NEPAL: Ensure tapped water supply to Dalits of Duma in Mugu district

ISSUES: Right to food; inhuman and degrading treatment; hunger, starvation, corruption; impunity; rule of law

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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding chronic water shortage plaguing the lives of Dalit residents of Duma village in Mugu district of Nepal during a field visit undertaken together with colleagues from FIAN Nepal. In absence of tapper water supply to their village, they have to fetch their water from another village and are often subjected to caste-based discrimination from the so called upper caste residents of the village. The situation has remained unchanged since 2009 when the taps provided by a local organisation have went dysfunctional after a landslide.

CASE NARRATIVE:

Duma is largely a Dalit hamlet with 94 out of a total of 135 households belonging to the community. Just an hour’s trek away from Gamgadhi, the district headquarters of Mugu, the hamlet has been suffering from a serious water crisis for almost four years now and is dependent on the nearby hamlet of Karkibara for its water needs. Karkibara is a kilometer away and is largely populated by the traditional ‘upper caste’ Kshetris. There, the Duma Dalits often have to suffer caste discrimination and occasionally even physical attacks.

Most of the inhabitants of the village are very poor and landless with just a few of them being marginal farmers. Even they cannot produce anything beyond three months of supplies because of the rocky and barren nature of their lands and lack of any irrigation. Owing to these circumstances the village witnesses large-scale distress migration of entire families to different parts of India. The work largely includes menial labour in the construction industry and or as coolie/porters in hill states of India. Even that is not easy as the village is eight kilometers away from Talcha, the nearest airport that gives the only exit route but then, flying being very expensive is not really an option for most of them. Mugu is not connected through motorable roads and the only way out was through three days long arduous trek through the snowy mountains to Jumla, the nearest district connected by roads.

There are just 3 dhara (taps) in Duma and all of them have been dysfunctional for three years now. These taps source their water from what is referred as ‘mool’ (Nepali for origin, referring to the origin of the water), that is the water sources in hills. The villagers have to buy these dharas through a onetime payment. Being very poor, the villagers had no capacity to do so and finally a local Non Governmental Organisation bought the mool for them in 2009, put in a tank and then brought the pipeline to the village. Unfortunately, the system collapsed in a landslide after just a few months of being established and the local NGO could not help the villagers for the want of funds.

Those who do not migrate have to survive by working for daily wages nut there is hardly any work available. They work as porters carrying stones for house building and agricultural labour in the fields of the ‘upper castes’. The wages they receive is NPR 300 for the men and NPR 200 for the women. The only other work they get is carrying goods from Talcha airport but there they often get lathi charged and chased away by the police who have a nexus with the local loaders. Working as porters, however, makes the women suffer a great deal physically with many of them getting uterus problems because of having to carry their children while porting. The situation is much worse for the pregnant women. Unseen diseases mean death as the transportation to nearest the hospital takes a day.

They also work as wood cutters and in constructing houses in Gamgadhi. Even these jobs come to a complete stop in the months of July and August because of the heavy rains and in November and December because of heavy snow fall. The only way to survive these months is by borrowing money from lenders in Gamgadhi against promised labour when the work starts.

Earnings from erratic daily wage work cannot cover the expenses of buying food and the villagers often have to go hungry for the same reason despite of being entitled to ten kilograms of rice per family per season. The reasons behind this are manifold, often the NFC godown in Gamgadhi itself has no food, and even when it does prevalent corruption ensures that the food get siphoned off. There is a lot of money to be made in this corruption as the market rates of food grains and other subsidized items are many times over the NFC rates. For example, the rice selling for NPR 40-55 per kg sells for NPR 100 in the open market. Needless is to say that the corruption eats into whatever little savings they might have and makes them vulnerable to exploitation.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
Please write to the authorities mentioned below demanding immediate intervention for ensuring tapped water supply to Duma. You may also demand an inquiry into why she was not provided with ration card and benefit of other welfare schemes that she is entitled to.

To support this case, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

NEPAL: Ensure tapped water supply to Dalits of Duma in Mugu district
Name of the victims: 135 households of Duma,

Place of incident: Duma, Mugu.

I am writing to voice my deep concern regarding the hardships the residents of Duma are facing because of lack of tapped water supply to their village. Duma is largely a Dalit hamlet with 94 out of a total of 135 households belonging to the community. Just an hour’s trek away from Gamgadhi, the district headquarters of Mugu, the hamlet has been suffering from a serious water crisis for almost four years now and is dependent on the nearby hamlet of Karkibara for its water needs. Karkibara is a kilometer away and is largely populated by the traditional ‘upper caste’ Kshetris. There, the Duma Dalits often have to suffer caste discrimination and occasionally even physical attacks.

