The Nepal government has unofficially declared the exemption of loans that have been taken by generations of Haliyas (bonded labourers) in the far-western region of the country.
But due to the lack of proper laws, Haliya rehabilitation has become a challening issue.
The umbrella organization National Haliya Freedom Society Federation Dadheldhura says there are 150,000 Haliyas and even though the government has announced Haliya freedom, the work of rehabilitation is happening at snail pace.
After the government’s announcement of loan exemption of Haliyas, the landlords have put pressure on Haliyas to pay back their loans.
Haliyas have been badly affected both socially and morally through being physically abused and even barred from farming the land they were tilling. That is why those who are free from the landlords are at risk of not obtaining even the basic facilities like food and shelter.
According to Chakra BK, Programme Coordinator of National Haliya Freedom Society Federation the agreement that was made between Haliyas and the government has not been practiced yet.
There is no alternative to securing the livelihood of Haliya people and even though it is said that their loans have been exempted this is not practically accepted. Needless to say even the local bodies are ignoring the issue, and using excuses like, “nothing has come from upper bodies”.
“Our grandfathers are said to have taken some amount of loan from the landlords,” says Krishna BK of Pachnaalika of Doti district.
In return they had to work in their lands including farming and harvesting of crops. As they had to work in the lands they were let to make their own huts in the land of the landlords but in the end along with loan the area of land where they had built their huts was also added in the loan.
"As the loans got heavier on our grandfathers they were bound to work in their fields for their whole life, as they were not in the condition of paying back their debts to landlords. In that way my father worked as Haliya and now I’m working as one."
The landlords are claiming their so-called loans back now the Haliyas are free, and they often criticize Haliyas like Krishna asking why they want anything from the landlords, when the government and the NGOs are supporting the Haliyas.
But after being betrayed by both the landlords and the government, Krishna is left with only one question, “Now what should we do?”
However this is not just Krishna’s problem, but also the problem of the majority of Haliyas who have been freed from working on the land of landlords.
While the Haliya Freedom Revolution was taking place, the 2058 Act to free the Kamaiya bonded labourers was documented - through the same act, 450 Haliyas were made free from District Administration Office of Far Western Zone.
According to 2058 Act Article 16 no one can keep someone as bonded labourer and if that is committed the person will be fined from Rs 15000 to 25000.
And the bonded labourer would get double of what he is paid from the landlord on an everyday basis.
To support the governmental declaration of Haliya Freedom, the Haliya Freedom Society Federation with the support from donor agencies will be conducting “Empowerment of Free Haliya Programme” in some of the districts of Far Western Zone of the country.
Through this programme the federation has announced that the exact facts of Haliyas will be collected, the governmental declaration of Haliya Freedom will be promoted, they will create social awareness, promote the traditional skills of Haliyas and help them with legal advice.