The report on FIFA is just one of many revelations that will sadly remain only a piece of news unless diligently acted upon. The silence on the part of the law and policy-makers to change the status quo is alarmingly deafening. Their complacency and apathy point to a larger ethos of dehumanisation of any class of people with whom they do not relate to
A study released by The Guardian in February revealed that over 6,500 migrant workers from Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar in the last ten years since it received the right to host the FIFA World Cup.
That is over twice the number of people who have died of human-directed work conditions than those who have died in all of Nepal due to the COVID pandemic as of this date as per official records.
For migrant workers, working overseas to be able to feed their families is a gamble that they are forced to make.
The abuse by employers, squalid living conditions, horrific work hours, and instillation of hopelessness and sense of entrapment in migrant workers through a scheme of indebtedness is commonplace.
Examining such reports further shows how swiftly and tactfully international organisations exonerate themselves of any wrongdoing.
Over 80 per cent of the deaths in Qatar were categorised as 'natural', completely disregarding how most people who do undertake such labour go in their early twenties and thirties, the prime age of their lives.
While the revelation came out last month, these figures are not new.
FIFA is one among the many organisations that not only countenance these deaths but rely on them for profit through a comprehensive economic model.
The loss of lives, which such organisations quantify as loss of labour and a paltry amount of compensation to the families, is easily replaced by new labour.
Organisations such as FIFA need to account for the lives lost due to such gross malfeasance, adequately compensate the aggrieved families, and if not, stop organising the World Cup at once.
There can be no World Cup at the cost of life of even one person.
For this number to soar over 6,500 is appalling and unacceptable. But having said that, this problem is not just international.
There is a conspicuous lack of domestic policy in Nepal that is supposed to protect against people having to take such drastic steps.
For instance, there is no rigid concept of social security or protection against unemployment in Nepal.
The people are left to fend for themselves, and much like many shortcomings in the domestic policy, even the task of being able to survive despite having limited means falls disproportionately and unfairly on the citizens.
While many call these crimes out as loathsome, some justify them through the seemingly 'informed choice' in the people who walk into these organisations, being fully aware of their work conditions and for 'greed' of 'foreign currency'.
This narrative is problematic because of two, among many other, reasons.
Firstly, the people who do 'choose' to work in such environments are forced by lack of employment options in the country to make such a difficult decision.
The people who do fly overseas to do 'unskilled' work, do it very largely out of lack of employment opportunities in the country, and to provide a better life for their families.
Labelling them as greedy simpletons who signed up for a job they did not fully understand grossly undermines their grief and real concerns about being unable to feed their family and themselves.
Examining this 'choice' without the various socio-economic factors behind it is misleading and dangerous.
Secondly, such criticisms divert our attention from the real source of this problem: the absolute lack of policy that provides persons with opportunities to work and nonexistence of social security that protects against unemployment.
Nobody truly wants to work in such dehumanised working conditions away from their family and homes if not for the life they would otherwise have to lead.
Forcing people with already limited means to fend for themselves, and then blaming them for being unaware of the realities of these conditions is classist, egregious and outrightly obtuse.
The report on FIFA is just one of many revelations that will sadly remain only a piece of news unless diligently acted upon.
The silence on the part of the law and policy-makers to change the status quo is alarmingly deafening.
Their complacency and apathy point to a larger ethos of dehumanisation of any class of people with whom they do not relate to.
A class that is so dispensable that the government might just halt migrant labour in the name of international reputation, while domestically allowing them and their families to starve right under their nose.
Halting migrant workers to go overseas to do unskilled labour by the Nepali government would not solve the problem as well-a very likely policy approach that the government could undertake considering that the current government has in the very recent past come up with similar policies, indicating a clear mismatch of intention and effect, for instance, the recent no objection certificate requirement the family members or ward offices of the concerned local level governments for women under 40 travelling abroad.
Though the government has taken this decision considering hardships they might face in foreign lans, it is against the principle of equality guaranteed by the constitution.
There needs to be a comprehensive framework that protects people from both relying on schemes that capitalise on their exploitation but also provides adequate safety nets for making sure that they are taken care of. The Constitution of Nepal under Article 16(1) states that "Each person shall have the right to live with dignity".
Sadly, the privilege of being considered a 'person', let alone having the 'right to live' and with 'dignity', remains a dream for many.
Singh is a lawyer
A version of this article appears in the print on April 30, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.