NAWALPUR: Som Nath Mahato, the Manager of Piprahar Community Home Stay located at Devchulai Municipality-17, in Nawalparasi East is looking for a job.
Mahato has a home-stay in his own house on the banks of the Narayani River. He used to earn more than Rs 300,000 annually from the homestay.
However, after the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, the visitors stopped coming to his homestay. His source of earning and means of living is gone now.
The entrepreneurs closed their business after the government declared lockdown to curb and control coronavirus. The four-month-long lockdown was followed by the local level’s stricter prohibitory order.
After realizing that the lockdown and prohibitory orders made the livelihood of the common people almost unbearable, the restriction on movement and business was relaxed.
Yet, the infection continued to spread. Mahato, who is the manager of the Piprahar Community Homestay, found his business in crisis when he could not accommodate guests during the season.
Like Mahato, 22 families had run a homestay in Piprahar. All homestays remained shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic outbreak.
The cultural building of the homestay that was meant to entertain the visitors with cultural attractions of the place is padlocked for a long.
The homestay operators from across the country had gathered at Piprahar’s Cultural Building. The operators had agreed to take agro-tourism for the promotion of rural tourism.
As the government has assured to provide concessional interest loans in the agricultural sector, the homestay operators had planned to promote agro-tourism.
Botemajhi’s Homestay in crisis
The homestay run by the Botemajhi community of Devchuli-1, Bote Tol is also closed for several weeks.
The Botemajhi community that used to make their living through fishing had taken to the farming of late.
As many as 14 families of that community have been running Sisbar Botemajhi Community Homestay since February. There are 65 households in the Botemajhi community.
The Botes, who were earning by fishing and boating in the Narayani River, were eyeing hopefully at homestay expecting better livelihood from the tourism sector.
While they were preparing to raise funds for the homestay operation, the homestays got closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
They first welcomed a group of 30 people from Jhapa. Then came a group of 48 people from Pyuthan. The community was excitedly waiting for the group to come from Dang.
“We were expecting the guests from Dang, unfortunately, the lockdown enforced in the last week of March got everything shut abruptly,” Purna Maya Bote, the Secretary of the Homestay recalled.
Divya Madhyabarti Community
Forests had been instrumental in helping the homestay come into existence. The group provided 14 katthas to the homestay operators.
The Botes who lived by fishing in the Narayani River have now taken to commercial fish-keeping.
To get the homestay more organized and systematic, the Gandaki Province government has allocated Rs 1.5 million for this community.
Likewise, Devchuli Municipality has provided Rs 600,000 and Sisbar Madhyabarti Community Forest Rs 300,000. The community is constructing a cultural building for the systematic operation of the homestay. The Botemajhis are planning to show the local art and culture to the guests in homestays.
They are hopeful that they can revive when the coronavirus pandemic is over.
Worried at their livelihood at present, they have started working as wage-earners. Many of them have gone to the paddy field to work as wage-earners.
Troubled tourism sector
To the south of Nawalparasi-East, there is the Narayani river and across the river is the Chitwan National Park. The area around the park is known as the intermediate zone. As this area offers the sight of wildlife and the water safari, it has the potential of attracting lots of tourists.
Keeping it in view, many hotels and homestays have been set up along the riverside from Gaindakot to Triveni. Amaltari Community Home Stay and Rataul-Chilaha Community Homestay in Kawasoti Municipality and Nandapur Community Homestay of Madhyabindu Municipality is closed since the pandemic outbreak.
The homestay operators who used to be busy welcoming the visitors during major festivals like Dashain and Tihar are looking for alternative businesses as there are no visitors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
No foreign employment opportunities
A young man from Kawasoti-3 left home for foreign employment. When he got his swab tested at HAMS Hospital Kathmandu, he tested coronavirus positive.
He returned home as no person would be allowed to go abroad unless the person tested coronavirus negative. Locals informed the health office that he was being sent back for testing coronavirus positive. Only after the health office pulled out the report that he was diagnosed with coronavirus pandemic.
Like him, many youths are returning daily after testing coronavirus positive in Kathmandu. But the report does not reach the community on time. As a result, it is uncertain how far coronavirus infection has spread at the community level.
Lately, the reports of the people who test their swabs outside their district have not come. Keshav Chapagain, the Chief of District Health Office Nawalparasi East, informed that the office asks for the report as far as it knows about it; but, sometimes even the district health office does not get the report.
The pain of being confined at home
Nine out of 10 members in the family of Badri Sapkota of Gaindakot-2 tested coronavirus positive. Apart from the 14-year-old daughter, everyone in the family tested coronavirus positive. The house became an isolation center.
Some of the family members were employed and some were in their own business. The family stayed at home for several days after seeing the infection. They did not leave the house because of social responsibilities. They felt like they were in custody.
