Respect the deal

If the government can safeguard the interests of the Nepali workers other labour supplying countries will also reach a similar agreement

The manpower agents finally ended their 18-day strike after they reached a 31-point agreement with the government on Sunday. The manpower agents had resorted to a strike after the government introduced free visa and free air ticket provision for the overseas workers in seven labour destinations – Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman – on July 9. With this provision coming into effect, the Nepali labourers working in those countries need not pay more than Rs 10,000 to the manpower agents in case the employer companies did not provide them as service charge. Earlier, the government had fixed Rs 80,000 for Malaysia and Rs 70,000 for the Gulf countries. But many agents had been charging exorbitant fees from the outbound workers. It is estimated that as many as 1,600 Nepali people leave for overseas jobs everyday sending approximately Rs 600 billion to the country every year. Hundreds of outbound workers had been stranded in the capital, and the airlines had also suffered financial losses after the manpower agents protested the Ministry of Labour and Employment’s decision to introduce free visas and free tickets following an understanding with the respective countries to safeguard the safety and interest of the Nepali workers.

As per the agreement the ministry has agreed to form an 11-member team to visit the labour destinations and prepare a report within three months about the effectiveness of the new provision. A guideline will be formulated to monitor the manpower agencies; the Foreign Employment Act will be amended; the Department of Foreign Employment will launch orientation programmes for the outbound workers, and the government has also agreed to implement the biometric health check-up, only if the concerns raised by the Nepali workers are addressed. Both the government and the manpower agents have also reached an understanding to explore ways of making manpower agencies sustainable after the new provision.

It is now required that the manpower agencies send the workers only to the employers of those countries who provide free visas and free tickets. One of the major concerns of the manpower agencies, however, was that demand of the Nepali workers will decrease because of this provision. If it becomes effective in safeguarding the interest of the Nepali workers other labour supplying countries like Bangladesh will also reach a similar agreement with these countries to protect the interests of their citizens. The demand for Nepali workers in these countries is around 50,000 annually. So, the new provision will not affect the labour demand in the international market. What the government needs to do is to strictly monitor manpower agencies for flouting the rules. The government should also find areas for the best utilisation of the remittances in productive and infrastructure development sectors. The government’s decision to utilize the remittance in hydropower sector under the “Remit Hydro” scheme is a positive move. However, the Energy Ministry must come up with a concrete plan to utilize it in its projects.

Hard to believe

It defies belief but it is true. This particular form of cruelty and inhumanity has rarely been known to happen in Nepal, at least in recent times. But it happened recently in the Kudiya village of Nawalparasi where a 10-year-old boy of a neighbour was slit to death as a sacrifice to appease some ‘deity’ in the wrong notion of curing another boy who was sick. Five accused, including the shaman, have been arrested. Superstitious beliefs in witches, shamans and black magic have played much havoc in the present and in the past.

Some of the kinds of superstitions and social evils seem to be more frequent in the Tarai, including dowry, perhaps largely as the result of influences of practices on the other side of the border. But such deep-rooted wrong beliefs cannot be wished away overnight. Education, constant public awareness campaigns on various fronts, and strict legal action against the offenders can combine to phase out such practices from Nepali society in due course of time. Mere slogans and lip service alone will not help get rid of such wrong practices.