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Reshaping Aspirations and Capabilities: A Case Study of Internal Migrants in Eastern Nepal

Binayak Krishna Thapa

Ph.D Fellow, Kathmandu University, Nepal 

Online Version Published: 30 December 2016

© 2016 South Asian Youth Research Institute for Development (SAYRID). This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CCBY).


The choice of free movement to actualize the imagined aspiration for better being is a journey replete with many sacrifices and uncertainties. Nevertheless, people are willing to incur the risks associated with their choice to move. Based on an ethnographic case study among the temporary migrants in Eastern Hills of Nepal, this paper conceptualizes the act of migration by the migrants as means, and fulfilling their aspirations as ends. The paper examines conditions such as employment structures, availability of opportunity and access to basic needs at the destination and deprivation at the origin of migration to explore how migration is enhancing or endangering migrant’s capabilities at individual as well as household level. In doing so, the paper traces the migrants’ aspirations and capacities, and explains their configuration in the process of realizing individual and household livelihood goals at the destination. 

Keywords: Capabilities; Aspiration; Migration; Migrants; Freedom

1. Introduction

Migration as a pathway to secure livelihood has been a historical trend in the Himalayan middle hills (Hitchcock 1961; MacFarlane 1976; Whelpton 2005 and Sharma 2011). In Nepal, both internal and international migration has for long been of socio-economic importance with regards to development disequilibria across villages, towns, and cities. Since historical times, unequal development in Nepal due to it being geographically challenged has triggered a bulk of rural population to opt for migration from less developed regions- particularly mountains and hills to relatively fast developing lowlands known as Tarai and in recent decades to international destinations such as Gulf countries like Malaysia, Korea, and others. For many Nepali households whose livelihoods are primarily based on subsistence agriculture (Poertner et al. 2011), migration has been a livelihood strategy and means to secure and stabilize income through remittances. Furthermore, spatial access and opportunity differentials with regards to basic infrastructure, fertile land, social services such as health and education and economic constraints such as unemployment are also regarded as major determinants of migration. Blanketed by these fragile socioeconomic and environmental circumstances, people of Nepal have long been mobile -opting for better making living and improved living conditions.

Since the past two decades, migration in Nepal has been a subject of interest for scholars from several different fields such as geography, anthropology, economics and development studies- to name a few. These scholars have particularly given importance to international labor migration and the remittances generated from it, trends in rural to rural and rural to urban migration that shed light on resettlement schemes, migration trajectories from hills to Tarai (lowlands) and conflict-induced migration. While a few scholars have attempted to elaborate on internal and international migration practices and the significance of transnational social networks and emerging changing livelihoods (Sharma, 2008, Thieme and Muller Boker, 2009, Poertner et al., 2011) little attention has been paid to linkages between migration and human development in context of internal migration. This paper attempts to fill in this research gap by linking human mobility and human development through the lens of both livelihood and capability approach to grasp migration undertaken not just as a livelihood strategy for income security and better livelihood chances but also to realize and actualize one’s imagined aspirations to build capabilities at individual and household levels.

This paper aims at elucidating and upholding empirical evidence of internal migration and its interconnectedness with aspiration and capacity of temporary migrants and their livelihoods. It further focuses on rural to rural internal migration within the hills. The emphasis is on the internal migration practices as the means to harness capability related to human development. The argument in this paper is based on the results of research on internal migration from remote periphery villages of Bhojpur district to its district headquarter also called Bhojpur Village Development Committee (VDC) located in the middle hills of eastern Nepal.

2. Conceptual Framework: Aspiration, Mobility, Capability and development

Living amidst the social, economic and political constraints at the core of which are conditions blanketed by development disequilibria and relative spatial opportunity differentials, aspirant migrants have a tendency to apply human agency to migrant with an aim to improve their livelihood and to overcome such conditions of constraints. Human agency is acknowledged in migration as it situates migration as an action taken towards realizing individual and household livelihood goals and this involves an individual or household to move from place of origin to place of destination.

