20,000 Haliyas await another tragedy in Nepal after Kamaiyas

SIGDEL, K. R., The Kathmandu Post, Nepal, APRIL 20, 2010
The government’s “ad-hoc decision” in dealing with bonded labour is pushing some 20,000 Haliyas’ future to further uncertainty. As part of its new plan, the government is “liberating” these bonded tillers -- living in Mid- and Far-Western regions -- without making sure how and where they will be rehabilitated.
A similar blunder by the government ten years ago created a huge problem in the rehabilitation of about 30,000 Kamaiyas, as they were declared “free” all of a sudden without any arrangement for their rehabilitation. As a result, ten years down the line, the problem has not been solved, with around 6000 of them still homeless and not knowing how and where they will be rehabilitated.
What is common in both of these decisions is the government allowed the respective landlords to completely “shake their hands” from the task of rehabilitating the labourers, who severed for years in their bonded status.
The government outlawed Haliya on Sept. 6, 2008 but most of them are still working for their landlords in their usual ways.
“When the Kamaiya system was outlawed in 2000, it actually liberated the landlords, not the bonded labourers,” says Laxman Kumar Hamal, member secretary of the Freed Kamaiya Rehabilitation Execution Committee at the Ministry of Land Reform. “The same mistake is being repeated with the Haliyas.”
For instance, the form that is being used in collecting data on Haliyas does not require the landlords to put their signatures to express their commitment to help rehabilitate the tillers, which officials say is a serious mistake that will create problem in rehabilitation.
“In the original form prepared by the experts, each landlord was required to put his signature. It was changed later on after the local political leaders misinterpreted it as bowing down to the feudal lords,” says Hamal.
With 15,600 Haliyas filling up the forms as of date, the ministry is not sure how it is going to rehabilitated them.
“There is some confusion like those arising from the exclusion of landlords in the process. We will discuss how we can solve it after collecting data on the Haliyas,” said Joint Secretary Bishnu Nepal, who is overseeing the Haliya issue at MoPR.
Haliyas future of has become even more uncertain with the government facing serious problem, of late, in finding lands for rehabilitation of over 6,000 Kamaiyas in the same areas where another 20,000 Haliyas will have to be accommodated.
“We are already having serious problem in Kamaiya rehabilitation due to land crunch. I don’t know how another 20,000 Haliyas will be accommodated in the same area,” said Hamal.
The land crisis has further deepened with the government decision to increase the forest coverage from current 39.6 percent to 40 percent.
“The government cannot just shy away citing land crunch,” says Hari Shreepali, Maoist lawmaker and coordinator of the Haliya Data Collection Committee at MoPR. “The government must implement the revolutionary land reform to get lands for distribution and to end the feudalistic land ownership.”

Kamaiya families verified
Kamaiyas rehabilitated
Kamaiyas still left in lurch
Haliyas verified so far
Estimated Haliyas to be freed

(Originally published at: http://www.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2010/04/25/top-stories/Policy-spoke-in-Haliya-rehab-wheel/207593/)

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