India and Nepal: The Labour Connection

 

India and Nepal have been in close connection with each other since decades. With no visa requirements to move between these countries, it is quite easy for people to migrate to and from them. It is estimated that about 10 lakh (1 million) people from Nepal live in India whereas an equal or larger number of Indians live in Nepal. These include labourers from U.P. and the elite class from Rajasthan and Gujarat.

So what is the reason for such migration? While population explosion in India and lack of employment opportunities attract people from India towards Nepal, Nepalese look forward for the same when coming to India. The elite class of Indians in Nepal have a business bent of mind while buying property in the country.

We are aware of the fact that people belonging to Nepal and living in India do not get the kind of work one desires or seeks in a foreign nation. They are mostly employed as unskilled labour and therefore work on daily wages. Driving, cleaning and cooking are the major areas where they get employed.

Nepalese population is quite high in hilly areas of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. This is because the climate of such areas is more suitable for them. Moreover, there is a wider scope for their employment in the tourism as well as agricultural sector.

But what happens to these workers once they start working in India? Nepali labour is often exploited. They are robbed, raped and even murdered but one can do nothing about it because they do not have a legal identity in India. These workers do not register themselves in their own country before starting work in India, nor do they obtain a labour permit. This is when neither the Indian nor the Nepali government can come forward to help them. It is easier to seek help if one has a labour permit.

Something similar happened to Suraj Singh, a Nepali worker who was held in connection to the Gudiya rape case in Shimla. He was killed under suspicious circumstances in the jail to which CBI is now looking in. Another mass plight of Nepali labourers was seen at the time of currency ban or demonetisation of INR 1,000 and INR 500 notes. The unaccounted wealth of daily wage earners of Nepal went obsolete after the currency ban was issued. It was mainly implemented to target terrorists and their aid coming in from black money but unfortunately, Nepalese labourers became the victims. Recruitment agents and brokers also seem to take advantage of the Nepalese youth who seek work in India.

Nepalese migrant workers need a labour permit to work in all countries except India. On 23rd January this year, Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal announced that the government will soon be making it mandatory for Nepali migrant workers to get a labour permit for working in India as well. Though the implementation of this plan will be quite challenging, it is being said that in order to encourage the procurement of labour permits, the Nepal government will provide insurance coverage and welfare fund benefits to those who do. This will curb the problems that arise for Nepali workers in India, time after time.

It will be a welcoming step towards the protection of Nepali migrant workers in India and will have a little positive effect, if not much, on their living and working conditions in India.

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