Six years after a decade-long Maoist “People’s War” against royal rule ended, Nepal is still going through political changes. The country has been ruled by a series of coalition governments since 2008, when the monarchy was abolished. Despite the progress, many problems remain. The constituent assembly, in which the Maoists hold the most seats but fall short of a majority, is still writing the constitution. Nepal is very poor, its people largely dependent on agriculture. Development is slow and there are relatively few employment opportunities and serious corruption issues.
Among the poorest of the poor are the workers on tea estates in eastern Nepal. Most are descendants of migrants recruited in the mid-twentieth century from India. Their lot is defined by their landlessness, lack of opportunity and isolation and dependence on their employers. Thanks to Nepal’s two main Communist parties, there are now trade unions and slightly better wages. Also, all who are eligible have received Nepali citizenship cards, something not previously possible. However, despite these improvements, there is still a long way to go before estate workers can enjoy all their basic rights.
The Jesuits first went to Nepal in 1951 and set up projects gradually over the years, among them the St Xavier Social Centre in 1970. In 1997, the Jesuits purchased land in Jhapa district, where they run a parish and two schools, including Moran Memorial School for the children from a neighbouring tea estate.
Nepal news and articles:
• Nepal: Change through education by Fr Bill Robins SJ