Youths’ journey to ‘Kalapahad’ continues

JUMLA, Dec 6: This time, Birendra Budha of Sija Rural Municipality - 4 was not willing to go to Kalapahad at all. He wanted to find a job in his village. Though his friends left for Kalapahad, he remained at home. Months passed, but Budha got no work. Disappointed, he followed his friends and head out for Kalapahad. In Jumla going to India is referred to as going to Kalapahad.

“This year I had no desire to go Kalapahad looking for work. But as I didn’t get any job at home, I was left with no option other than to go,” said Budha who had recently returned home for a short time from Kalapani, India. “I have to go back. I took leave for a few days.”  In Kalapani, Budha does all sorts of menial jobs including carrying goods on his back. “It feels like an ass sometimes.

Even after the country became a federal republic, plights of poor people like us have remained the same. The change, if there is any, seems to have been only for the rich people,” he lamented. As a child, Budha never went to school as there was no school nearby his house. Apart from that since no one was serious about getting their children educated, he thought it was not going to make much difference later. “But today, I see that education is important. If you are uneducated there is no option left other than to work like a donkey,” he stated.

A very few people in his village are educated. And fewer are rich enough not to hunt jobs Kalapahad. “But we cannot survive without working in Kalapani or some other places in India. But Kalapahad is where people generally go from here,” Budha stated. Finding youths in this area is a tough job. No sooner than they turn 11 or 12, they go to Kalapahad in search of work Budha said. “Girls often remain at home. But if you are a boy, you have to go to earn for your family,” he said. According to locals, the absence of males makes it very difficult for the villagers during crop cultivation and harvesting seasons. Elderlies and women do all tasks. “Elder people cannot perform jobs requiring strength. So, young girls and women are the ones who shoulder the responsibility,” said another local Nirmal Budha, 60. “We cannot perform activities that require physically job as such women peform it.”

Nirmal said that the trend of going India and hunting jobs in Uttaranchal and Himachal states of India is a very old practice for the population in the area. Boys grow up with the idea that they will go to Kalapahad to earn for their family one day. “They are mentally prepared. They don’t grow up with any big dreams.” But this makes Nirmal sad. He wishes for everyone in the region to get employed at home and stay with their family. “Things are changing in the country. Some are doing really good here in Jumla too. But these changes have not reached to all the corners of the district,” he noted. During festivals like Dashain and Tihar, men repatriate for holidays. They stay with family just for a few days and get back to work in India. “This is really sad,” Nirmal noted.

Karnali highway gets very busy these days. Buses are seen carrying young men to Kalapahad. “Those who had come home during Dashain and Tihar are leaving for their work. In a few days, all of them would have gone and the village will be empty,” Nirmal said. Locals do not like their ‘village without youths’. Women miss their men, and children miss their father. However, there are many villages in Jumla which cannot ignore Kalapahad job hunt. According to Man Bahadur BK, counter in-charge of Jumla Chandannath Transport Private Limited, over a dozen buses leave for Kalapahad these days. And yet, passengers find it hard to get a ticket. “It is the season for men to go to Kalapahad,” he said. Nirmal said that families and villagers miss their male members mostly during cases of medical emergencies as women and old males are hardly able to carry patients to the hospital.  “Even in so many years, our situation is the same. The absence of youths has affected our life in too many ways. This should change,” he said. There is a lack of schools and health posts in Jumla villages. Even the existing schools and health posts do not have the required human resources. According to locals, things have not changed for them despite several elections in the last few years.

Published: 6 December 2018/Republica