At the origin in comparison to pursued destination, it is assumed that prevailing circumstances entail fewer development activities, relatively less access to social services such as education and health, economic opportunities such as better access to market that includes labor, goods, services and financial and spatial facility differentials such as access to transportation, public infrastructure road, electricity, water, communication, and entertainment. These all combine to fuel social, economic and political constraints in its own right.

Due to these structural disequilibria between origin point and destination point owing to an unequal spatial development process, aspirant potential migrants undertake migration as a decision made at the household level to overcome the constraining conditions in which the household is living with. The constraints such as low output of invested labor, insecure income source, limited land availability, access to markets and lack of employment opportunities trigger aspirant migrant to pursue a place where there is more return on invested labor, a more secure income source and available work, an easier access to labor, goods and financial market as well as greater access to better social services, and facilities.

The destination is generally considered as the most suitable place where migrants can realize the pursuit of livelihood goals. At the destination, development process is taking place in its own right and pace. It is a container holding relatively better access to social services, economic opportunities and facilities. It is in this new environment, where different categories of migrant play out their daily livelihood activities towards improved living conditions. This is not to say that all constraints are quashed, and no new constraints are faced at the destination. The immigrants do face many different constraints at their destination too, but relatively they are better off as they choose to remain in the destination and move on with daily livelihood activities.

According to Carney (1998), livelihood constitutes of assets that include both material and non-material resources, capabilities and activities required for making a living. Within this line of understanding Ellis (1998), states that livelihood is not just limited to income generation activities, but also encompasses intra-household relations, social institutions, and mechanisms of access to resources through the life cycle. It is within this understanding that migration can be conceptualized as a livelihood strategy, where migration is one of the activities undertaken by households or their individual members to maintain, enhance and secure their way of making a living.

As stated by De Haas (2010), livelihood strategy is based on assets in hand, perceptions of opportunity and aspirations of actors. The Strategic choices would differ from household to household, from individual to individual -making livelihood strategies heterogeneous. This demands migration be captured through more empirical approaches which can be used by involving concept of livelihood and looking upon migration as a household livelihood strategy (De Haas 2010). In situations of social, economic, and environmental hardship and uncertainty, McDowell and De Haan (1997) states that livelihoods are not organized individually, but much wider social contexts are considered such as households and village communities.

This makes household a recognized and most appropriate unit of analysis. It is within this context McDowell and De Haan (1997); Bebbington (1999); Ellis (2000) and De Haas (2010) recognizes migration to be the prime element among the choices and strategies households undertake to diversify, secure and improve their livelihoods by combining other strategies like agriculture intensification and local non-farm activities.

Underpinned by this reasoning, this study attempts to recognize migration, not as a survival strategy but as a chosen choice to improved livelihood and enabled investment as suggested by Bebbington (1997), as a mean to mitigate family income fluctuation (McDowell and De Haan, 1997, De Haan et al 2000), and as means to acquire wider range of assets that help households to be resilient against shock and stress (De Haan et al. 2000). This understanding of migration is mainly applied for internal migration (De Haas, 2010), which is most suitable for the current study which finds its basis on rural to urban internal migration.

Migration as a household livelihood strategy can be related to human development by its potential to promote living conditions, access to better health, and education, and opportunity to generate income. While debate on migration and development has mainly focused on magnitude of remittances and its relevance to economic development, as well as brain and unskilled labor drain (de Haas, 2010), the debate stands old and has shortcomings with its one- sided emphasis on remittances and economic impact of migration, brain drain and loss of unskilled labor for origin countries. Further, such debate on migration and development is primarily focused on international migration studies and has less relevance for internal migration. For the suitability of this study and acknowledging the shortcomings on conceptualization of the nexus of migration and development, this study conceptualizes development through the lens of the capability approach. While doing so, the conceptual framework of this study attempts to generate a fusion between livelihood approach and capability approach to get a nuanced understanding of development value of migration and human mobility which has a significant role in the enhancement of human development and livelihood of the people in concern.

