KATHMANDU, Oct 9: Kul Bahadur Magar, 46, a squatter at the banks of Bagmati River is scared of the upcoming Dashain, as he has been jobless for the past several days.
Magar, a blacksmith who survives on daily wage, said that he hasn´t found a job for about a month and his meager income is not sufficient for his four-member family to celebrate the upcoming festivals.
"I get work for one or two days and then wait for a week to find another work," he said. Magar said that he has requested his boss to lend him some money. "They (his family members) know my problem so they do not demand, but I know their wishes," he said, adding, "I will buy them clothes if I get loan."
The Magars have been residing in the squatters´ settlement for the past six years. After the government bulldozed their settlement five months ago, the family spent whole monsoon under a small tent. All their clothes and other belongings were destroyed during the government´s evacuation drive.
The Magar family´s tale is representative of about three hundred squatter families at the settlement.
Most of the squatters do not have stable income source and dread all kinds of festivities. There is no drinking water supply, sewage system and electricity in the settlement. Despite that, squatters have not left the settlement because, as they said, they cannot afford to rent room.
Laxmi Tamang, another squatter, said that she has to spend hours to fetch a gallon of water. "The people in the settlement are vulnerable from every aspect," said Dr Baburam Gautam, chief of health department at Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC). According to Dr Gautam, children in the settlement are not immunized and women never go for checkups during any stage of their pregnancy.
He said that in the last monsoon several people of the settlements suffered waterborne disease like diarrhea. In a survey, health officials even found two cases of leprosy in the settlement.
"People residing at such settlements need health services even more as they are more prone to ailments," Dr Gautam said, adding, "But we cannot build health posts in the settlements that are built on encroached government property."
Dr Gautam said that the KMC cannot even recommend building infrastructure for safe drinking water at the settlement for the same reason.
According to KMC, there are 29 squatter settlements in Kathmandu.
Dr Gautam said that well off people do not come to government health posts. "It is the squatters who need the program most, but can´t build health posts for them," he said. He also said that without bringing programs that respond to the problems of these people the nation cannot achieve its targeted goals.