Foreign land beckons youth

Himalayan tragedy: Engineers check safety of houses

Foreign land beckons youth

Thirty-three-year-old Sitaram Paneru is building a tin shed in his patch of farm land in this hamlet perched in the Trishuli valley. The single-storey home he built on savings from his seven-year stint as a labourer in Dubai lies in shambles nearby.

Paneru, the only earning hand of his five-member family, is faced with a dilemma of traveling back to the Persian Gulf to earn money. But his heart aches for his young wife who is expecting their second child.

Govind Gajurel, who owns the adjacent patch of farm land, is also toying with the idea seeking employment abroad as earnings from agriculture will not be sufficient to support his family and build a new home.

The Nepal government gave the affected family members Rs 2,000 each which could just meet their food expenses for a couple of weeks. Paneru had taken Rs 50,000 loan from his father-in-law to build a shelter which is the need of the hour.

“I have no option but to go to Dubai to earn a living,” Paneru said. Hundreds of thousands of Nepalis work abroad, mostly as semi-skilled labour. Though the World Bank estimates peg the figure at 20 lakh, experts believe the numbers to be significantly higher as many travel without formal documentation, particularly to India with whom Nepal shares an open border.

If the migrations in search of jobs begin early, Nepal may intensely feel the absence of its youth as it embarks of the path of reconstruction and recovery.

Experts feel the government should immediately create opportunities for the youth within the country and involve them in the process of reconstruction. According to World Bank estimates, nearly 30 per cent of Nepal’s gross domestic produce comprises remittances from its huge migrant population. Available data shows that India is the most preferred job destination among the youth closely followed by the Persian Gulf and Malaysia.

65-year-old Balram Shreshta’s three sons work as semi-skilled workers in Qatar. Shreshta suffers from Parkinson’s disease and sits desolately in his farm patch with a drying cabbage crop. His nephew Bharat, who tended the farm, was injured in the quake and has been admitted to a medical camp a few kilometres away.

“I cannot do much with my shaky hands. I have been unable to even water the plants for the since the quake struck,” the old man said. He misses his sons sorely but has to live alone in this time of crises. “They keep sending me money once a while. That takes care of my needs here,” Shreshta said.

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