Development, as conceptualized by Sen (1999), is the process of expanding freedom the people enjoy. Sen operationalized freedom by using the concept of human capability. Here capability is understood as the ability of human beings to lead lives that they have reason to value and to enhance the choices that they have. These ideas are central to the capabilities approach where concept of human development relates to the expansion of people’s freedom to live their lives as they choose (HDR, 2009). Within this context, this study attempts to understand the implications of migration for human development.

De Haas (2009) states that human mobility can be interpreted as an integral part of human development within the framework of the capability approach. In doing so, he states that people can only move if they have the capability to do so. He emphasizes on human mobility as capability to decide where to live and migration (human movement) as the associated functioning. He argues that expansion in human mobility is expansion in capability i.e. to choose where to live and where not to, where to go and where not to. This expansion in capability is expansion of the choices open to an individual which is expansion of freedom. On the similar line, migration (human movement) which is associated with the functioning of mobility as stated by De Haas (2009) enables people to improve other dimensions relevant to their capabilities like capacity to earn, have access to better health and education for themselves and children, and to gain self-respect. Staying within this approach and fusing it with the livelihood framework, this study attempts to capture the development values of mobility and implications of migration on livelihoods of the study population.

3. Setting the Scene

Bhojpur district falls in the eastern development region of Nepal, located almost in the middle of the development region; this middle hill is river locked by two larger rivers, Arun River on its east, and Sunkoshi River on the southern part. Bhojpur’s human development index is lower than that of the national average, 0.479 and 0.490 respectively, further among others districts in the development region, the development indices- both human development and poverty index exemplify it is an underperformance. Compared to the other surrounding districts of the region, Bhojpur is still deprived of adequate infrastructures such as roads, electricity, schools and medical facilities.

The district population is composed of multi-ethnicity and varied caste groups. The majority of the inhabitants belong to Rai ethnic group, followed by ‘hill castes’ both high caste and occupational caste, and other ethnic groups such as Newars and Tamangs. A commonality that can be observed across ethnic and caste groups is the patrilineal and patrilocal family structure. As discussed by Thieme and Muller Boker (2010) , Muller- Boker (2003) and Poertner et al (2011) for other parts of Nepal, here too after marriage, the wife leaves the native home called ‘maiti’ and settles herself in her in-law’s house known as ‘ghar’ , where she is held responsible for domestic and agricultural work. The other dimension of similarity across ethnic and caste groups is the tight network within the ethnic and caste group characterized with relational and kinship structure that often is used as a supportive tool with regards to migration.

The district headquarters of Bhojpur district is called Bhojpur Village Development Committee (VDC) which is the primary research site. Recently, this VDC with combination of other four VDCs surrounding the district headquarter was upgraded to Municipality. It was formally recognized as a Municipality on 16th of May, 2014 and came into operation on 17th of July of the same year. In the last decade, considering 2001 as the baseline, Bhojpur VDC has become a popular destination for migrants from the composite VDCs of the district. The VDC has experienced remarkable growth in a number of households and population. As per the census of 2001, total population and number of residing households in Bhojpur VDC were recorded to be 5,881 and 1428 respectively. The census of 2011 shows the total population to be 7,446 and total households as 2070. Further, as the district for last two decades has been experiencing lowest population growth rate among other districts in Nepal, the increase in total population and number of households can be purely attributed to in-migration.

4. Methods

Based on an ethnographic case study among the temporary migrants in Eastern Hills of Nepal, the paper draws on an analysis of unstructured interviews with members of six- households. The interview focused on their migration practices, livelihoods, and capabilities. The households were selected by snowball sampling keeping in mind the selection of varied caste, ethnic group, and class. The interview also includes narratives and migration history of the research site. Extensive field notes of observation were taken to complement the empirical data collected. The study also takes statistical records from VDC profile available at the Village Development Committee office.

