Nepali workers top Tibetans’ wantlist

- Roshan Sedhai, Lhasa,
Nepali workers top Tibetans’ wantlist

Aug 3, 2015-

Tuk Bahadur Gurung had to make quite an effort to convince his family before taking up a job in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). 

When Gurung arrived in Lhasa for the first time in 2006, almost everyone he knew was going to the Gulf and Malaysia. Gurung himself was unsure if he had made the right decision by taking up the job in a hotel here.   

Sitting at the lobby of Brahmaputra Grand Hotel, a heritage hotel where he is one of the managers, Gurung recalled how that one “odd decision” changed his life, for good. Having put in hard work with determination to excel for over nine years, Gurung who heads the continental kitchen department of the heritage hotel could hardly hold back his smile today.

Gurung who hails from a humble root in Lamjung draws more than Rs100,000 a month. But there’s more to it, he insists. “It’s not just about money. I am in love with friendly work environment and Lhasa’s great climate,” he said. And he persuaded his son Ramesh, a fresh plus two graduate, to join the hotel three months ago.

“My son is earning around Rs 45,000 a month as a waiter in the hotel. But he could earn much more as he gains experience and learns Chinese language,” said Gurung.

The father-son duo is among hundreds of Nepali migrants working in Tibet’s “booming” hospitality and tourism sector. Brahmaputra Hotel itself currently employs seven Nepali staffers. The hotel once had 18 Nepalis on the payroll a few years ago, but most of them had to return Nepal after failing to renew the visa.  

An estimated 2,000 Nepalis are currently working in various cities in Tibet, including Lhasa, Ninchi and Shigatse. And Nepali migrants say there is a huge demand for Nepali workers in Tibet as they are hard working and relatively cheaper to hire.

“Tibet has witnessed a sharp rise in foreign visitors. And employers here are always in the lookout for those who could speak English and make continental dishes,” said Sudarshan Adhikari, another Nepali migrant plying his trade in Tibet.

Tibet received a record 3.15 million air passengers in 2014. Tourism accounts for more than 20 percent of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to the official record. TAR officials say the Chinese government is working to bring in more international tourists, including pilgrims from India.    

“The central government is investing a lot in infrastructure and development to promote Tibet as a tourist destination in China and across the globe,” said an official of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) TAR committee.

Adhikari, who had previously worked in Malaysia, said besides better working conditions, Tibet has been a big draw for migrant workers due to other factors, including low travel cost, suitable climate and cultural affinity with Tibetan people.

It takes one and a half day journey by bus from Khasa, a Chinese town bordering Nepal, to reach Lhasa.Unlike Nepali workers in the Gulf, those working in Lhasa can return home every year during winter as hotels are closed due to heavy snow.   

Despite vast potential for jobs, Nepalis working in Tibet are increasingly worried about the Chinese government tightening its visa regime for foreign job seekers. “A few years back, I had to abruptly leave the job after my work visa expired. I had to wait several years before being granted another visa. It’s getting really difficult for Nepalis to enter Tibet these days,” said Adhikari, who returned to work in Tibet a few months ago.

Jinmei Wangcuo, director of TAR Information Office, said he was unaware of the visa problem but emphasised on the people-to-people connectivity between the two countries. 

“The central government looks after the visa policy,” said Wangcuo, denying to make any further comment on the matter. However, many senior officials including Wu Yinggjie, first deputy secretary at the TAR Committee, said that there have been efforts to increase connectivity between Nepal and Tibet.

Gurung said it would be much easier to get visa if Nepal’s Foreign Ministry certifies the hotel training certificate.

“But they no longer certify the documents nowadays. The government should take diplomatic steps to ease the visa regime for workers like us and accredit the training certificate,” said Gurung.

Published: 04-08-2015 08:32

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