|Januka Dhakal with her son|
DANG, May 14: Resham Pun, 24, had no home to return to when he was discharged from the Maoist cantonment four years ago after being disqualified as a minor and late recruit in the People´s Liberation Army (PLA).
As his ancestral home had already crumbled, he went to his maternal uncle´s home where he had spent most of his childhood. His father had abandoned his mother for another woman and his mother married another man when he was only 10.
Along with the ignominious tag of a disqualified combatant, all he owned was a rucksack, a tracksuit and trousers given by UNMIN.
“It was difficult for me to build a new house. Home is a place where one shelters and weaves dreams for the future,” said Pun, who now runs a mobile phone repair at Gogli, near Ghorahi to earn a living.
Resham´s elder brother and his wife also were disqualified at about the same time. His brother Bijay had also returned home empty handed. All their colorful dreams had been shattered at the cantonment in Dahaban, Rolpa.
“Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Vice Chairman Baburam Bhattarai and our commanders stole our dreams,” added Pun, recalling the assurances of leaders, who had promised them a prosperous life after the war.
After the peace process had already started, the Maoists had announced recruitment of fresh combatants. His school mates told him they were joining the PLA for a monthly salary of Rs 5,000.
“I joined the PLA in Tulsipur with four of my schoolmates,” said Pun. He had then been living at his maternal uncle´s home in Bhaiskur, Dang along with his brother and sister. His youngest maternal uncle and his cousin brothers had already joined PLA.
“I want to forget my past. I now want to make my future better,” said Pun, fondling his Korean-styled hair.
“I enjoy my work,” said Pun. “Now I earn around Rs 5,000 everyday and I save around one-third of my income.” According to him, he invested around Rs 250,000 to set up the mobile phone repair shop. Of this amount, UNDP funded Rs 110,000.
|Sarita Thapa with her daughter|
He has also built a new house at Bhaiskur near his maternal uncle´s home by borrowing money from his sister, who is already married and now works aboard.
Life is not as difficult for Resham now. His only worry now is he could not acquire a formal academic degree by wasting his years in the cantonment.
“I have not been able to give continuity to my studies as I am now busy with my work,” said Pun. He had spent four years in the cantonment at Dahaban, Rolpa. His brother Bijaya and sister-in-law were also in the same cantonment.
After being discharged from the cantonment, Resham underwent mobile repair training.
Meanwhile, anther ex-PLA Sarita Thapa, who also disqualified says she is planning to close her grocery shop in Rampur, Dang. The shop was almost empty.
“I want go to my home in Bafikot, Rukum. I sold all grocery items on credit terms to villagers,” said Sarita, adding she has no plans to collect the dues from them now. According to Sarita, her husband Narbhupal Nepali has already left for Rukum to start a new business.
Similarly, Tulasa Basyal of Kutichaur, Dang underwent a beautician training but now runs a grocery shop at Kutichaur, Dang.
“The cosmetic products that were provided to her through UNDP were of substandard quality, while some of the items were half-used,” said Basyal. She had been provided cosmetic items worth around Rs 40,000.
Similarly, Januka Dhakal, 22, underwent cook training. Now she runs a grocery shop and an eatery in her home village Jaimakasala, Rolpa. She said she earns around Rs 4,000 to 5,000 per day. Her husband, who opted for voluntary retirement from PLA, now works in India. Meanwhile, Mona Pariyar, also disqualified combatant, is working at a tailor shop in Ghorahi.
All of those who are running their own businesses have sought support to expand their undertakings.
According to UNIRP, which was established in 2010 with the objective of rehabilitating ex-combatants discharged from the cantonments, 2,743 of the 4,008 ex-combatants contacted the UN for rehabilitation support. Of them, 2,231 officially enrolled in the program. They were offered career counseling and referred for training or education.
As of February 2013, 69 percent of the 1,758 individuals who had completed micro-enterprises, vocational skills, or health related training have either started their own business or found employment elsewhere.