22-28 July 2016 #818

Citizens in seventies

Laxmi Gautam in Himal Khabarpatrika (17-23 July)

Laxmi Gautam

Two blind and deaf brothers in their mid-70s, who have no family to look after them, have received citizenship certificates.

77-year-old Harka Sambahamphe had a citizenship certificate, but with an inaccurate date of birth, which meant he was not entitled to social security allowances intended for elderly citizens. His 75-year-old brother Lattey Sambahamphe had never obtained a citizenship certificate, and was thus also deprived of the benefit.

Harka is deaf and has poor eyesight, and Lattey is both deaf and blind. Harka used to bring fuel wood from the forest to sell in the nearby market. Lattey used to make namlo (woven rope used to carry loads) and exchange it for food grains from neighbours. Although they have sufficient land, they are physically too weak and lack the necessary support to cultivate it.

In Ranigaun village of Panchthar district in the far-eastern hills, the Sambahamphe brothers were struggling hard to make ends meet. After Himal Khabarpatrika — Nepali Times’s sister publication  — published a story about their everyday struggle in its 3-10 July issue, Panchathar’s Chief District Officer Kiran Thapa reached their village and gave them not only the citizenship certificates but also identity cards to receive the allowances.

The government had declared Ranigaun as a drought-hit village a few years ago, but the Sambahamphe brothers had nowhere to go. Harka used to walk three hours to fetch a pot of water, which they would ration for a whole week.

Siddhapokhari Sewa Sadan, a social organisation in Panchthar, has also arranged a house for the Sambahamphe brothers. After receiving his citizenship certificate, Harka said: “I had heard that there was a government in Nepal, and now I understand what it means.”

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