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Dec 27, 2015- Tek Bahadur Gurung may no longer be Nepal s labour minister, but he

has left behind a legacy with his zero-cost migration policy , perhaps, for the wro
ng reasons. All that minister Gurung had to do was consult with all the concerne
d stakeholders manpower agencies, trade unions and foreign hiring companies among
others before making the migration policy public, but he seemed to be in a hurry,
with just three months left in office.
As per the new migration policy, migrant workers from Nepal will no longer be re
quired to bear the stinging cost of airfare and visa processing fees, but there
are wider implications. It will, among other things, enable countries like Bangl
adesh to seize Nepal s quota of employment opportunities in Malaysia and the Gulf
region. As a result, over 30 percent of Nepali workers will be jobless. The mini
ster, though, did not find this alarming.
Kumud Khanal, vice-president of the Nepal Association of Foreign Employment Agen
cies (NAFEA), was direct and precise on this matter: When Tek Bahadur got the new
s of his ministership, he transferred the shares of his manpower companies in hi
s son and other relatives name. Soon after, he entered into a deal with an Americ
an company, Flextronics, for manpower supply. He even managed to extract a sweet
deal free visa and tickets for his workers and it was all done underhand through on
e of his Bangladeshi agents, named Amin. It is suspected that it was only after
experiencing the benefits of the zero cost policy that he introduced the policy
in the country. He added, A few months back, he lambasted the Gulf countries for p
oor treatment of labourers because it served his interests. He hardly spoke on t
he subject prior to that because earlier he was reaping benefits.
Because the issue is related to the well-being of the workers, the role of the I
nternational Trade Union Confederation(IUTC) becomes relevant. It is a different
matter, though, that the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation
has maintained deafening silence, even after three Nepali trade unions are affi
liated to it and the Nepali workers, from whose pockets annual contribution goes
to the global body, suffer.
The local affiliates pay huge sums of money every year, but nothing comes back to
them. We are speaking with local union leaders to demand more from ITUC and if
they continue to show ignorance, we will even lodge a formal complaint with the
International Labour Organisation. Making sympathetic statements on the plight o
f Nepali workers, from thousands of miles away does not help. Least developed co
untries like ours should not be exploited, said Khanal.
Pushkar Acharya, Member of Parliament from the Nepali Congress and a trade union
veteran, believes it may not be completely true. When pressed on the specific i
ssue of whether the benefits reach the workers at the ground level, MP Pushkar A
charya did concede failure on the part of ITUC. I must admit that the workers are
not reaping any benefits out of our association with the confederation.
Khilanath Dahal, president of the ITUC-affiliate, Nepal Trade Union Congress, wa
s cautious in his opinion on the Brussels-based body: They send solidarity messag
es from time to time, but we need more than that.
Nepal has finally received a constitution, a new lady president, prime minister
and labour minister. But the lives of the Nepali migrant workers remain the same
. Will workers get a fresh lease of life? Only time will tell.
Koirala is associated with Nepali Congress

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