Tens of thousands suffering in bonded debt labour in Nepal

Ten years ago Nepal abolished Haliya (agricultural bonded debt labourers), but activists say 25,000 people are still suffering in western Nepal.

A person became a Haliya if the family could not pay back money borrowed from loan sharks at exorbitant interest rates. They were forced to work for free to pay back the debt, but many spent their whole lives in slavery because the interest kept piling up. The loan was then passed down to the next generation.

Those who have been provided with compensation by the Nepalese government say it is not enough to establish themselves. The government states that the compensation is to provide land, not livelihoods for the freed Haliyas. Organisations are providing services, training and resources, but in an article in the Nepal Times, freed Haliyas are stating that it is not enough. There are reports of Haliyas lapsing back into debt slavery and going back to work for their old masters out of desperation. Many freed Haliyas are struggling to live due to class discrimination. Activists recommend that the government re-evaluate compensation packages and continue to identify those still working as Haliyas.

Sonja Duncan