NRN MEET Wake-Up Call

A regional conference of the non-resident Nepalis takes up the issues of Nepali workers in the Gulf. But will the government listen?<br><STRONG>SAROJ DAHAL</STRONG> in Dubai

Jan. 23, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. :04 No.-15 Jan. 21-2011 (Magh 07,2067)
It was a festive mood at the Crowne Plaza Dubai as nearly two hundred Non-resident Nepalis (NRN) delegates and Nepali officials gathered to discuss the problems being faced by Nepali migrant workers in the Middle East, among others.

“Collective Investment and Safe Migration” was the main theme of the three-day conference (Jan 14-16).

President of the Non-Resident Nepalese Association (NRNA), Devman Hirachan, said that existing laws posed obstacles to channelize collective investment from the Nepali diaspora. He also urged the government of Nepal to take steps to better manage the remittance entering into Nepal from the Gulf countries. 

Coordinator of the conference and Treasurer of the NRNA International Coordination Council (ICC), Rameshwar Shah, said if the government could create a conducive environment to utilise the skills and resources of the Nepali migrant workers, it could prove immensely useful in socio-economic transformation of Nepal.

Officials, too, sounded optimistic during the conference. “The (Nepal) government stands ready to collaborate with you. We know that not only money, NRNs posses knowledge and skills which Nepal needs. The onus is on you, NRNs, to contribute towards your motherland,” said Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada, governor of the Nepal Rastra Bank. He also assured that the government would remove legal hassles so as to facilitate investment by NRNs in Nepal.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala, too, urged the NRNs to invest in productive sectors in Nepal.

It is estimated that some three million Nepalese work abroad—over 700 Nepalese leaving the country every day. According to the Migration and Remittances Fact Book 2011 published by the World Bank, Nepal received 3.5 billion dollars in remittance in the year 2010.  Remittance constitutes nearly 23 percent of Nepal’s  GDP (nearly double to that of Bangladesh). More than half of total remittance that enters Nepal is generated by the Nepalese working in the Gulf countries. Nepal was ranked fifth among the remittance receiving countries last year.

“It is the duty of we NRNs to contribute towards making Nepal prosperous,” said Dr. Upendra Mahato, founder president and patron of the NRNA. Brushing aside concerns regarding protracted political instability in the country, Mahato insisted that there were risks to investment everywhere. “So, NRNs should be ready to invest in Nepal,” he added.
Minister for Labour, Mohammed Aftab Alam, assured that he will look into the problems being faced by Nepalese working abroad.

One such problem was that of safety and security of Nepali women working in the Gulf. Several incidences of Nepali women sexually mistreated in the Gulf countries by their employers have come to the fore.  Hundreds of Nepali workers die in Gulf countries every year due to poor safety standards and lack of awareness. But the government so far has done almost nothing to address these problems

The 12-point “Dubai Declaration” adopted by the conference called upon the Nepal government to bring out a comprehensive “Foreign Employment Policy” with a view to make foreign employment sector safe, dignified and managed. The conference also called upon Nepali missions abroad to work in close collaborations with local NRN Associations to protect and promote the interests of Nepali migrant workers.

The conference also called upon Nepali banking sector to develop a competitive and hassle-free banking services to migrant workers. 

While welcoming the government’s recent decision to provide citizenship to NRNs devoid of political rights, the conference called upon the government of Nepal to make provision of “Once a Nepali Always a Nepali.”

Interestingly, the term “dual citizenship” was missing in the declaration.
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