Decade on, freed-bonded laborers still living in penury
NEPALJUNG, July 18: Bonded laborers were freed from some 11 years ago. However, despite freedom from slavery they continue to live in abject penury.
Dhaniram Chaudhari, a freed bonded laborer of Neulapur - 5, Bardiya says not much has changed in their lives after the government freed the bonded labors a decade ago.
“I have no choice. I have to work hard to make ends meet,” says Dhaniram. “Had the government provided us the land it had promised us, things would have been different. There are several organizations that professedly have been working for our welfare. But we continue to live in misery,” he added.
The Land Reform Office had given him five katthas of land seven years ago. But Dhaniram has been allowed to use only two katthas of land so far. “This is not enough to feed my two children and wife.”
Dhaniram´s is not a one-off case. The freed-bonded laborers in the community feel that the government has not done enough to address their problems.
Sushma Tharu, a former bonded laborer, said the government is yet to distribute land it had promised to the freed bonded laborers. “Many of the families are yet to get Rs 10,000 and 35 cubic feet wood for house construction that the government had promised.”
According to Sushma, 1,743 families in Banke alone have not received wood from the government. Similarly, Fularam Tharu, another local, said around 400 freed bonded-laborers have not received Rs 10,000 that the government had promised them for house construction.
“The government´s announcement of freeing us has least significance for us unless the government implements its commitments. In lack of meaningful support, freedom for us has no meaning,” Fularam said. “As such we do not even want the status of freed-bonded laborers,” he added.
Then government in 2008 had declared Banke, Bardiya and Kanchanpur as “bonded laborer free districts”.
Meanwhile, various political parties in Banke have also expressed concern over the status of Banke as bonded laborer free district. They have demanded that the 2,609 laborers in the district be granted their rights.