Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Workers' plights during Covid-19


Santi Dahal


Covid-19 has caused damage to the economic structures of the developed and developing countries, thereby affecting people economically, socially and psychologically at a global scale. With the first ever case reported in Nepalese soil, Nepal has been under the lockdown since Chaitra 11, 2076. The lockdown went on in various instalments, devastating the day to day life of the middle class and the lower class people due to the complete shutdown of the industries, service sectors, and trade as well as every economical activity.

According to the labor force survey of 2017/18, Nepal has 16.8 million economically active population; ranking 37th globally. The global pandemic did not much impact the rich people as it did to middle class and low class people. Around 50,000 workers in Kathmandu alone depend on the recreation sectors like dance bar, clubs, hotels, restaurants and dohoris for their livelihood and they are the most hardly hit. Almost a quarter of such labourers are still in Kathmandu and they haven’t received their salary before lockdown and their tips are also now nil, causing havoc to their livelihood.

Kusum Pariyar, a dohori singer, says, ‘My family of eight members is hard hit economically due to the lockdown as I have received neither salary nor tips. We live as if we were stateless people as no aid is received from the government and there are no signs that the workplaces will resume soon.’’

Renuka Pariyar, a dohori worker, says that she didn’t expect the lockdown to prolong this long which drained all her cash and compelled her to take refuge with friend having the same problem. Although they have received some food aid from charity organizations named Bishwas Nepal, it won’t be sufficient enough to feed them till the normal life resumes.

Similarly, Sharmila Magar (identity changed), a hotel worker for 4 years and a single mother of two sons, says that she has been ignored since two years by her man after he departed for foreign employment. With the aid of Bishwas Nepal, she started a small shop serving tea, momo, chowmein etc that his now the basis of her livelihood and she is able to create expenses for her children. Due to this lockdown, her business has been hampered and now she is in economic crisis like others.

Samjhana Magar, a guesthouse attendee, has a heartbreaking story. She came to Kathmandu dreaming of a bright future with her husband and a son. But just before months before the lockdown her husband disappeared with a girl along with Samjahana's belongings. Her condition is now so bad that she has sent her four years old son to the maternal uncle’s house and is having one time lunch with the landlord. With the aid of Bishwas Nepal, she was provided with the basic amenities for living like gas, utensils, clothes etc. that has given her relief for the time being.


Thousands of migrant workers have the same story. They are physically weak, mentally ill and psychologically disturbed and cannot return to Nepal even if they wish to. Some of them were lucky enough to return to Nepal but upon the return, the ill managed health system of Nepal and the unemployment hiked the level of sorrow. The rich don’t care about the poor and the poor are unable to express their pain.

The government has eased the lockdown but prohibition continues. The state is acting irresponsibly as corruption and political games are prioritized over the health and welfare of people that may one day burst into a new revolution.

The writer works for Bishwas Nepal and is pursuing her Master’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from RatnaRajyaLaxmi Campus, Kathmandu.

Published on 3 September 2020