Cold wave in Tarai: Call it disaster

I originally wrote this for Republica.

I was born in Tarai and grew up with the cold there. I myself have had bitter experience of cold wave and also witnessed hardship of people during winter. I recalled the winter plight of people in the region earlier this month when I received a phone call from my parents.

“Son, winter is round the corner, so send warm clothes for family members,” said my mother.

During the conversation, I overheard someone urging my mother to give him a chance to talk to me. When my mother handed over the cell phone to him, he said, “If the cold wave does not claim me this winter, I could live another year too.” The elderly man’s answer reflected the impact of the cold wave in Tarai.

Winter is boon for those who can afford warmth, but it is bane for the poor and marginalized community. Children, pregnant women, elderly and disabled are among the hardest hit as temperature plunges.

Every year, dipping of mercury causes both human casualties and loss of property. This year’s winter has just set in since the beginning of December, and the cold wave has already claimed over dozens of lives in Tarai districts—Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahottari, Siraha and Saptari. Nine people from Rautahat district alone have succumbed to the cold. Most of the deceased across the Tarai region were elderly and children and also from the poor and needy communities. Living through winter is an ordeal for those families without warm clothes, blankets and heating facility. Such family members sleep on hay bed and sit around fire to beat the chill.

Inhabitants of Tarai suffer from common cold, pneumonia, fever and respiratory problems during the winter. Many patients affected by cold wave have thronged to the hospitals. The number of such patients visiting the hospitals is on the rise. Recently, increasing cold has added to the woes of thousands of people displaced by the Babai flood in Bardiya, one of Tarai districts. The doctors involved in a free health camp organized last Thursday in one of the affected areas out of 20 VDCs and Gulariya municipality, found that the flood-hit locals, who are already living a miserable life, are now suffering from various cold-related diseases.

Cold wave over the past three years has already claimed the lives of 46 people across 15 districts, mostly in Tarai region, as per the record of National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC), the department under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Many of the incidents remain unreported though.

Sharp fall in the temperature also affects education as schools remain closed in the districts. Due to poor visibility and heavy fogs domestic flights are cancelled and road accidents take place.

Cold waves have adversely affected agriculture. Production of winter crops and vegetables like wheat, potato and tomato has diminished. Deforestation in the region has surged as locals are reportedly chopping down trees at random for firewood required for bonfire to make themselves warm.

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Republica

Cold wave is an annual occurrence, putting lives of locals under threat every winter. Amid such scenario, it is not that authorities have just remained mute spectators but their efforts have failed to make any difference in the lives of the common people. Government authorities and kind-hearted social activists and organizations are currently providing warm clothes and blankets to affected and needy families in Tarai districts. District-based authorities including District Disaster Relief Committee (DDRC) has distributed firewood and made arrangement of furnace and bonfire at respective districts in order to protect locals from cold.

To prevent possible agricultural loss, district-based government agriculture facilities including District Agriculture Development Offices (DADO) could provide farmers required technical inputs. But above all, locals are not aware and conscious of basic ways to survive from cold wave. However, the authorities concerned, like in previous years, have repeatedly failed to educate them and they are yet to come up with proper strategies and preparedness plans to combat such problems.

Recently, the government has also made a decision to provide compensation of Rs 25,000 to each deceased family. But receiving the succor is not easy for the bereaved families as too much red tape and hassles are involved. Post-mortems are required to support claims of compensation and the families are often reluctant to bring their loved ones’ dead bodies for post-mortem.

Cold wave is not a natural phenomenon but the result of human activities, according to climate change experts. Adapting to the situation could positively address the impact on animal and plant lives. For instance, some of the crops that are affected due to severe cold should be planted in advance, according to agricultural experts.

Like other forms of natural disasters such as flood, fire and earthquake, authorities concerned should consider cold wave as one of the disasters and prepare contingency plans to minimize its adverse effects on human life and property. The government needs to allocate proper funds so that both the authorities and social organizations can raise greater awareness among the inhabitants of Tarai region and gather warm clothes, furnace and make other necessary arrangements to save them from excessive cold. Before the winter sets in, authorities should identify the target communities and effectively distribute the relief materials to them.

