Print Edition - 2014-04-27  |  Free the Words

Money matters

  • Remittance has changed the way people live, think and interact in a village in Sarlahi
Money matters

Apr 26, 2014-

Over the last decade, remittance has played a vital role in improving the living standards of the people in Musaharniya village of Deuri Bharuwa Village Development Committee (VDC) in Saptari. The increase in land size, easy access to modern technologies, improved houses and toilets, consumption of nutritious foods and change in dressing habits are some of the visible indicators that are directly linked with the inflow remittance to this area. Comparatively, households that do not receive remittances are poorer than those that do.

Most people in the area belong to marginalised groups and 54 out of 86 households in Ward 5 of Deuri Bharuwa VDC have a member who is abroad for work. Of these 54 households, 48 percent belong to the Muslim community, followed by members of the Dhanuk, Chamar, Kathbaniya and Yadav community respectively.  Unemployment and the lack of opportunities and resources (mainly land) are the major factors behind labour migration.

A different life

All the remittance-receiving households have land now. Twenty-two percent of these households also have toilet facilities and ride motorcycles. Most  own a television as well. People now use various models of mobiles to stay in touch with their relatives abroad.  And these new gadgets are gradually changing the way people interact. Mobile communication, in particular, has helped women get rid of hesitation while talking to one another.  Remittance has also changed the way people live. Over 60 percent of the households now have tinned-roofs over their heads and six percent own cemented houses. Ten years ago, all the houses used to be made of mud. Consumption of readymade goods

has also increased considerably. Previously, people could not afford to change their clothes more than twice a year. They can now. In addition, fruits, chicken and alcohol which were rarely consumed have now become common diet.

The relation between the marginalised and the traditional upper caste/landlord class also seems to have changed. People from the marginalised communities who were earlier forced to obey the orders of the privileged groups have an option not to. The traditionally agrarian based client-patron system has now been completely abolished as people who were traditionally poor and were dependent on the rich for livelihood now command resources themselves. There has been a significant change in caste dynamics too. Dalits, Brahmins and men of other communities in the village can now be seen playing cards together and collecting water from the same source.

A Dalit sculptor, Mohan Harijan has been making statues of the gods and goddesses for Dashami—in Bisahariya village close to Musaharniya—since the for the past five years. And the villagers do not have a problem with it.  Such instances show that limited and narrow caste relationships are being extended and the society is heading toward inclusion and acculturation. Women have also been seen a change in their roles as they now head households in the absence of men.

Seeking space

The rise in income due to remittance has also increased the acceptance of marginalised people in the social as well political sphere. They are now invited to attend social gatherings, ceremonies and development activities unlike in the past. As a result they have begun to demand their rights and seek roles in local politics as well as development activities. So political parties have also begun to ensure to inclusion of members of different sections of society. However, the elite and powerful social groups still hold on the top positions of the parties. The few marginalised people who are now involved in party-politics only occupy lower positions. Nandi Ram is one of them. He has been active at the Ward level for over two decades but he is yet to enter into VDC-level politics.

Caste still matters in local level-politics as high caste groups continue to dominate village as well as district level politics. Nonetheless, there has been a gradual transfer of political leadership from traditional upper caste men and landlords to the masses. The rise in remittances and the resultant change in the economic situation of the marginalised groups has increased their level of confidence as they now seek a stake in issues of their concern.

Sustainable ways   

In spite of the enormous positive impacts due to remittance, migrant workers have their share of dilemmas and grievances about foreign employment. On talking to them, most expressed worry about their future after returning home. This clearly questions the sustainability of foreign employment and highlights the need to find alternatives to it. A significant portion of remittances is used for daily consumption, which seems instinctive as most families receiving it belong to the lower class and their first priority is to fulfil their primary and basic needs. But the question remains, how can remittance be channelled to productive sectors so that remittance recipient households are not entirely dependent on it.  

As of April, 2014 remittance is equivalent to 25 percent of the total GDP of total. Youths work under terrible conditions in the desert to send money back home. The government must encourage workers abroad to invest in productive fields by providing financial and technical support to do so. For instance, they can be encouraged to invest in the agricultural sector by providing them with cheaper loans and financial support for agricultural implements. The government can also look into ways to channel the money to develop the village itself as it severly lacks infrastructure. There is a need to help migrants invest their hard earned money in the Gulf rather than spend all of it away in immediate consumption.

Chaudhary is the author of Tarai/ Madhesh of Nepal and Nepalko Madhesi Samaj

Published: 27-04-2014 09:16

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