Work comes first for labourers, not election

SHIVA PURI
 
Nov 29, 2017-Magani Sahani, a labourer from in Gadimai Municipality 6, Rautahat, who is currently based in Chitwan, is not focusing on the upcoming election as she is busy working to support her family. Many other labourers are doing the same.
 
These farmers, who have migrated from Rautahat and other parts of Tarai, spend their days working on farms, and cutting, harvesting and storing paddy. This is the peak harvesting period for labourers like Sahani.
 
“Although election fever has gripped the village, we are busy finding work to earn money for our children’s education,” said Sahani, “It is better to work rather than listen to fake promises of politicians”.
 
She has previously heard lofty promises from politicians who ended up not fulfilling those. “These politicians don’t do anything but try to garner votes by promising to provide land deeds to people living in slums, develop roads, build drinking water facilities and supply electricity, among others,” said Sahani.
 
This has made labourers like Sahani wary of politicians. “This time we will cast our votes for the one who will execute development works,” said Sahani. “But again politicians, no matter which party they belong to, will ignore us and not deliver on their promises once they win”. Labourers from Rautahat have been coming to Chitwan to work in the fields since 1993. They make a living by planting and harvesting paddy. It is estimated that there are nearly 5,000 labourers from Rautahat  working in Chitwan.
 
These labourers earn around Rs15,000 a month each for working on a bigha of farmland. The farm owner usually provides accommodation to labourers. But once the work is over, labourers have to leave.
 
According to Ram Kumar Mahato, another labourer working in Chitwan, most of the labourers, working in the district to feed their families, will return to their villages one to two days before election. Initially, he started farming by leasing a plot of land, but the income was not sufficient to cover the expenses. He is now working as a labourer to make ends meet.
 
“Politicians always come with the same slogan, promising to do this and that but in the end fail to do anything,” said Mahato, “Politicians will say anything to get the votes.”
 
He added that political leaders did not show much concern even after locals’ houses were damaged by floods of August. Mahato is in a rush to store paddy before casting his vote on December 7. Immediately after the election, labourers such as Mahato will go to Punjab, India for work, digging potatoes and cutting sugarcanes.
 
The experience of Surendra Sah is no different. “These candidates give nothing but false hopes to labourers like us,” said Sah.
 
He works as a labourer to support his family of 16. He has cast his vote many times but the failure of elected candidates to deliver on their promises have let him down time and again. 
 
Published: 29 November 2017/ The Kathmandu Post

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