Student Interest

Voice of The People (The Kathmandu Post Daily, Oct 14, 2011)

It would be useful for educationists and government officials to go through the editorial which advocates reform in the education sector (“Everybody’s a genius,” October 11, Page 6). Reflecting on the school life of technology giant Steve Jobs, the editorial makes a plea for reform in the current education system which isn’t encouraging creativity. ….{Click me to view full post…..}

Plight of Street Children in Nepal

You might have seen children working and living in the roads and streets of Kathmandu valley. How did you feel when you have seen them? Have you ever felt sympathy on them? Have you ever thought about their life? If not, you might have certainly heard the very popular word Khate? Khate is a Nepali term used for addressing street children and youths.
Street children refer to children who live and work on the streets of a city. They are basically deprived of family care and protection. Most children on the streets are between the ages of about 5 and 17 years old, and their population between different cities is varied. Due to poverty, unequal distribution of resources, unemployment, ignorance, domestic violence and perversions prevailing in the society, children are seen fleeing from their homes and coming to the streets.
As per CBS 2001 AD, total population of Nepal was 2, 31, 51, 423. Among the population, the total number of children below 14 years was 90, 98, 201 (39.30%), which includes 46, 38, 000 (20.03%) boys and 44,60, 201 (19.27%) girls. The difference between population of boys and girls below 14 years is of 0.67%. (CCWB, 2008)The book entitled “The State of the Rights of the Child in Nepal 2001” published by CIWIN showed 5000 children are working and living on the streets. It is alarming to note that each year at least 500 children are found to appear on roads of Kathmandu Valley from different districts of Nepal. (CIWIN, 2006).
There are a number of reasons behind children coming to streets. Family tension, family violence, lack of protection from parents and guardians, child abuse and brutal torture by family members and others, misguidance, wrong motivation, attraction for the city, hatred from parent or step father or mother, increment of migration and urbanization, exploitation from guardians, search for new job and escaping after theft or misdeed are prominent reasons for children coming to streets.
CPCS, an organization in Kathmandu Valley working for the welfare of children carried out a survey with street children in 2007. The survey shows 65% children leave their houses in search of employment, 54% children come to Kathmandu with influence from others, 55% to visit Kathmandu, 51% come to streets due to domestic violence, 27% due to lack of food and 12% come to due to political reason.
UNICEF, a giant organization working for the welfare of children categorized street children into two: (1) Children on the street are those engaged in some kind of economic activity ranging from begging to vending. (2) Children of the street actually live on the street (or outside of a normal family environment).
Life of Street children is so miserable and worse. They are found to be working as plastic gatherers (rag pickers), beggars, tempo boys and street vendors to sell newspapers, biscuits, etc. They are also reported to be involving in washing dishes in hotels and restaurants, carrying water and working as construction labourer. They mostly suffer from different types of violence like sexual, moral and physical, drugs addiction, social exclusion, health problems, malnutrition delinquency, criminality, alcoholism, and starvation.
There are more than a dozen organizations working for street children in the valley only. All the organizations focus on the same target groups, i. e. street children. However, the plight of street children is worse except some progress. This is evident from the fact that children are still living and working on the streets in the valley. What had happened is that duplication seems to have taken place. That is to say, more than one organization has same project location and same target group of street children. It is better for the organizations to consider whether the duplication is taking place while locating and implementing their programs. Central child welfare board (CCWB) should actively monitor such programs targeted for street children so that such duplication can be avoided. Then only, we can rehabilitate the street children and provide them their rights and facilities required for their overall development.
At the moment the country is drafting permanent constitution of Federal Democratic Republic Nepal, voices for rights of street children and pitiable condition of street children should be addressed and included. This is high time concerning stakeholders, government line agencies, non-government organizations (NGOs), community based organizations (CBOs) and international non-government agencies including CCWB need to join their hands together to ensure rights of children in the constitution. Let New Constitution of New Nepal be drafted ensuring all rights of children.
Note: The article has been published in The Young Guys Weekly.

Coming across a Linguist

There are many things unnoticeable but what happening is we at once encounter such things. There’s a statement ‘Common sense is a sense that is uncommon in common people’. This obviously is not untrue. Even a common issue, which common people don’t care, may be the subject to discuss and scrutinize intensely for those who have interests in specific topics. Here’s an anecdote which I get to meet during a trip to my home town Rajbiraj from Birgunj, a prominent economical hub of Nepal.

