Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Money for jobs

Following raids by the tax department two weeks ago, instances of fraud by owners of manpower companies have come to light. According to a source in Lumbini Overseas, the company chief Madhu Lamsal has been sending unwitting Nepali labourers to South Korea as "trainee workers" and pocketing the money. Lumbini Overseas is the one company permitted to send Nepali labourers to South Korea, and it is hoodwinking the labourers. It makes each worker pay a refundable deposit of Rs 100,000. Once in South Korea, the labourers forget to ask for their refund, and the company does not remind them to collect either. The company routes this money back to its accounts through deposits in a number of finance companies and banks in the capital. Dhruba Kumar Sharma, a Ministry of Labour and Transport spokesman, says it is illegal to ask for such deposits.

Some workers who have returned from South Korea complain that they have not been able to get their deposits back. "Despite asking, about 80 percent of my friends haven't got their deposits back," says a returnee. In 1994, the Labour Ministry allowed companies to charge each individual Rs 62,500 as service fees. In 1996 the amount increased to Rs 79,800. Lumbini Overseas has been adding Rs 100,000 to the service charge. But since people are desperate for employment, and given the peace and security situation in the country and the lack of jobs, they are willing to pay any amount as long as their jobs are guaranteed. And so it has become easier for companies to pocket extra money. Lumbini Finance, established in 1994, was permitted to export labour after it signed an understanding with the Korean Federation of Industries. There was demand for a little over 1,000 workers in 1994, and for 400 labourers in 1996. Ministry records show the company has sent 2,988 people to Korea. The company hasn't advertised in accordance with the law, and it also does not have proper papers for a number of the workers, who it sends to South Korea via Delhi.

The Nepal Rastra Bank has also suffered in its dealings with the company, which has yet to reimburse the bank of a large amount of capital. Lamsal has removed himself safely from the company and is going around saying he can displace Labour Minister Palden Gurung in a second. As a result, a committee has been set up at the Ministry to look into the activities of Lamsal and Lumbini Overseas. Under Secretary of the Ministry Basanta Kumar Upadhayaya has indicated that Lamsal has worked in accordance with Ministry regulations, but that the Ministry's directions might themselves be controversial. While it has been decided to set up a high-level committee to look into the functioning of the ministry, it is yet to be finalised whether the committee should be chaired by a judge or another high-ranking official, says Adhikari. This is not the first time a committee has been set up to look into the dealings of Lumbini Overseas. The firm was even closed down once, but business resumed after Ishwor Pokhrel, UML Standing Committee Member and adviser to late prime minister Man Mohan Adhikari, permitted the company to resume work once again

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)