Nepal government has for the first time formally acknowledged India as a labour destination for Nepali workers. On January 23, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal announced that the government is planning to make it mandatory for Nepali workers heading for India to acquire labor permits.
Why was ‘labor permit’ not required?
Nepalis going to countries other than India for employment have been obtaining labor permits from Kathmandu-based Department of Foreign Employment. The government is now planning to allow the district administration offices concerned or the district administration offices in the districts bordering India to issue labor permits to India-bound Nepali workers.
If the government is able to implement the plan, two things will be clear – the number of Nepali migrant workers in India and their contribution in the Nepali economy. Similarly, Nepali workers will get several benefits including insurance coverage while at the same time, the government will earn revenue from the permits.
According to clauses 19 and 20 of the Foreign Employment Act, 2007 a Nepali national must obtain labor permit before heading for foreign employment. A permit is a must whether he/she is heading for foreign employment on his own or through a recruitment agency, according to the Act. But this provision has been applied only to the workers going to countries other than India.
The government had been maintaining that it was difficult to issue work permits to India-bound workers and maintain their records due to the open Nepal-India border. Similarly, India is also not in the government’s list of 108 countries officially recognized as possible employment destinations for Nepali workers.
Number of Nepali workers in India
There is no data on the number of Nepali workers in India. According to the Department of Foreign Employment, between the years 2063 BS and 2070 BS, only four Nepalis who went to India on their own informed the department about their movement. However no Nepali worker heading for India through recruitment agencies informed the government during this period.
Censuses conducted in both the countries in 2001 put the number below 600,000. Nepal’s census report said 12 percent of the Nepalis in India were female whereas the Indian census report said 55 percent of Nepali workers in India were female. This huge gap between the reports indicates the figures are not reliable.