The Invisible Nepalis

  • Get News Alerts

One of my teachers in middle school used to say, “Everyone can’t become a doctor. We also need rickshaw pullers.” I didn’t think he was funny.

As I reflect on the opportunities available to most Nepalis, I realize that most often don’t have a choice but to end up becoming rickshaw drivers or laborers. They are people who don’t have access to resources to make their lives better. They remain invisible in our country.

Only 12-15 percent of Nepalis live in or around urban centers; 23 million live in rural areas. Most of them are poor. Traditional social hierarchy prevents them from climbing up the economic ladder. How people treat them, or which water pump they have access to, is determined by their caste and gender, rather than their character. And their economic interests are not advocated in Singh Durbar and mainstream media.

Inequality has risen in the last decade. Nepal is one of the most unequal societies in the the world. According to the latest Nepal living standard survey, its top 10 percent population takes up more than 40 percent income, while more than 25 percent of the population doesn’t even make Nrs 54 per day.

Those who believe that poverty is confined within certain geographic regions are misguided. It’s everywhere. But you have better odds of not being poor if you live in a certain region or if you were born to a certain caste.

Your per capita income as a hill Brahman is likely to be two times higher than a Madhesi Dalit's. You are 10 times more likely to live in poverty if you are in Mustang or Saptari than if you are in Kaski

These numbers paint a picture of persistent exclusion of those at the lower socio-economic ladder. Inequality is a powerful threat to our stability and progress.

It’s useful to keep in mind that exclusion isn’t the only cause of inequality in Nepal. We often believe that getting into a good school or securing a good job is only possible if you have social ties to people in powerful positions. I know a lot of people who simply believe that hard work would not improve their life prospects; they believe that one's chances are determined more by one's caste and ties with someone wealthy.

Economic mobility can change inequality and nepotism. It will happen when we eliminate barriers that prevent people at bottom of the economic ladder to fully participate in the economy.

Yet we barely talk about ways to empower people economically. Today the country is largely embroiled in discussion about ethnic representation. We know that all 125 caste/ethnicity in Nepal have hierarchy within themselves. Political representation alone will not lead to economic mobility of those at the bottom of each of these ethnicities. We must address economic inequality as we work to address political representation.

I believe whether you are a Manadhar or a Magar, you are looking for ways to earn a decent income. Whether you are born in Mahottari or Morang, you deserve a chance to succeed in life. As we continue to debate about ethnic representation in Nepal, we must ensure that there are no barriers to live a dignified life for every Nepali despite of his/her gender, ethnicity and religion.

@RaviNepal

Comments

Opinion

  • Effect of monetary policy on risk, stability and financial crises Effect of monetary policy on risk, stability and financial crises

    The crisis of 2008–09 has reignited a new interest in understanding money and credit fluctuations in the macro economy, and the crucial roles they could play in the amplification, propagation, and generation of shocks both in normal times and, even more so, in times of financial distress. This may reopen a number of fundamental fault lines in modern macroeconomic thinking between theories that treat the financial system as irrelevant, or, at least, not central to the understanding of economic outcomes, and those that reserve a central role for financial intermediation.

    Anup Paudel

  • Air pollution control measures for Kathmandu Valley Air pollution control measures for Kathmandu Valley

    According to the World Air Quality Index website, Air quality index of Ratnapark, Kathmandu was 158 on April 22 which is unhealthy. This means children and people with respiratory diseases should avoid outdoor exertion at this pollution level. If this quantity increases to more than 300, air quality level is considered as hazardous which means everyone should avoid outdoor exertion.

    Karna Dahal

Blog

  • The return trip The return trip

    It took us over five hours, drenched in rain, walking through treacherous ratomato sluggishly. It should not have taken more than two hours in a normal day. It was the cruellest irony that no sooner did we reach Panchkhal and sat at the Pipal Chautari to rest, than the bus we had left behind, arrived with people in the bus bursting with laughter on seeing us.

    Hemant Arjyal

  • Prospects for Nepali talents in the Diaspora Prospects for Nepali talents in the Diaspora

    When Indu, a Nepali American teen studying in Virginia, asked Panta whether she could inspire Nepali youngsters into music industry and convince their parents to consider Nepali music as a path to professionalism, the female heartthrob of Nepali music could not fully convince her.

    Sukriti Sharma

Readers Column

  • Traffic Police in Kathmandu

    As busy and hassling as the traffic system in Kathmandu is, the Traffic Police here have to handle an equally strenuous job. Over 1,400 traffic officers in and around the Kathmandu Valley battle against the pestering traffic and air pollution each day.

  • Menstrual taboo outdated

    I have seen my sisters and friends isolated and treated in discriminatory manner during their first menstruation cycle. They were not allowed to look at the sun, to touch water source, flower, fruits, any male family member, nor even hear their voice. The activist may claim the situation has changed and I do agree but still during every month my loved ones turns into untouchables beings.

Popular

Recommended

Suchanapati