The young man is from Dr. Bhattarai’s constituency in Gorkha district
It was the hottest June day in five years, Delhi boiling at 45 degrees Celsius. I was waiting for someone at the international airport. There I met him. He had gone there to receive one of his relatives from Kathmandu who was supposed to stop overnight in Delhi before flying to Moscow the next morning (He had a 16-hour long transit). That didn’t materialise. The traveller wasn’t allowed to go out of the airport. We drove back to the city centre together.
“I have been living in Delhi for the last four years,” he said. “India is the best place for a Nepali like me who doesn’t mind working hard for a living.”
There’s no official data but there are estimated five million Nepalis living and working in India. Vast majority of those who work do so in unorganised sectors: security guards, cooks/waiters and other lowly positions in private and government institutions. There’s no reason to complain for the poorest country in the region that has miserably failed to create jobs for its citizens.
Sujan Lamichhane came to Delhi to work as a peon in a private office three years after finishing his school. He worked as a waiter in a restaurant in Kathmandu for some years before coming here. The man from Gorkha district admitted himself in a college in Delhi while he continued with the job as peon.
“Now I earn Indian Rs 26,000,” he said. “Very good salary for me; thank you India.” The 27-year-old seemed to be very happy not to have to go to “Dubai and Malaysia” for job.
Many Nepalis who are living and working in India for years or decades have one striking common wish: none of them wants to live in India for their whole life. They praise India for its economic progress, are thankful to the country for hosting and providing employment but somehow, deep inside their heart, they are not satisfied with the life that they have here. They express their displeasure while talking about the state of affairs back home and berate political leaders. But at the end they say their heart is in Nepal and, sooner or later, they will surely return to the homeland.
“I am not saying I’ll live in India indefinitely,” Sujan told. “I have bought some land in Bharatpur. I plan to build a house there once the summer is over. I am not interested in living in Kahtmandu though. The choice for me is between Gorkha and Narayangadh. Narayangadh is better because it’s plain and development will be cantered on the plains.”
Sujan often frequents between Delhi and Gorkha. Two years ago he went to his village Ghyampeshal (which was in news recently) to campaign for Baburam Bhattarai. He is proud of the fact that Bhattarai received “the largest number of votes in Nepal” to win a seat in the constituent assembly.
“But it’s been felt that the Maoists have failed to deliver on their promises.”
“Well, they did a lot,” he responded. “There was no electricity in my village. We got that in last Dashain. We had to walk half an hour to fetch drinking water. Now, every house has water connection.”
“Baburam Bhattarai did all that?”
“Yes. He did. And third, listen to me, the access road has been improved.”
“But Bhattarai has been sidelined in his own party.” I told. “Chairman Prachanda thinks no one can be the prime minister from his party except himself.”
“That is the misfortune of Nepal and we Nepalis,” Sujan said. “Those who work for the people are always sidelined. I am not a great fan of the Maoist party, let me tell you, but just imagine what our country could do if we had leaders like Baburam in each political party. If we had a person like Baburam Bhattarai rule in the past decade, Nepal would have been another China today.”
No pun intended in there, I suppose. Sujan was talking about the rapid development works that are happening in China. Though Prachanda is probably the most recognised Nepali name and face nationally and internationally today (Gyanendra is perhaps his competitor) I have seen his charisma eroding over the past couple of years among Nepalis including the Maoists themselves. Going by what Nepali netizens across political divide have been expressing on Facebook and other web sites in the past several months I have concluded that Baburam Bhattarai is the sole leader in Nepal today who commands faith and carries hope of majority of Nepalis.
“Every leader thinks of filling his pocket first,” Sujan said. “No one thinks about the country. Baburam Bhattarai tried to do something [while he was the finance minister.] Is it wrong to impose tax? It’s for the country, not for Bhattarai.” While his party has become shockingly corrupt by directly or indirectly encouraging forced donation, extortion and intimidation, Bhattarai has been hailed as one of the most effective ministers with the cleanest image Nepal has ever seen.
Sujan is in no illusion that Nepal can progress without first fixing its politics. But he also feels that development of a country doesn’t solely depend on politicians. Citizens too have their role to play. That is why he has set a deadline to return home.
“I’ll go back to Nepal after two years,” he said. “I plan to buy a couple of taxis, hire my own village folks as drivers so that they also get jobs. I also plan to run a car workshop as I have knowledge about vehicle maintenance. I also want to collaborate with relatives who run trekking agencies.”
This article first appeared on Op-Ed of yesterday’s The Kathmandu Post