International Workers' Day: Daily wagers struggling to survive


Chitwan: Bishnu BK, who works at a transportation job, has fallen on hard times to support himself and his family with the limited money he earned as a daily wager. He is struggling to support his four-member family through the wages he got from his job. "Set aside wearing good cloths and eating delicious food, I am running from pillar to post to pay back the debts I took during COVID-19," said BK, who has rented a one-room apartment in Bharatpur.    
He barely earned Rs 15,000 on average in a month. He got Rs 500 in allowance daily and Rs 3,000 in salary monthly. But when transportation gets to a halt, he is left with no option, but with empty handed, adding to his problems. "What else can I do with only Rs 15,000 a month? There are many mouths to feed," he asked.     
Similarly is the story of a bus driver's helper, Keshab Kafle, who is also struggling to support himself and his family. He works for a passenger bus (Na 6 Kha 9561) that plies in Bharatpur. "I can get food when transportation opens. Otherwise, I will have empty stomach. I am entirely dependent on allowances," he shared.    
Bharatpur-based Rudra Prasad Timilsina who struggles to find his survival needs by operating e-rickshaw in the town complains that his earning is becoming insufficient to even manage a two square meal due to increasing market prices.    
 As he said he could earn around Rs 2,000 each day. “But now the income shrinks to one digit. It is hardly around Rs 700 a day.”    
 The rent of a room has jumped to Rs. 3,500. Some few years ago, it would be available at Rs 1,500. “Life is becoming economically unmanageable.” Ram Jatan Ram of Chaubishkothi who is a cobbler by profession shared that he sometimes has to borrow to even manage a two square meal. I arrived here from Devtal of Bara a decade ago as a cobbler and would earn up to Rs 700 a day.    
The situation has changed. If any of the members in his family fall sick, he has no way to seeking loans to afford treatment.    
 Govinda Bhattarai who was seen pulling the fruit cart at Hospital Road of Bharatpur metropolis-10 said business these days was not encouraging. As he said, the metropolis, traffic police and locality development committees are not friendly to street vendors like him as he faces frequent intervention from them. His income is just Rs 500-700 a day.    
Trade Union Congress Chitwan president Harihar Sapkota said the workers' present minimum pay is not enough for providing for a single person alone. "How can you feed your family with Rs 15,000 monthly pay," he questioned, adding that life has become hard with the skyrocketing market prices.    
Stating that the trend of giving leave without pay has increased when there's no work, Sapkota said the industries gave work for 15 days while giving 15 days' leave without pay. "The state policy itself is not worker-friendly," he complained.    
As he said, the labourers cannot make ends meet with income less than Rs 20,000.    
All Nepal Trade Union Federation (ANTUF) Chitwan president Yadumani Kandel reiterated that the workers should be paid according to their skills and capacity. "The remuneration given to the worker should be adequate for managing the family," he said.    
Saying that monthly Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 was needed for providing for a family, he pointed out that the labourers are financially hit hard also due to the exorbitant price hike. According to him, the trend of sub-contracting has affected the workers.    
General Federation of Nepal Trade Union (GEFONT) Bharatpur president Rudra Uprety also said the present remuneration was not enough for the worker to provide for the family. "It's impossible to manage the family expenses if the monthly income is less than Rs 20,000."    
Uprety demanded that provisions should be made so that the remuneration of the labourers is enough to manage the family. He added that the practice of giving leave without pay has made the labourers' life more difficult.    
All the trade union leaders were agreed that of late the sky-rocketing market price has made matters worse for the worker. They stressed on the need of increasing the wages and remuneration of workers commensurate with the price hike.