Transformation of Madhesh

July 3, 2007 at 4:58 pm 1 comment

Transformation of Madhesh

Transformation of Madhesh Region from Agriculture Grain Store House to Foreign Labour Store House: A Ground Reality

Umesh Kumar Mandal


Central Department of Geography

Tribhuvan University, kirtipur

E-mail: umesh_jee

Madhesh Region occupied 49 % of total cultivable land within the small geographical extent (17%) considerably seen high as compared to Hill (40%) and Mountain (11%) which occupies 67% and 20 % of total geographical area respectively. Even though the role of Madhesh economy has been dominant in share of providing national GDP, people employment and agro-based industries, Madhesh Development in Nepal has been suppressed intentionally by planners, policy makers, rulers as well as political party leaders since ancient time. Consequently Nepal where agriculture as the backbone of economy, was food surplus country till 1970’s but now it has been a food deficit and its share to national GDP is also declining. In Madhesh where more cultivated land is found, 30.8 % households don’t have own land for cultivation and this figure shows remarkably high as compared to hill(20.6%) , high mountain(7.5 %) and the country as whole(24.4 %). Since ancient time, Madhesh was known as source area of food grain production for the deficit areas of the country while there was less population and more resources because of no migration from hill to terai. But the scenario has been changed with the time and space and it has been suffering not only from vicious environmental problems such as flood hazard, desertification of agriculture land, drought, population pressure, decreasing agricultural productivity, settlement fire etc but also from the diplomacy and strategy of existing governments of different political parties that they didn’t pay in the past and still not paying the positive attention for the proper utilization and management of natural and human resources in Madhesh Region i.e. Agriculture and Madheshi Youth and their rational involvement and participation in main stream of national development.

The major challenges for the Madhesh region is that there is rapid population growth due to migration in one side and the productivity of agriculture sector has been drastically decreased due to natural disasters such as flood and soil erosion , shrinking of fertile lack and particularly due to lack of proper agricultural policy and strategy on the other side. It is evident from the fact that population in Madhesh Region has been increased 4.3 times during the 1952/54-2001 considerably high, as compared to 2.8 times of the country’s total population as whole during the same period due to migration from the economically depressed highlands to the low lands as a spatial adjustment between population and resource. These two emerging situations have created the excess demographic pressure on agriculture and then Madheshi unemployment problem because agriculture is alone sectoring that absorbs the excess Madheshi youth. It is nationally well known fact that there is very little chance for the Madheshi in the inclusion of government civil services, military army, public administration and judiciary and national legislature. It is not because of the incapability of Madheshi but because of the vested interest of hill diplomats, elite and politicians occasionally made the statement regarding the incapable of Madheshi in international public media also. Madhesh is also seen to be excluded in the participatory representation in various levels of decisions for the formulation of policy, program and strategy of their own agriculture development in Madhesh Region. The input and infrastructure facilities deficit agriculture also does not have carrying capacity for providing increasing human choices and desire for food, fiber and fuel for the pro-poor and poor people living in Madhesh region.

For the ever growing population comparatively more in comparison to remaining ecological regions: Hill and Mountain, there is no alternative besides going aboard for the employment as an international labour force in different gulf countries. Madheshi in Madhesh are forced to spend their productive and constructive lives in unsafe place with various problems of overseas countries for their poor families who are facing starvation, health problem, social exclusion in their native place i.e. Madhesh, because the government has not been conducting any projects and programmes of generating employment in non-agriculture and off-farm sector and modernization and diversification of agriculture sector by constructing hard and soft infrastructures and brining them into the main stream of national development. As per the international labour migration concern, it has been mentioned that Nepal establishes its status as a labour sending country in the 21st century and Madhesh region supports this reality

Development planners and policy makers are not much aware of the rural livelihood strategies of Madhesh population, their prominent characteristics and spatial variation of labour migration trend even though it covers half of total country’s population in narrow belt of spatial extent. For the understanding of these striking issues of Madhesh Region, an empirical research has been carried out by the writer himself in some of areas of the Madhesh region and the fact found that 30 percent to 70 percent out of the total households in the research areas of Madhesh Region have been found as the foreign labour migrants’ households and from these households 1 to 4 family members particularly youth have been migrated to foreign countries such as Malaysia, Dubai, Qatar, Jordon, Kuwait and India etc for solving their hands to mouth problems of dependent family in native origin. Such labour migrants and their family are extremely exploited by the manpower and the informal financial intuitions by taking the high annual interest rate ranging from 25 percent to 60 percent for the foreign labour migration loan. The poor migrant households are compelled to take the loan from them at high interest rate due to unavailability of loan from government financial set up such as and bank. Foreign labour migration requires more than one hundred thousand that has to be paid to the agents and then manpower company in Kathamandu. Migrants’ households and migrants themselves reported during the field survey that even though three years work agreement was made earlier before going aboard but due to fail in medical re-check, sudden close of company without pre-information to Nepalese manpower and then Manpower to labour, low salary than agreed contracted and risk and painful work, they had to return back their own place against their bright hopes and wishes kept at the time of going aboard.

