Nepali official issued a directive on mandatory labour permits for Indians, causing diplomatic friction

  • Labour Ministry officials told the Post the order was issued haphazardly after a complaint on Hello Sarkar

Feb 8, 2019-

A directive issued by the Department of Labour and Occupational Safety last month has caused a diplomatic stir between Kathmandu and New Delhi, leading the Indian ambassador to meet with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Labour Minister Gokarna Bista.

On January 24, the department, which is under the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, had issued a notice to labour offices across the country, asking them to finalise the total number of Indian nationals working in Nepal and inform businesses to apply for labour permits for all individuals who don’t have one yet.

However, labour ministry officials told the Post on Friday that the directive was issued because of “a technical error” and the government was in the process of correcting it.

“One of our officials issued the notice without approval after receiving a complaint from Hello Sarkar. He acted on his own without even consulting the ministry,” the official told the Post, seeking anonymity as he wasn’t allowed to discuss the issue with the media. Hello Sarkar is the government’s official complaint hotline.

“The official did not look into the provision that doesn’t make it mandatory for Indian nationals to have work permits in Nepal,” the official added.

The directive, which was first posted on the social media handle of Hello Sarkar, said labour permits have been made mandatory for Indian nationals as well. But on Wednesday, the Labour Ministry issued a statement saying it hasn’t issued any new laws for Indian nationals in the country.

As the letter was widely reported on national publications, the ministry has also started an investigation into who issued the directive and how it ended up on the government’s social media account. Despite objections from Indian officials in Kathmandu, the letter was still up on Hello Sarkar’s Twitter and Facebook accounts as of Friday.

The circular has led to diplomatic friction between Kathmandu and New Delhi as Indian officials say it is against provisions of the Peace and Friendship Treaty. The bilateral agreement, which was signed in 1950, says that neither Nepali nationals working in India nor Indian nationals working in Nepali institutions need a work permit.

A senior Labour Ministry official said that they are investigating whether the notice has already been dispatched to labour and employment offices nationwide.  

“We have also assured everyone that nothing along the lines of what was in the directive has come into effect,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

On Thursday, Indian Ambassador to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri met with Prime Minister Oli to discuss the letter. Nepali officials privy to the conversation told the Post that Oli had informed Puri the directive was issued because of “a misunderstanding” and that the government was going to correct it. However, more than 24 hours since the meeting, there has been no clarification from the Ministry of Labour or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Puri also met with Bista, the labour minister, and Mahesh Dahal, the ministry’s secretary, to remind them that thousands of Indian nationals working in Nepal were not required to seek labour permits because of the 1950 treaty.

An official at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu said New Delhi is still awaiting an official--and public--response from the government despite assurances from the prime minister and Labour Ministry officials.

According to the latest World Bank Report, 600,000 Indian nationals are currently working in Nepal. Last year, Indian nationals sent $3 billion in remittance to India, making Nepal one of the top ten sources for remittance.


Published: 09-02-2019 07:00

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