In November 2013, almost exactly two years ago, I accompanied my mate Pete Pattisson to Janakpur. One of the reasons for accompanying him this time was to interview a Qatar returnee in the small village of Siraha.
Pete is the journalist for the Guardian who, in September 2013, blew the lid on the plight of Nepalese migrant workers in Qatar. The exposé was that of Ganesh, a 16 year-old child hailing from the Southern Plains who returned in a coffin just two months into his stay in Qatar.
(Since returning to Nepal on May 13, 2013, following my 12 days in a Qatari jail, I have been involved in a number of different projects and activities. One of them is moon-lighting as an Asisstant/Translator to my mate whenever I am able to make time.)
Following the trip, I posted, on Facebook, some photos. The one above and below are screenshots of two of them.
Pete put together a video of the interview which is embedded in this article.
The economic and social situation in the Southern Plains have been and continues to be very very dire (see image above). What most middle and upper class Kathmanduites are probably blissfully unaware is that a majority of the migrant workers headed to destinations such as Malaysia and the Gulf, including Qatar, are from Madhes, the Southern Plains. Before the earthquake, anywhere from 1500 to 2000 were leaving the country every single day.
And as of late June, four dead bodies have been arriving in Kathmandu airport DAILY. You can bet those bodies include those of young Madhesis, like Ganesh, NOT young Kathmanduites!
I would be impressed if a middle class or upper class Kathmanduite knows someone who arrived back in a coffin from Malaysia or Qatar or elsewhere. It goes without saying that not a single middle or upper class Kathmanduite has probably lost someone in one of those countries or has someone suffering there as much as a semi- or unskilled labourer! I would be surprised if they know a family who has lost their bread winner abroad and has had their dreams shattered and lives turned upside down.
I was reminded of all this today by a music video of a song by the Nepalese band Cadenza. They used Pete’s video as backdrop.
The song exhorts Nepalese to not leave the country for work, and instead to work in the country to develop the country etc.
What of the man featured in the video? What were his plans, now that he was back home? To go abroad…again.
In spite of his qualification and experience, he had no opportunities — neither in his village nor in the nearest city of Janakpur! When they can’t have decent lives and don’t get much respect in their own country, is it any wonder then that they are treated like sub-human abroad?!
(Click here to read a blog post about the arrogant and patronizing attitude of the authorities and other elites in Kathmandu towards another marginalized group in the country — the ethnic Tibetans in Mustang.)
And some in Kathmandu wonder why it is that the Madhesis are protesting!
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Pete Pattisson. His Guardian profile with links to all his articles and videos.
At 16, Ganesh got a job in Qatar. Two months later he was dead. Pete’s article which blew the lid on the plight of Nepalese migrant workers in Qatar. “Nepalese workers go to Qatar to find a way out of poverty. Instead, many are trapped into 12-hour days and nights in overcrowded, filthy camps. Some never make it home alive.”
Qatar construction worker: ‘This company doesn’t consider a human being a human being’. Pete’s article in the Guardian based on the interview we held in Siraha. The video is embedded in the article.