Kathmandu: “There is no work. People are dying of hunger rather than disease,” stated Ganesh Bahadur Nepali, a resident of Ratna Park, crying and expressing his grief in front of the media. “The landlord forced me to leave the room as I could not pay the rent of Rs 4500.”
It has been three months since he started living and eating on the streets of Kalimati. Nepali is just one example of the many workers living on daily wages in the Kathmandu Valley who are slowly resorting to living on the streets because they are unable to find employment during the ongoing lockdown.
Actor Pal Shah, who has been feeding these people in Tundikhel, expressed his sorrow over the situation.
“I always want to bring a smile on my younger brother Ankit’s face every day,” Shah said while feeding a child on the streets. “In the same way, I also always want to see happiness on these people’s faces.”
The government’s lockdown, which began on March 24, is ongoing after a period of ease in between. Despite the government’s announcement to end the lockdown on July 21, it continued on a district level. As a result of the decision, many daily wage earners and street traders have been affected negatively.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has stated that no one should go hungry. However, the present reality is different.
In a meeting with private sector industrialists on Sunday, the Prime Minister said that the government was committed to preventing Nepali people from starving.
“Working and eating in Nepal is not a problem. Going abroad to do manual labor is no longer attractive. The youth should be active in the country,” said the Prime Minister.
But when the government executes a lockdown without any preparation, people who live on daily wages are hit the hardest. The government has not brought any relief packages for the daily wage workers, leaving them to starve and fend for themselves. Donors have been feeding those who have lost their jobs in Tundikhel. However, their efforts alone are not making much of a difference.
The problem becomes more severe as the people’s representatives of Kathmandu Valley are not interested in hungry workers seen on the streets. Kathmandu Metropolitan City Deputy Mayor Hariprabha Khadgi said that it was not a matter of her jurisdiction trying to avoid it. Deputy Mayor Khadgi also said that relief distributions are not working well as people with houses are also looking for relief.
Khadgi said that the Kathmandu Valley Municipal Forum is the concerned authority, so she cannot do anything. Additionally, she stated that the isolation of Kathmandu Metropolitan City Mayor Bidhya Sundar Shakya due to coronavirus has been a setback in trying to provide relief packages to such workers.
“The government’s working class has been hit hard. People with houses are even in a problem,” Khadgi said. “Hunger is more dangerous than the disease. I will take the necessary steps in this regard. The metropolis will bring some relief packages for people who live on daily wages.”