They also had a hard time buying daily necessities. If you need any goods, you have to call someone. Those who helped were equally terrified. Staying indoors also caused mental stress.
The Sapkota family had taken one of their neighbors to Bharatpur Hospital for treatment after being bitten by a snake. While assisting him, a member of the Sapkota family was diagnosed with the infection. After that, everyone in the family ranging from 6 to 62 years became infected.
The first member who got infected in the Sapkota family stayed in isolation at the Samudayik Prakritik Hospital set up in Devchuli-6. The other members sat in home isolation.
All at home isolation got rid of the virus by using hot water and home remedies as well as Ayurvedic medicines.
According to Badri Sapkota, they took simple foods and fruits that were low in fat, drank milk regularly and also had lemon-water. Not only these, but they also used basil leaves and gurjo (Giloy) regularly.
Prime Minister’s Employment Program only in name
Coronavirus pandemic has left the poor without a livelihood. Even the expected programs are also not effective. The short-lived employment programs of the government have failed to hold the youths from going abroad.
About 10 percent of youths of Kawasoti Municipality, the district headquarters of Nawalparasi East with a total population of 62,421, are in foreign employment.
According to Mukunda Sapkota, employment coordinator of the municipality, 605 people from Nawalparasi East have returned home from March 24 to July 25. Out of them some have lost their jobs and are looking for work.
535 people including 260 women have applied for a 100-day employment program under the Prime Minister’s Employment Program. The Prime Minister’s Employment Program is now in a state of indecision and confusion.
Prime Minister KP Oli led government had put forward the Prime Minister’s Employment Program as per its commitment in the election. Although few people of earthquake-affected districts got employment under it, in most of the districts the program is confined in receiving application.
Kawasoti Municipality consists of mix settlement of Chhetri, Hill-Brahmins, Magar, Tharu, Tamang, Newar, Muslim, Kami, Damai, Gurung, Doli, Thakuri, Sarki, Teli, Sanyasi, Dasnami, Musahar, Khatbania, Kumal, Kanu, Nunia, Marvani, Darai, Bhote, Badi, Rai etc.
After finding the daily wage earners were suffering from livelihood problems, the local levels offered some relief.
The families of the infected misbehaved
Sagar Pokhrel, a journalist from Kawasoti-2, Nawalparasi East was diagnosed with the infection. The sensation spread throughout the district after he was diagnosed with coronavirus. The local level and the district administration office imposed prohibitory orders in the area.
During contact tracing, some other journalists, businessmen, teachers and political party leaders were also found coronavirus. The family members of the infected people were also mistreated as the infection spread at the community level.
When Arjun Luitel tested coronavirus positive during contact tracing, his family was banished from society. Not only Luitel, but other journalists working on the radio were also mistreated as the infection spread at the community level.
Later, journalist Pokhrel led the campaign meant to counsel the people in home isolation.
Employees and People’s Representatives also infected
The infection has not stopped. Local-level employees and people’s representatives are also getting infected. People are more worried when they find the local government officials and staff responsible for managing the corona infection are infected.
After the employees themselves became infected, the service of the municipalities has also been affected. Worried at the spreading pandemic among the staff, four local levels of the district closed the service issuing a notice.
Recently, Chhatra Raj Poudel, the Mayor of Gaindakot Municipality, Chandra Bahadur Rana, the Mayor of Madhyabindu Municipality and Laxmi Devi Pandey, the Mayor of Hupsekot Rural Municipality tested coronavirus positive. All three local levels shut down all services except the emergency ones after the Mayors got infected. Binaya Triveni Municipality also stopped similar services.
Local levels in dilemma
All local structures are affected adversely due to the pandemic. The four-month-long lockdown and the prohibitory order that ensued have made people’s life more difficult and the pandemic has also gone worse.
Finding the district level disaster management committee less effective to curb and control the pandemic, the task of arrangement has come to the shoulders of the local levels.
The local levels are also waiting for the support of the federal and provincial governments.
“We are not able to work on the plans set before,” Purna Kumar Shreshta, the Mayor of Devchuli Municipality told us, “as the money meant for other projects is also used for coronavirus pandemic, the plans are likely to come to a total standstill.”
Shrestha complained that the municipality has not received Rs 1 million since the lockdown was enforced.
The Mayors say that the local levels alone cannot handle the pandemic induced crisis.
Although the local levels have been claiming that their focus is on coronavirus pandemic control, the issue of making isolation centers is merely an agenda in discussion; it has never been worked upon.
Mayor Shrestha confesses that they have not been able to many things as the management of the corona infected people has been a tough trial for them.
However, he added that despite the pandemic crisis, now there is no restriction on carrying out the business now.
Local-level leaders say that they have not got time to discuss and plan for the long term effects of the ongoing pandemic.
Thus, coronavirus has expanded its trap in all directions adversely affecting all sectors.