EDITORIAL: Relief finally

Criticism has come from various quarters that a lot of money was spent out of the Welfare Fund to pay for junkets and other expenses of powerful people

In the area of compensation or relief at least, Nepali migrant workers have received a little sense of security in case of serious injuries sustained or losing lives while working overseas. In the latest amendment to the Foreign Employment Regulations, several improvements have been made. One makes even those migrant workers who become critically ill eligible to claim compensation. The amount of compensation has also been raised from the earlier three lakh rupees to seven lakh rupees, which is more than double the earlier sum of compensation. Because of the harsh working conditions for most workers in many Nepali labour destination countries, particularly the Gulf countries and Malaysia, a significant number of workers die, get critically ill or are seriously injured. The compensation will give significant relief to the hapless family members of the victims of the above-mentioned circumstances.

A further provision is that the migrant workers will be eligible for the full welfare benefit for one year over and above the initial period of their labour contracts. Migrant workers with a valid labour contract will also get the full welfare benefit even if they do not happen to be at their labour destination when the fatalities occur. The government will utilize the Foreign Employment Welfare Fund, which has been sharply increased now as per a June 2 Cabinet decision, also to rescue the Nepali migrant workers stranded abroad and to get migrant workers imprisoned in destination countries to be released by appointing lawyers to plead their cases. On their part, each migrant worker in the Gulf countries and Malaysia with a maximum of a three-year work permit has to contribute Rs. 1,500 to the Welfare Fund, Rs 500 more than earlier. As for workers with more than a three-year contract heading for South Korea and Israel, they will pay Rs. 2,500 to the Fund.

The benefits that accrue will justify the small contribution each worker has to make. Besides, migrant workers are also required to buy a life insurance policy of Rs.1.5 million and an insurance cover of five lakh rupees against critical illness before they can go overseas to work. Accidents and fatalities are not good things, but they cannot be totally prevented. The welfare benefits for the hapless victims or their families will provide some succor in times of great financial need. Here, two things are important. The government should see to it that the Fund is not used to pay for other unnecessary or unjustified expenses; second, all the provisions of the Regulations must be fully carried out, and there should not be any hassles for the kin of the victims to get the compensation or other benefits from the welfare scheme. The Fund, set up a decade ago, has reached Rs. 4 billion now. Over the years, criticism has come from various quarters that a lot of money was spent out of the Fund to pay for junkets and other expenses of powerful people, like ministers and bureaucrats. The government must not give any opportunity for such criticism to anybody because the Fund exists only to benefit the Nepali migrant workers working overseas, not for any other purposes.

Raise awareness

The 25th World Breastfeeding Week is being observed from Monday. This year the theme for the week is appropriately “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together”. There is much to be gained from breastfeeding. The new born gains immunity from the mother’s milk. This also has much impact on maternal and child health. Breastfeeding is necessary for all lactating mothers. Also those involved and affected are family members, communities as well as health workers. Unfortunately, due to lack of awareness many women are found to be avoiding breastfeeding which is unhealthy. Various programmes are to be held for this week by the Ministry of Health and Population to raise awareness and also do away with misconceptions that is associated with breastfeeding and mothers are reluctant to breastfeed their babies.

Breastfeeding babies within one hour after being born is considered to be a healthy practice. If this is done then thousands of deaths of the newly born could be avoided. Only 55 per cent women breastfeed their babies within an hour of birth. Although we have succeeded in controlling maternal and child mortality we are still far behind to prevent the untimely death of many children. Therefore, the practice of breastfeeding should be encouraged.