Youth exodus to India leaves Bajura villages with ageing, ailing residents

Kamal Sarki, a 19-year-old man from Kadagaun village located in ward 1 of Khaptad Chhededaha Rural Municipality in Bajura district, has been working in New Delhi as a building security guard for more than four years. He came to the village last week and is planning to return this week.

“I work in Delhi and send money to my family. I recently came home to drop off my little sister, who was very sick. Employment opportunities are scarce here so most young people go to India to earn money,” said Sarki.

Kadagaun is a remote hilly settlement surrounded by natural beauty and vegetation, but sadly, it is nearly deserted, with only a few elderly people. There are 62 houses in the village, and more than 10 are empty and locked. The rest of the houses are occupied solely by the elderly.

The situation is similar in Thalbada village in the same ward of the rural municipality. Aju Rokaya, a 50-year-old local woman from Thalbada, said that there are some 60 houses in the village, but none of them have any youth because all have gone to different parts of India for work.

“Only the elderly live in the village because all the youths are in India for employment. And some have migrated from here in search of better prospects,” said Rokaya.

Rokaya is the mother of two sons and two daughters, and among them, three are married, except for her youngest son, who is working and studying in Dhangadhi, the provincial headquarters of Sudurpaschim Province in Kailali district.

“The daughters are settled in their homes, while my elder son, along with his wife and children, lives in Delhi. My husband and I remain in the village. Just like my children, every young person heads for India or elsewhere for employment, and most of them settle there permanently and come to the village only occasionally. Some have even taken their parents along with them,” Rokaya added.

In the same ward’s Jarmitola village, which adjoins Thalbada, there are around 65 families from the Damai, Kami, and Sarki communities. According to Jhima Nepali, a 70-year-old widow from Jarimtol, eleven families have already migrated from the village. The residents comprise mostly the elderly as most of the youth have gone to India for employment.

“I have four sons, and all of them are working in various parts of India. My husband died a few years ago due to old age, and I live alone. Most of the people from this village and nearby areas work in India, and when their children turn 13 or 14 years old, they also take them along. Like me, there are more than 20 single men and women living alone in old age,” said Nepali.

According to Nira Nepali, a female community health volunteer of Khaptad Chhededaha Rural Municipality, the dearth of job prospects and insufficient income compels the youth to head for Indian in search for employment opportunities.

“The health condition of elderly people in the village is poor, because there is nobody to take them to health facilities. Several times we have dead elderly people in their homes, after being left unattended for several days,” said Nira.

According to Bir Bahadur Rawal, the chairman of ward 1 of Khaptad Chhededaha Rural Municipality, there are 650 households in the ward, but almost none have young people as most of them have migrated to India for work.

“Due to a lack of income and employment opportunities in this remote area, retaining young people in the village has become virtually impossible. The condition is no different in other wards of the rural municipality,” said Rawal.

Rawal added that there are not enough young people in the village to handle cremations and funeral rites.

Prithvi Bam, a 64-year-old man from Kurpe in ward 2 of Khaptad Chhededaha Rural Municipality, is paralysed from the waist down and lives with his 60-year-old wife. Bam has two daughters and five sons, and all are married.

“All my sons are working in India along with their wives and children and never bother to visit us. My daughters visit and help us old people from time to time, but not my sons. Even if we die, I don't think they would even attend our funerals,” said Bam.

“I was also in India, working my whole life to support my family and give my children a better life. But now when I need them in my old age, they couldn't care less,” Bam added.

There are seven wards in Khaptad Chhededaha Rural Municipality. Dil Bahadur Rawat, the chairman of the rural municipality, said the situation is similar in all the villages and the exodus of youths to India has badly impacted all aspects of life.

“Several schools have closed due to dwindling numbers of school-age children, and some are on the brink of closure as villages are left with no students. Many people have taken their wives and children along with them to India, leaving their elderly parents and relatives behind,” said Rawat.

“In the 34 schools in the rural municipality, there are fewer than 200 students. Similarly, other areas such as healthcare, development, and agriculture, among others, have also felt the impact of the youth exodus,” Dil Bahadur added.

A study conducted by the Ministry of Social Development of Sudurpaschim Province two years ago said more than 266,000 people from the province go to India every year.

According to the report, most of those going to India are between the ages of 17 and 45. Of them, 81 percent are men and the rest women.

Most of the people in this province go to Mumbai, New Delhi, Punjab, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Shimla, and other places for work in India. Around 55 percent of them manage to earn and save between 10,000-15,000 Indian rupees.

The study also showed that 92 percent of the respondents said they use their earnings for household expenses; two percent use it for debt repayment; and four percent use it for adding assets and buying property. The number of people from the province living in India for more than three years is more than 14 percent, according to the ministry's report.

Published on: 26 March 2024 | The Kathmandu Post



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