Most of the inhabitants of the village are very poor and landless with just a few of them being marginal farmers. Even they cannot produce anything beyond three months of supplies because of the rocky and barren nature of their lands and lack of any irrigation. Owing to these circumstances the village witnesses large-scale distress migration of entire families to different parts of India. The work largely includes menial labour in the construction industry and or as coolie/porters in hill states of India. Even that is not easy as the village is eight kilometers away from Talcha, the nearest airport that gives the only exit route but then, flying being very expensive is not really an option for most of them. Mugu is not connected through motorable roads and the only way out was through three days long arduous trek through the snowy mountains to Jumla, the nearest district connected by roads.

There are just 3 dhara (taps) in Duma and all of them have been dysfunctional for three years now. These taps source their water from what is referred as ‘mool’ (Nepali for origin, referring to the origin of the water), that is the water sources in hills. The villagers have to buy these dharas through a onetime payment. Being very poor, the villagers had no capacity to do so and finally a local Non Governmental Organisation bought the mool for them in 2009, put in a tank and then brought the pipeline to the village. Unfortunately, the system collapsed in a landslide after just a few months of being established and the local NGO could not help the villagers for the want of funds.

Those who do not migrate have to survive by working for daily wages nut there is hardly any work available. They work as porters carrying stones for house building and agricultural labour in the fields of the ‘upper castes’. The wages they receive is NPR 300 for the men and NPR 200 for the women. The only other work they get is carrying goods from Talcha airport but there they often get lathi charged and chased away by the police who have a nexus with the local loaders. Working as porters, however, makes the women suffer a great deal physically with many of them getting uterus problems because of having to carry their children while porting. The situation is much worse for the pregnant women. Unseen diseases mean death as the transportation to nearest the hospital takes a day.

They also work as wood cutters and in constructing houses in Gamgadhi. Even these jobs come to a complete stop in the months of July and August because of the heavy rains and in November and December because of heavy snow fall. The only way to survive these months is by borrowing money from lenders in Gamgadhi against promised labour when the work starts.

Earnings from erratic daily wage work cannot cover the expenses of buying food and the villagers often have to go hungry for the same reason despite of being entitled to ten kilograms of rice per family per season. The reasons behind this are manifold, often the NFC godown in Gamgadhi itself has no food, and even when it does prevalent corruption ensures that the food get siphoned off. There is a lot of money to be made in this corruption as the market rates of food grains and other subsidized items are many times over the NFC rates. For example, the rice selling for NPR 40-55 per kg sells for NPR 100 in the open market. Needless is to say that the corruption eats into whatever little savings they might have and makes them vulnerable to exploitation.

I therefore urge you to,

1. Instruct the district administration to provide tapped water supply to the village immediately, 2.Ensure that the charges of corruption in the Nepal Food Corporation are speedily investigated and the guilty are prosecuted.
3. Ensure that gender discrimination in wages is immediately stopped and men and women are paid the same wages,
4. Ensure that the steps are taken to protect the Dalits from caste discrimination and the perpetrators are prosecuted and punished,
5. Ensure that all families are given the rice and other food items they are entitled to and the food earmarked for them is not siphoned off to private profiteers.
6. Take measures to explore more livelihood opportunities in the area.
.

Sincerely,
_______

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Khil Raj Regmi
Chairman
Council of Minister
Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Minister of Nepal
Singh Darbar, Kathmandu
P.O. Box: 23312
NEPAL
Tel: +977 1 4211000
Fax: +977 1 4211086
Email: info@opmcm.gov.np

2. Mr. Madhav Prasad Ghimire
Home Minister of Nepal
Home Ministry
Singh Darbar, Kathmandu
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 42 11 232

3. Mr. Kedar Nath Upadhaya
Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Pulchowk, Lalitpur
NEPAL
Fax: +977 1 55 47973
Tel: +977 1 5010015
E-mail: complaints@nhrcnepal.org

4. Attorney General of Nepal
Office of Attorney General
Ramshah Path, Kathmandu
NEPAL
Tel: +977 1 4240210+977 1 4262548+977 1 4262394
Fax: +977 1 4262582 / 4218051
Email: info@attorneygeneraal.gov.np

5. Sheikh Chandtara
Chairperson
National Women CommissionBhadrakali Plaza, Kathmandu
NEPAL
Tel: +977-1- 4256701
Fax: +977-1-4250246
E-mail- info@nwc.gov.np
Thank you

 

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