As I was going to my birth place Rajbiraj, the headquarters of Saptari district, I boarded the bus at the bus park from Birgunj. I noticed a quite common thing that is likely to be uncommon for the common. The conductor in the bus asked me for fare in Bhojpuri, a language mostly used in Birgunj and nearby areas. Though I am not a competent and fluent speaker of the local language, I did not amaze thinking that he belonged to the language community. The way and his confident of speaking the language made me trust that he belonged to that language community.

As the bus reached Pathlaiya, I found him speaking in Nepali with passengers who belonged to Pahadi community. He was very fluent in the National language too. This time I didn’t get astonished because I thought that he might have done schooling where the language is obligatory for teaching.

Then we just headed towards our destination what exhausts me in traveling in crowd. The crowd stayed till the bus halted at Dhalkebar. Thank god, I got relaxed as the crowd lost there. The place separates from the road which leads to Janakpur, a religious and tourist site in Terai. At the station two western couple got into the bus. They got their seat at the couch. I talked to them. They felt nice to talk to me since they didn’t face difficult to comprehend me and they also needed to get some information about traveling to Biratnagar.

Meantime, as usual the conductor came over there and asked them, “Excuse me, sir…. could you please pay me the fare and where are you going to”.

I kept on staring at the brief excerpt between the tourists and the conductor. I, being a language student teacher had my brain stormed on the crucial issue of linguistics. That was not just the end, the bus got to Lahan, a famous town of Siraha district where almost all the people speak Maithali language. Similarly, I found him conversing with passengers in Maithili fluently. I knew he is familiar with four languages though he lacks the theoretical knowledge of those languages. But I would like to call him a linguist simply. Is it right for us to call so?

Flowers – Fine Art OF Nature

There are hardly few people, on the earth, who are not fond of flowers. The flowers are recognized as fine art of nature. They possess a great mystery within them .They are so beautiful that everyone wishes to be in touch of them. Therefore flower plants are planted for their own benefits.

Planting flowers is accepted according to people’s own choice. Growing flowers is known as floriculture. Some people plant flowers for decoration, some for business and some just to worship .If our houses lack fair looking, it can be fulfilled with a nice blooming garden. Some people plant flowers for religious purpose. They are offered to God to appease Him. Without these pretty things one can’t pray to God. They are planted for business as well. They are exported and from them various types of perfumes, soaps, aromatic oils, etc. are extracted. Making garlands and bouquets they are sent to market for sale. Nurseries and seed production can also be adopted to have better earnings.

Besides them, the flowers are tended to pass our time. It is said, “An empty mind is a devil’s workshop.”If we have nothing to do, our mind may be filled with nonsense.

So, to avoid them, tending flowers is the best way. As we are in the company of flowers, we get the ideas which can be very useful for our life. A flower’s companion has remarked as a good gardener or a flower lover can be best parents only. In other words, one who dislikes flowers, how can he love his kids?

Poets compose miracle poems noticing their charming beauty. So, the poets are also named as nature lovers. The things that cannot be expressed audibly can be delivered to others by gifting the beautiful creations. Such case is with lovers and beloveds. As we go through great people’s biographies, we find they are also fond of flowers. For instance, we can have our sights in our community too.

Here’s a fact experienced by one of my respected Gurus, ‘A common sense is the sense that is uncommon in common people.’ Suppose you are gardening in the garden, you have servants or others who are not educated; they may laugh at you or call you fool since they don’t realize its importance. That’s it. They are common people and flower is a common thing. They don’t have such hobby. The fact we get here proved.

There are many things we can learn from flowers. As I have experienced once, there was a question arising within me – “Why are people attracted to flowers?” As I kept on considering on it, I came to know that they have the qualities like they are always cheerful, colourful, harmful, fragrant and useful. Therefore people can’t help loving them. Thinking over it a person is loved by everyone if he has some qualities as cheerful, helpful and wisdom. To make people love you, you won’t fall behind others but they follow you, you have those qualities. Flowers can be compared as an ocean of knowledge for the people who think. Here’s the thing said above is a drop only from the ocean. You can have them tending them. To sum up, this beautiful thing is needed from our cradle to the grave.

Published by The Young Guys Weekly,  English Weekly Newspaper Publishing from Birgunj