Mahesh Paudyal| A report recently claimed that the number of Nepali youthseligible for work in South Korea under EPS programme crossed the targeted number. The news was hailed by almost all the stakeholders, who took pride in the ‘achievement.’ They had reasons for the happiness and pride. But deep down the news, the paradoxes of our target-setting conventions lie bare. We set target not to provide job, but to send potential job-holders to countries abroad, most often in the Middle East. Shame on celebrators!
There are many people who question the very legitimacy of claims concerning sending workforce abroad. But there also are thinkers who discover glory in shipping the nation’s springoverseas. Whenever a minister of Nepal visits a country in the Middle East, Malaysia or Korea, the most cocksure news is about newer agreement to send more labors. The signatories take pride in the accord, Nepalese counterpart considering it a‘breakthrough’ in employment generation, and the foreigners indoing something quite ‘philanthropic’ in the name of God of charity, for a poor nation like Nepal. To justify the same, both render prodigal thank to globalization — the postmodern God.Few know, globalization is an insidious political game like dicing in a casino, and it should be played among people of equal footings. Game is a game, if Argentina plays with Spain. Game is not a game is Brazil plays with the senior boys of Serene Valley School in Kathmandu where I taught once. Globalization, in relation with Nepal, is nothing but a humorous paradox. It is as humorous as the ‘target’ this paper is evaluating.
The target is an example that shows how misguided our policies about the youths are. A nation, out of need or of honour, should never publicly set targets to send its manpower abroad. People go, and this cannot be barred. The administration should facilitate those who willingly choose to go abroad. But setting a target to send ‘this many’ number of promising youths to the deserts is not only ridiculous, but also embarrassing.
This ‘target’ has far-reaching psychological ramifications. It is a fatal target, which unveils at least two fallacies of a government. First, it creates suspicious about what the government might be planning to do in the development sector that will require a large number of domestic manpower. Second, it multiplies frustration on the part of the growing generations – particularly the teens – who will stop dreaming of job within the nation, and make themselves file up with others for visas abroad.
It is always psychologically wrong on the part of a government to prioritize issues of sending its citizen abroad as labours. It is granted that predicaments might sometimes impel, and people might go. But as guardian and as the insurer of future, nothing is as fatal as a government that sees no dream to hold its manpower within. How embarrassing is the fact that Nepal has become a source for ‘cheap’ labour? People may or may not express. The investigators may or may not discover. But the plight of our brethren working abroad is not much better than the Negroes working in American plantations before the American Civil War, or even after that. The analogy might sound queer, but facts are always different from official documentations.
There may be parameters to judge the magnitude of success, but there is none to measure the quality of happiness it caters.The success of any work half depends on the skill of the worker, and half on his soulful engagement with the chore. What part of a worker’s heart and soul – a voluntary and willful engagement –has entered the work makes a lot of difference. Of late many researches about the happiness of worker are being conducted, and those firms have proven to have better output whether the worker’s soul element has been woven.
By talking of the soul-element, I am not trying to philosophize the pragmatics of the labor market. What I mean to say is that those works that the labor soulfully owns generate better results, and those done under pressure generates anger and frustration to the detriment of both the worker, and the work. No place on earth is more entertaining and soulfully engaging to a worker that a workplace at home, near home, around home.When job becomes a job, it becomes a mechanical issue. When job becomes a way of life, it rocks.
To talk of Nepali workers working abroad, there is little room for contesting that they have always been good, honest, diligent and trustworthy. We must not ever forget that these qualifications they have earned abroad in desert where food, air, water and the entire environment is at odd with the chemistry of their lives. How well would they fare, had they been given similar opportunities at home?
The inference is plain. A Nepali boy tending to flocks of sheep and goats in Iraq throughout the year for a matter of around one lakh and fifty thousand rupees can work in any whether at any place in Nepal with an added advantage that his soul engages in the native soil. Only that the government should think our ensuring the security of his life before his own industry starts yielding fruits. Such workers, who can withstand third-degree scorch and tanning in the Middle East can turn the course of our rivers, build roads to the hinterlands, grow enough vegetables to stop import of cauliflower and cabbage from India.The money invested to buy an air-ticket to Abu Dhabi can build a fish pond in any locality. If the government can ensure a secure market for fish, the rewards can simply be surmised at.
These are minor example cases that claim to asset a single thing: stop young and hopeful builders of the nation from fleeing abroad. We must immediately stop taking pride in the ‘targets’ we set to send our brethren to deserts and brothels far way beyond the seas and mountains.
The issue is not as easy as it appears. Workforce will not stop feeling simple because you sell dreams. Symptoms of development should be shown. I am aware that given its limitations, the present government or any other government for that matter, can generate employment for all of its unemployed youths. A long-term policy seems to be in the offing. A blueprint for a decade with clearly set priorities for generating employment should come up today. Its seeds should be sown now. Construction of a road to Sinja might take ten years, but the work should be kicked off now. This shall generate a hope that such and such jobs might be possible after ten years. If not the grown-up, the growing youths will stop dreaming of the lands abroad for bread and butter. This is a very, very crucial psychological advantage for the nation. How can a land move ahead when its children have stopped planting their future dreams in its soil? Ask to any unemployed youth in Nepal today – educated and uneducated. I am sure, majority of them are nourishing some dreams to fly away to foreign countries for employment. When no dreams seem to be sprouting at home, they have no option but to gawk at the sky and dream of their flight one day.
This paper therefore proposes two things. First, a work map of ten years should be immediately charted, and symptoms of their implementation should be shown today. Let this charter make sure that the programs are of self-employment type. Agriculture and animal husbandry can the best areas of concentrate on. Second, while framing national policies about the youths, targets should be set not to numerate how many youths are to be shipped abroad this year. Rather, target should project how many new employment opportunities have been generated within the nation, and how the same can be accelerated at the quickest pace. All governments that have ruled and will be ruling should make it a matter of pride that Nepal is evolving into a self-reliant nation, and it is no longer a source of cheap market labor.