KATHMANDU, NEPAL – Swarms of people enter a 12-story building standing 100 meters off the road at a business complex in Gurgaon, a city in northern India. At the gate of this building stands Gopal Upreti. The 20-year-old Nepalese security guard stomps his boot on the floor, salutes the passersby, then opens and closes the gate for them.
“I had acute financial problems at my house,” says, Upreti, who is from Jhapa, a district in eastern Nepal. “Therefore, I came here for employment.”
Upreti migrated to India five years ago in search of employment. He grew up in a small house with his six family members on a tiny plot of land in Jhapa, where his father worked hard to support them. Upreti and his two brothers attended school during the day and helped with the chores at home during the morning and evening.
Upreti says his family had to borrow money for every financial need, from his sisters’ marriages to an operation for his mother. But they struggled to pay back the loans, so he dropped out of school at the age of 15 to find a job.
Upreti was unable to find work locally, so he migrated to India with friends. He washed dishes in a restaurant in Delhi where he earned 2,000 rupees ($23) per month. Soon he became a cook, then a waiter.
After two years, he brought his savings home to Nepal and partially paid off his family’s debt. When he returned to Delhi, he trained to be a security guard during his off hours and eventually left his job in the restaurant.
He has now been a security guard in Gurgaon for five years. He paid off his family’s debts and was even able to send his family money to buy a television, a cell phone, a radio, clothes and shoes.
But when the milking buffalo his family depended on for their livelihood died, they had to borrow 30,000 rupees ($350) to buy a new one.
Upreti says he is now working to pay off the new debt. He plans to migrate to one of the Gulf countries to work as a security guard at a higher salary.
“Born as humans, we have to do our share of hard work,” Upreti says.
Experts on labor migration say that India draws the largest number of young, unskilled Nepalese workers because of the countries' open border. Young people working in India say that poverty and a lack of employment at home forced them to migrate to earn money to support their families. But a lack of government regulation of migration to India for work creates various risks for migrants, including robbery, human trafficking and HIV transmission. Nepal’s government has agreed to draft a new law to prepare and protect citizens working in India.
Unemployment is highest in Nepal among youth ages 20 to 24, according to the Nepal Labour Force Survey of 2008. And 46 percent of the youth labor force is underemployed.
Nearly 2 million