Nepali Times
They don't count, and are uncounted


AT HOME: Dil Bahadur Mahara from Dang with his co-worker at an Indian restaurant in Delhi.

Abhishek Mandal, 28, leaves his apartment in Tilak Nagar in New Delhi at midnight, and drives to his office Quatro Global Service in Gurgaon of Haryana state where he works as a diagnostic expert.

Asif Ali, 29, who works for IBM Global has a similar routine. Both Abhishek and Asif came to New Delhi from Biratnagar in eastern Nepal in search of a better life, and after years of struggle they both make a comfortable living.

Abhishek owns property in India and sends money regularly to his family. Asif educates his younger brother and sister at his own expense. His mother, Aamna, and sister, Nazia, now live with him in Delhi.

Abhishek and Asif do not fit the stereotype of Nepali workers in India, who are usually gatekeepers, waiters or farmhands. Different studies estimate the number of Nepalis in India to be between 1 and 1.6 million. It is even more difficult to calculate the amount of money they send home every year. The figure of Nepal's annual remittance earnings of  $2 billion totals money Nepali workers wire home from the Gulf, Malaysia, Japan, and Korea, but does not include India.

Usually domestic labour market conditions determine migration trends, but in Nepal's case, simple push and pull theory may not sufficiently explain such a huge flux of labour. Rising unemployment at home, geographical accessibility, affinity with the local language, culture and laws, and the open border, have certainly driven millions of Nepalis to India but the nature of the workforce they enter into is different. Although seasonal unskilled labourers make up a sizable number of Nepalis working in India, there are semi-skilled permanent job holders in various government and private institutions.

Asif with his sister Nazia, brother Kashif and mother Aamna.
Historically, Nepalis have dominated the security profession. Tens of thousands of Nepalis work in the Indian Army and paramilitary forces (again, there is no exact count). Recently, private security companies have been hiring Nepali guards. Young Nepali boys are sought after in restaurants and hotels, and after the turnaround in Bihar, Nepalis have replaced Biharis in Punjab's farms.

The lack of jobs in Nepal has also forced thousands of students in India to stay on after studies to find jobs there. Keshav Bashyal, who is doing his doctorate research from JNU on Nepali migrant workers told the Nepali Times: "There are people who are doing well in India with their creativity and hard work. Unfortunately, Nepal has not been able to entice them home." 

Besides the loss of skilled manpower, the lack of information and unsystematic migration to India have put Nepalis at risk. Nepali domestic workers are often mistreated and exploited, and successive governments in Nepal have been unable to control trafficking of young Nepali women to brothels and boys for circuses and work in dangerous jobs like the firecracker industry. The estimate of Nepali sex workers in India varies from 25,000-250,000, but no one knows for sure.

Piyush, 14, works at a roadside eatery near Delhi's Nizamuddin Railway Station. He ran away from his home in Gulmi district last year when his mother remarried after his father's death. "I didn't want to live with him so I ran away," says the sixth grader. A plucky young boy, Piyush says he wants to earn some money and go back to Nepal.

A Nepali rickshaw puller in Delhi.
Dil Bahadur Mahara, 39, from Dang works in an Indian restaurant in Tilak Nagar in Delhi and says he is happy with his job there. "People are good to me, and I manage to save Rs 5,000 every month and send it home to my old parents and son."

Hundreds of thousands of Nepalis like Dil Bahadur don't count because they are not counted. Ganesh Gurung of Nepal Institute of Development Studies feels the government has disowned the Nepalis who work in India and believes the 1950 treaty is detrimental for the immigrant community, because while it allows free movement across the border, it lets Kathmandu wash its hands of the responsibility towards its citizens.

"How can protecting your citizens be at odds with your friendship with India?" asks Gurung. "Regulating the Indo-Nepal border will not create unemployment problem in Nepal, in fact it will make migration to India systematic through record keeping and help the state keep track of its citizens in India, reducing their vulnerability."

(Some names have been changed.)

Lost to the land, ANURAG ACHARYA
This nation survives on the money sent back by the same people whom it has failed to provide for

A beautiful mind

Shanti Shrestha came to India from Dhangadi in 1984 when she was just 24, as a beautician trainee. She has now opened her own saloon in Delhi's South Extension.

She began in a small basement in 2000, and now runs a chain of five 'Hair and Shanti' saloons in different parts the Indian capital. "It has been difficult trying to make a living in a foreign country," says Shanti, "I did not understand the language and was often humiliated but it has all worked out."

Her partner in business and in life, Narayan (seen above with then minister Shashi Tharoor), is proud of his wife's success. "It is through her hard work and determination that we have achieved what we have," he says admiringly. "We will soon be expanding to 20 more places and in the next three years plan to spread the chain all over India.".

Read also:
Home away from home

Ups and downs in Nepal
A trekker ambassador sees the need to be patient

Orphaned at old age, PAAVAN MATHEMA
More grandparents feel less grand as they cross the 60's line

Knotting for Nepal, BHRIKUTI RAI
A woman's personal hobby is helping others become self-sufficient and preserve traditional weaving skills

1. Rituraj Sapkota
Story of my ife... 

In fact, the first time I flew international, I flew from India, with my Nepalese passport. The only problem is visa officials look at me, squint their eyes and say "But you don't look Nepali!" 

2. Asif Ali
Thank you Anurag....Great View of thinking......Keep it up

3. BJ
Good Reporting on this very impotant issue which we don't see more of in the Nepali media. Kodos to all the hard working Nepali not just in India but all over the world( and trust me, you can find them living and working in all the nooks and cranies of the world).Think about it, this tradition has been continuing since the history of this nation. It's just that now they are all over. They are the ones who are and were actually keeping our economy and the Nation afloat not any rulers,whether Sri 5 or Srin3 or Sri whatever, or any present politicians or those overly protocal sensitive present and ex beurocrats working in Embassies abroad who do litterally nothing about them!

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)