrant workers lying in a coma in different countries, the highest number is in Qatar at 11, followed by five in Saudi Arabia, three in Kuwait and one each in the United Arab Emirates and South Korea, according to the Foreign Employment Promotion Board (FEPB). Those in coma apart, a lot of lives are lost every year in the destination countries for various reasons. According to the FEPB, 477 Nepali migrant workers died due to accidents at the work place and on the roads or succumbed to diseases last year. Just last week, six Nepali migrant workers were killed and two injured in Kuwait after they were buried under gravel and sand while working at a housing construction project in Mutlaa City. On average, two migrant workers’ deaths have been reported daily for almost a decade, a colossal figure running into more than 7,000 deaths, with the year 2014-15 recording as many as 1,006 deaths. Most of the deaths have occurred due to natural causes while a significant number died due to cardiac arrest, according to a government report unveiled in 2018. Other reasons include suicide and murder. What is quite surprising is that road accidents are a major killer of Nepal’s migrant workers.

Despite the rhetoric heard time and again about creating jobs in Nepal, our youths are the country’s biggest export, and the money they send home help pay for imports and carry out economic activities in the country. Nepali migrant workers are heavily concentrated in the Gulf countries, Malaysia and South Korea, and nearly all of them are unskilled or at best semi-skilled. When they leave for abroad, they have little knowledge about working with machines or about the harsh working conditions in the hot desert climate of the Gulf. Worse still, the workplace in the destination countries may lack proper safety measures, resulting in serious injuries or even death. An in-depth investigation of the autopsies and medical records of Nepali migrant workers in the destination countries as well as the reasons behind the growing number of accidents should help understand why so many Nepali migrant workers are falling prey to serious injuries.

Mock parliament

Most of the youths across the country lack knowledge about the functioning of the federal parliament, provincial assemblies and local levels. The three tiers of government are the pillars of democracy that provide services to the people and carry out development works within their jurisdiction as provided for by the constitution. Most of them think politics is a dirty game. But they should understand that it is a necessary evil. A politically conscious society is an asset in itself that can help the country move forward.

Considering the importance of politics, the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration on Tuesday issued a circular to 90 local levels, directing them to submit progress reports on youth clubs and mock youth parliaments, both of which are key to instilling a sense of social responsibility and duty in them. The mock parliament is to be formed at each of the local levels with 50 per cent women’s representation. The mock parliament will have to elect a president, vice-president, speaker and deputy-speaker through majority vote. This is a good move all local levels need to follow. Once it comes into force, the youths can at least have a basic idea about how the elected bodies function.

A version of this article appears in print on February 20, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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