The Movements of Kamaiya
Kamaiya system is a traditional practice during which the laborers work under the contract with their landlords in order to clear their debt. This system was wide spread in Tharu communities of Dang, Banke, Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts of Western Nepal. According to a governmental study, there were 15,152 persons working under the Kamaiya system of bonded agricultural labor with 83,375 persons directly affected in the mid-1990’s itself.
When the system was over exploited and inhuman system provoked the Kamaiya families inviting Child Labor, Child Trafficking and Poverty, the Kamaiya from Kailali district filed petitions on 1st May in 2000 with the local government seeking freedom from bondage under their Kamaiya Lord Former Minister for Forests and Soil Conservation. Then it brought the movement of 1,400 similar petitions for freedom.
In July 17, 2000 the “Kamaiya Movement” brought revolution for the Kamaiya by enforcing government of Nepal to abolish Kamaiya system illegally through the “Kamaiya Labor (Prohibition) Act 2002”. After the declaration, many of the Ex-Kamaiya were excluded from their housings without any due wages and belongings by their landlords. They were even deprived from education, health, socio-economic status and were pushed towards poverty to suffer.
The major concern by the government for the Kamaiya was their rehabilitation. The government also formulated the provisions for them but still the Ex-Kamaiya are neglected in large extend. The homeless Ex-Kamaiya had nowhere to go except the open sky in the monsoon rain. Day by day they started their settlements to the open spaces available in the districts. Helped by different NGOs, INGOs, Local Governments for housing and fooding, they still lack the facilities for their sustainable livelihoods.
Among such temporary settlements, the Ex-Kamaiya surviving in the open space of Old Airport in Dhangadhi of Kailali district, are the victims of governmental issues and inadequate preparation and inappropriate management regarding the provisions for their rehabilitation. Although, the temporary settlements of nearly 53 households at Old Airport in Dhangadhi have enhanced their education, occupation and income, the process of the distribution of land, timber and cash for construction of houses and capacity development is not yet accomplished. They are still deprived of access to water, sanitation, electricity and other basic needs to sustain lives. Moreover, the District Development Committee (DDC) in Dhangadhi has claimed that the land is illegally invaded by the Ex-Kamaiya. The land is not fertile but can enhance the economical enrichments; this might be the reason why the settlements are still temporary. The DDC is not providing any facilities for them because the Kamaiya do not owe the land and instead of finding alternatives for them, the DDC is threatening the Ex-Kamaiya time to time.
The challenges are not that the land donot belong to Ex-Kamaiya but the challenges are their survivals are getting harder and harder as they are deprived of electricity. Among 53 households only few households are facilitated by the electricity which is generated by stealing from other houses near their settlements. The Ex-Kamaiya has got the freedom but yet they are living in the dark under the light of hopes through single source called “Tuki”.
As the land is infertile, there is lack of vegetation that can keep the land moist and conserve the water. The settlements are suffering from scarcity of water and they hardly sustain their lives depending on the water they access from a source called “Nalka”. Government has not yet installed the tap system for the Ex-Kamaiya. This is the extreme condition that may lead the Ex-Kamaiya suffered from hazards as the human live completely depends upon water.
Regarding the sanitation systems for the settlements, they are using single Bhore-Hole toilet for minimum 5 or more households. The shortage of water supply might lead to different water-borne and sanitation related diseases like diarrhea, Anemia, Arsenicosis, Ascariasis, etc.
The settlements of Ex-Kamaiya in Dhangadi are provided with seeds for agriculture by few NGOs but since the land is infertile, they are not taught the techniques for vegetation cultivation as well as fertilizers are not provided to them. However, the livelihoods of Ex-Kamaiya is somehow supported by manual jobs and income generating agricultural activities, still they lack the quick economic sources, linkages to local markets for and trade related jobs.
These are not just the issues of Ex-Kamaiya but also the issues regarding the development of the country and meeting the Millennium development Goals (MDGs).