KATHMANDU, Feb 26: After spending years in the battlefields to realize the ideals of revolution, most of the ex-combatants who opted for voluntary retirement and returned home are struggling to come to terms with their new lives.
A group of 35 former commanders from the Maoist stronghold of Rapti, on the other hand, are browsing various options to begin joint ventures.
The ex-combatants have discussed various plans ranging from opening department stores to starting earthworm farming, asparagus farming or crusher industry.
“We are still mulling the options. But we have already agreed to register a company and get engaged in collective production,” said Ram Lal Roka Magar, former vice-commander of the fifth division.
Former rebels from Rolpa, Rukum, Dang, Pyuthan and Salyan, have decided to base the center of production in Ghorahi, the district headquarters of Dang, and expand their business westward.
They have been mulling investment of Rs 5 million in earthworm farming, Rs 5 million in crusher industry and over Rs 50 million in departmental store.
“Now we realize that opening a department store needs far bigger investment than we had earlier estimated,” Roka Magar.
The former combatants led by former division commanders Roka Magar from Rolpa and Nep Bahadur Kunwar from Salyan say they will soon hold a formal meeting on the issue, and include in the venture as many ex-combatants as possible.
Their party UCPN (Maoist) will not have any control of the joint ventures, and the former rebels will prioritize their business themselves.
“Now we will focus our attention on improving the financial status of our family and ensuring our future,” said a former commander active in the current discussions.
Rokka Magar, Kunwar, Udaya Chalaune from Jajarkot and Durga Prasad Chaudhary from Surkhet -- all of them division vice-commanders -- are the highest ranking PLA officials to opt for voluntary retirement.
The former PLA combatants have received Rs 250,000 to Rs 400,000 as the first installment of their voluntary retirement.
"Now, we are discussing earthworm farming, and crusher industry," said Bal Krishna Pokharel, former brigade vice-commander from Salyan.
The commanders say they spent the most productive years of their life fighting for the Maoist ideology -- 10 years in the jungle and five years in the cantonments.
“Fifteen years is a long time. Looking back at our own life, we see that the most productive years of our life were wasted. Our land has turned barren and many of us are left with broken families and without homes,” said Deependra Kumar Gharti Magar from Rolpa, who was brigade vice-commander of the fifth division.
They say they were wrong in believing that their problems would be resolved once the communes formed by the party came into operation. The communes were dissolved.
“Our joint ventures are not only meant to make money. We want to develop them into places where we can share our feelings, experiences and sufferings, and begin new lives,” Gharti Magar says.