When I asked Dil Bahadur (Name Changed), who is currently working in one of the fast food restaurants behind my college in Delhi University, “When did you migrate to India ?”, his response was, “ I am not a migrant, I go back home once in 2 years.”

Nepal has had an extended history of migration. This country over the years has faced immense poverty, underdevelopment, political turmoil and a ten year long civil war. These factors have undoubtedly been one of the major driving forces of migration of Nepalese citizens to India and elsewhere. It is assumed that 200 Nepalese cross the Indian boarder every hour (Bhattari, 2007). This fast paced rate of migration needs delving into so as to retain some much needed human resource for the development of the country.

 On one hand, most of the Nepalese migrant workers in India refuse to call themselves migrants. Most of them commonly refer to themselves as labourers or workers who were driven to India due to various circumstances. Apart from that Nepalese who have fled to India in search of asylum are not even categorized under the mandate of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) since the Government of India insists that the1950 Indo-Nepal treaty accords Nepali residents in India the same rights as Indians, failing to certify them as refugees.  As a result, most Nepalese in India seem to lack any union and are ignorant about the labour rights accorded to the community, for example equal wages and compensation in case of death or injury. This division between the Nepali labour class and other labour communities is displayed clearly by the lack of awareness among the Nepali community. This ignorance is in stark contrast to the consciousness about rights and opportunities possessed by nationals of some of the other countries, like the Burmese who have migrated to India to escape conflict in their country.

As the India-Nepal boarder can be crossed without any documents the Nepalese labour migrants lack any legal documents or paper, enhancing their legal susceptibility and vulnerability. The extreme poverty, political instability, economic stagnation and lack of job availability explain the influx of Nepalese migrants into India.

Once in India the Nepalese migrants become vulnerable to various social, psychological, political and human rights abuses as they have no legal rights. Without any document, bank accounts are not accessible to the migrants. The Nepalese migrants are unable to transfer money in a quick and efficient manner; they have no choice but to send home money through people travelling to Nepal. Many times the money never reaches home.

“It is very difficult to send money home, most of the time it is taken away by the border security forces and custom officials, lost or robbed”, said Dil Bahadur’s friend who was working in the same place.

Migration to India today, has become a livelihood stratagem. The basic household needs are satisfied through this process of exchanging the manpower of Nepal for money from India. Migration also helps in paying back the loans taken out in the village. Positioned at the bottom rung of the society, these migrants internalize exploitation, humility and dishonour.

It is also important to mention that no migrant accepts that he or she is a migrant but use the phrase “We are coming and going.” (Shukla, Brown). On the other hand, those who are settled in India call themselves “Indians” and not “migrants”. Another practice is of changing their names into a common local name to escape discrimination and subordination.

Hence, we see that although there are a substantial number of Nepalese migrants in India, they are invisible to most people. The distortion in the visibility of these groups of migrants is caused partly because they themselves hide their identity and partly because Indian state fails to recognize them. It is extremely essential for our government to create provisions for registration of Nepalese working in the informal sector in India. A mandatory listing of people crossing the border is absolutely indispensable and so is the need for spreading awareness among the Nepalese community about their legal rights and legal recourse alternative when these rights are breached. Their invisibility is fast becoming a reason for their disappearing identity. The migrants need to be seen, heard, their pleas must be felt within to save them from forever fading into oblivion. The Nepali migrant is living a half life of no dignity and little hope for recognition of his/her self or of his/her rights.

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Comment by Prakash Lamichhane on October 3, 2016 at 11:56am

Nice write up !

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