Stranded Nepalis question government’s apathy towards their plight

Gujarat government has issued orders to its state administration to arrange the repatriation of over 20,000 stranded Nepali migrant workers. 

The move follows the Indian Ministry of External Affairs’ instruction to the state government to coordinate with the Nepali Embassy in Delhi to allow the stranded Nepalis to return home. The Gujarat-based Nepali Culture Council had earlier written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting for safe transit of stranded Nepalis from the state to their home villages in Nepal.

According to the council, there are around nine hundred thousand Nepalis in Gujarat. More than half of them work at hotels, restaurants and construction sites across this western Indian state.

Daily wagers are the ones who have been the hardest hit since the country imposed a lockdown on March 25. With the number of infections rising by the day, the lockdown has been extended to May 17.

“They are without food and shelter. They don’t have means to return home,” said Hari Prasad Pandey, president of the Nepali Culture Council of Gujarat. “For a while, we fed many Nepalis at our own expense, and the local parliamentarians also helped. But sadly, our own embassy would not listen to us.”

After a number of phone calls on the Nepali Embassy’s hotline went unanswered, Pandey continued, “we finally established contact with Ambassador Nilambar Acharya. But he remained conspicuously silent on any such assistance.”

According to him, out of the nearly nine hundred thousand Nepalis scattered across Gujarat, a process has been started in major cities such as Ahmedabad, Bharuch, Surat and Vadodara to repatriate about 20,000 Nepali daily wagers.

“The state assembly has listened to us. The central government (Ministry of External Affairs) has sent a letter to the state government to allow Nepalis to return home,” Pandey said. “But our government remains mum on this matter. The embassy asks us to remain stay-put. How will these Nepalis return now?”

While the India’s central government was engaged in correspondence with the state governments over ways to repatriate the stranded Nepalis, the embassy issued a notice telling the Nepalis they should not try to go to Nepal “as the border is closed.”

The embassy letter reads, “Stay safe, wherever you are!”

India’s central and state governments have announced relief packages for the needy natives. As well as depositing money into workers’ bank accounts, many state governments have also provided them with enough food and rations for at least three months.

However, Nepali migrants have to fend for themselves as they “don’t qualify” for such relief. The state governments are distributing relief packages to only those with a ration card.

More Nepalis are believed to have been stranded, further south in Goa.

Chief Minister of Goa Pramod Sawant on Monday said that the central government would come out with a standard operating procedure to evacuate Nepali migrants from the state.

Most of them are employed at beach shacks, fast food joints and restaurants. Sawant said that 80,000 migrants have registered so far to leave the state.

“Nepali migrants residing in Goa are considered as foreign nationals,” The Times of India quoted Sawant as saying, and that the central government would announce the SOP within two days with regards to their return.

The central government has arranged for two special trains to ferry stranded migrants, students, pilgrims and tourists, in Goa, to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, with point-to-point service, Indian media reported. 

Desperate to return to their native villages, many Nepali migrants have trekked for days only to be stopped at the border.

Although the exact details on Nepali migrants in India remain sketchy, rough estimates put their number at more than two million.

One thought on “Stranded Nepalis question government’s apathy towards their plight

  1. Well written, bold and informative. It’s high the authorities do something for poor, helpless migrant workers.

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