5. Scenario of Internal Migration in Bhojpur VDC

The internal migration from Bhojpur to other parts of Nepal has a longstanding history. The main determinants of migration for people of lower economic status were poverty, unemployment, scarcity of natural resources, impoverishment, and indebtedness while for upper economic strata these were lack of facilities, investment, and wealth accumulation. Further, the decade-long Maoist insurgency and political instability had contributed to out-migration from Bhojpur. However, since the past few years, Bhojpur which experienced out-migration earlier has begun to experience flux of in-migration from surrounding VDCs. Since, the construction of feeder road that connects Hile, Dhankuta district to Bhojpur district, Bhojpur VDC has experienced many changes in different sectors of economy such as enhanced transportation facilities, access to market for both goods and labor, increasing investment in housing sector, increasing network of roads, and establishment of more private schools and hospitals.

The changes in external economic structures such as growth of markets such as goods, labor, housing and enhanced access to facilities namely medical and education, has converted Bhojpur VDC from being once an origin of migration to destination of migration. Subsequently, the determinants of migration have changed from destitution as the drivers of migration to accessibility and opportunity available at the destination as the reasons for migration. The current trend of internal migration differs from coping livelihood strategy to actualizing improved livelihood and better well-being.

Migration types were both permanent and non-permanent migration. As per the records of migration registration which primarily relates to permanent migration at the VDC office, ninety-nine cases of in permanent migration were registered in comparison to seventy-three registration of out-migration (VDC profile, 2011). Out of 2070 household units accounted in census 2011, 822 household units were on rent (CBS, 2011) which indicates non-permanent or temporary household units. This exemplifies magnitude of temporary migration to be higher than permanent migration. Permanent migration was related to migration of household while temporary migration included both individual and household. The low magnitude of permanent migration pertained to entailed prerequisites such as owning a plot of land and housing at destination, while temporary migrants and migrant households were dwelling on rented housing and land.

6. Aspirations and Capabilities

6.1 Land and housing for secured better living

In the hills, land has always been the most important and valued asset. For a Nepali citizen, land is everything. Common assets possessed by people in the hills are land, a house to live and livestock.

People in the hills have assets such as plots of land, a house to live in and at least some livestock.” (Dahal, age 56).

The main objective of exploring land as an asset towards livelihood development relates to retaining owned land, selling, buying, and renting or leasing land in the process of migration.

For a family dependent on agriculture, the minimum amount of land that needs to be possessed according to one of the respondents is as follows:

Around 30 roopani in total, 20 roopani khet, and ten ropani of bari with water facilities is enough for family of 5-7 people”  ( Padam, age 46).

The khets (irrigated land) are used for rice cultivation, and bari (non-irrigated land) is used for seasonal vegetables and other crops like millet, and maize.

One of my respondents classified landholdings in line of economic status. It was mentioned that three classifications were related to possessing land. The first was people with a high economic background; second were people with a low economic background and the people who did not possess any property.

For people from upper economic class, they can have more land than required, but at least for people who are from lower economic class, a household will have a bari and a house. In some cases, people earn other people’s land and do work or are employed” (Bhojraj, age 45).

As mentioned by Bhojraj, in the hills where livelihood still depends on agriculture, people who had excessive land holdings would be letting other people till their land. When needed, the owners also sold land as per their requirement. However, for people who did not have adequate land to farm, they would rent land from others with excessive possession.

 For permanent migration to take place, selling and buying of land is the prerequisite, while on the same note, for temporary migration to be successful renting a place to dwell is a prerequisite. Selling, buying, and rent pertains to asset building of seller, buyer, and rent giver.

Atual’s investment on land and making a house is an example that explains land and housing are the most valuable assets to the citizenry of Nepal.  

After my return from Malaysia, I made a house down here in Kodhar Village, I first bought land there, and made a house for myself and family. The investment was big; I wanted to make a house that would not be damaged by small earthquakes or storms. I have put up pillared foundation, and above it, the house is made from wood. To buy the land, it took me seven lakhs and forty thousand rupees just for four annas. I was in debt and had to pay the loans I had taken for this investment. I had no options but to return to Malaysia as labor worker. On my return, I have cleared all debts. Currently, up floor, I am living and down floor is given on rent.”