Dependent migrant’s family are themselves realizing the fact that even though there is no much upliftment in socio-economic standard of lives in sustainable way, but they are getting remittance for solving some of the food problems and sending their children to school and long standing suffered patients to the hospital. One of the remarkable facts has been noticed that the foreign labour migrants who has to return back before completing three years from foreign working place within the two to twelve months, they have to become landless from land and homeless from the home because of submitting all foreign amount earned as the principal and its heavy interest to the money lender. It has been reported that the manpower who demanded more than one hundred thousand from labour, has the job responsibility only to sending the labours from the international airport, Tribhuvan Airport rather than fulfilling the agreements made earlier for the industries and factory in aboard. The foreign manpower and factories are having their own rules and regulations related to labour salary, facilities different from the agreed contracted in Nepal. Such manpower and companies exploit the Nepalese labour in monthly salary, overtime, accommodation, medical insurance and plane fare.

Madhesh as Grain store house that was the earlier thought of hill planning experts since early stage of greater Nepal formation as one of their national agenda, has been gradually converting into the labour store house for the foreign manpower companies and countries. Active and productive Madheshi Youth have been spending their bright full lives in foreign soil, people and painful works due to the uncertainty of agricultural production in their native place and Madheshi unemployment problem in this region that have been resulted from the unplanned agriculture development and basically from monopolistic thought of hill dominated policy makers and political parties towards the Madhesh Development. This fact, we all have to understand and should be taken as striking challenge particularly for the three-year interim planners.

Madhesi Youths are bound to spend their productive lives in foreign countries, even though the Madhesh region having the fertile land is capable to support the food grain to all Nepalese citizens. It is result of discriminated thought and exploited policy with regard to support the production hardware and software facilities and infrastructures and agriculture development policy interventions for Madhesh. Agriculture in Madhesh as a lifeline of the country, the present collaborative government has to formulate madhesh and production friendly policy and strategy and their successful strong implementation of rules, regulations and acts against the geo-political exploiter of Madhesh Region. At last it is strongly emphasized the necessity of green revolution on Madhesh agriculture and livestock sector for the optimum management of human and natural resources of Madhesh Region for the substantial reduction of existing ongoing haphazard labor migration to abroad.

The End



Entry filed under: Articles.

The price of radicalism The unrepentant state

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. SB Pradhan  |  July 4, 2007 at 5:00 am

    A truly informative picture of Madeshi yoth. From the experience of implementing some small scale income generation projects in the past in janakpur area, I think the author could also have delved a bit more on the issues of labour exploitation and social dsicrimination within the society of Madhesh; and invisible role of multilateral agencies in limiting the productivity and market competitiveness of products of Madhesh.

    For example, during my work in Janakpur, I have met couple of influential people in Janakpur whose beliefs still reinforce the social discrimination and exploitation of dalits, the landless, the uneducated mass. They have very little choice other than working on exploitative labour relations or to migrate seasonally to India or for longer period to other countries.

    I have also met some NGO organisation leaders in Jaleswor who seem to be helpless in front of the age-old system of exorbitant interest rates charged on loans. More surprising is some of them were lending money in such exorbitant rates.

    My intentions are however not to picture a negative image of the Madheshi society however. All my intentions are only to draw attention to the exploitative practices existing in the Madheshi societies, as in my society.

    Another element that has negative impact in boosting agricultural productivity and competitiveness is the conditions attached by the multilateral agencies in Nepal. For example, I have heard several times in meetings in Kathmandu where multilateral agency ADB strongly opposing subsidy to the agricultural inputs. They keep dumb about the same subsidies that is widely available to farmers in India. This has eroded farmers motivation and competitiveness and has an negative impact on the agriculture sector as a whole.

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