Settlement for freed bonded labourers' turns ghost town

Doti, Sept 15 : Bateyokhhar in Purbachauki Rural Municipality-2 can be reached from Silgadi, the district headquarters of Doti district, in a mere half-hour drive. While travelling through the road, one can witness an abandoned settlement in Bateyokhhar. For outsiders, it might give the impression that the entire village evacuated due to a major disaster. However, the story behind this deserted settlement is different.

This settlement was built as a part of the Freed Haliya Rehabilitation Programme to provide housing for 18 freed Haliya (bonded labour) families.

However, the settlement remains in a state of ruin, never having fulfilled its original purpose of housing the intended families.

According to freed Haliya leaders, the houses originally built for their housing have fallen into disrepair due to the actions of certain leaders of Freed Haliya Movement and government employees, who acquired land and built houses in the location that is not unsuitable for settlement.

Gorakh Bahadur Sarki, an activist of Freed Haliya Mukti Movement, said, “That location is not suitable for human settlement.

But in the game of commission, they trapped innocent Haliyas and built the settlement in this location."

The government had allocated Rs.9.4 million in the fiscal year 2017-18, for the construction of a model settlement for freed Haliyas in Doti district.

The procedure for providing grants related to land purchase, registration, house construction and repair for freed Haliyas stated that land acquired for the settlement should be near essential infrastructure such as schools, drinking water sources, and electricity.

According Haliya leaders, this problem emerged when the settlement was set up in forest area, where there is no access to essential amenities such as drinking water, electricity, or schools, with the primary motive of financial gain.

Many freed Haliyas have claimed that non-Haliyas, in collaboration with employees of the land revenue office, responsible for rehabilitation and land acquisition for the construction of model settlements for ‘A’ category of freed Haliyas (those without land), are involved in this wrongdoing.

In 2075 B.S, land was acquired for the construction of a model settlement for 18 families, and buildings were subsequently constructed. Regrettably, the houses within the model settlement proved unsuitable for habitation.

All 18 houses, which used to look like goat sheds, have crumbled without a single person ever having lived in them, not even for a day.

Despite the government's investment of Rs. 525,000 per family for the construction of the model settlement, some families continue to live in their old houses, while the majority has migrated to Kailali.

But surprisingly, the local government lacks any official information regarding the settlement.

Chairman of Purbachowki Rural Municipality, Ram Prasad Upadhyay, said, “I have seen the condition of the settlement but the rural municipality has not received any official information.”

So far, 1,153 freed Haliyas have been rehabilitated in the district.

Head of the District Land Revenue Office Doti, Prem Bahadur Majhi, said that although land has been purchased and houses were built under the Freed Haliya Rehabilitation Programme in various places of the district but the office doesn’t have much information about this particular settlement.

Published on: 15 September 2023 | The Rising Nepal


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