Investing in the house to dwell and renting the extra space in the house has been a common practice in areas receiving in-migrants. Bhojpur VDC in last ten years has seen huge magnitude of out-migration because of conflicts and at the same time substantial influx of in-migrants after the conflicts. Returning to Atual’s case, I further asked Atual about his migration status and the people who are on rent in his house.

Me: Have you done bassai sarrai.

Atual: Yes

Me: Who are the people on rent ?

Atual: They are my village people, from choolinti Khawwa, they work here and educate their children here.

Me: Do they have bassai sarrai.

Attual: No, they have not done bassai sarrai, they still possess land in Choolinti, they do not have land here.

The greatest aspiration for people not having a house is to have one. Making a living without a house is difficult as land and house are primary assets. Deprivation of land and house further deprives people of many more things which will be discussed later. The list of sixty interviewees could be categorized into four categories on the basis of the status of migration. The following table shows the categorization.

Table 1: Migrant Categories and Number of Households

Thapa-Table 1 Migrant Categories and Number of Households    

Source: Field Survey (2013)              

Among the interviewees land and housing ownership across each category are as follow:

Table 2: Landownership across Migrant Categories

Thapa-Table 2 Landownership across Migrant Categories

Source: Field Survey (2013)           

The above table depicts that, temporary migrants who are on rent, face deprivation of land and housing ownership at their destination. Though many of the temporary migrant interviewees said that they had lands at origin, the deprivation of land and house assets at the place where they are making a living is a constraint for the development of their livelihood.

6.2 Agricultural Land as a Source of Food

Land use pattern has changed substantially with the road construction that has taken place in the past ten years. The Rural Access Program (RAP) constructed roads connecting Bhojpur VDC to Dhunkuta District’s Laaguwa Ghat VDC six years ago. In Bhojpur VDC, considerable arable land became a part of the road, and selling land in small plots has converted agricultural land into land used for house building. While Bhojpur is facing a shortage of agricultural labor due to the high magnitude of out-migration, a considerable population still depend on agricultural land for food. Rice, Wheat, and Millets are the major crops grown in the cultivable lands. Land dependency for food is shown in the table below across the four categories of interviewee:

Table 3: Land Dependency for Food across Migrant Categories 

Thapa-Table 3 Land Dependency for Food across Migrant Categories

Source: Field Survey (2013)     

The above table depicts that more than fifty percent of the interviewees were directly dependent on food produced on the land that is either owned or rented on sharecropping basis. This provides evidence to agricultural land as one of the major assets to making a living in the day to day life of citizenry of Bhojpur. The table portrays direct involvement of household members on agricultural production and access to land.

6.3 Actualizing Aspirations

Having a formal job employment and living in Bhojpur was not a difficult thing. The regular monthly income would suffice to buy food and rent. As market was accessible, food and dwelling were made easy for the economically well-off on rent. Similarly, students on rent entirely depended on the financial help of parents who were supporting their education at Bhojpur. Many foreign labor migrants left behind their wives and children and took up rent to provide access to education for their children, access to hospitals, communication and transportation. Apart from the well-off, this section mainly explains how economically deprived people are making a living in the VDC.

“People stay in rent but those who earn land of the owners, they do not have to pay rent.those who earn  Zakka Zammin, they do not pay rent, those who do not earn they have to pay rent  (Natra Bhadur Gurung, age 55).

Natra Bhadur, a temporary migrant, had taken up sharecropping, he explains that if one is a sharecropper to a landowner, on return the sharecropper gets free place to dwell, generally a small thatched hut. The rent for dwelling in this hut need not be paid by the sharecropper. Depending on the space provided by the landowner, the sharecropper has opportunity to keep livestock, as sharecroppers’ life involved day to day on farm work, it was also necessary to keep livestock and a pair of bulls to plow the khets.

Sharecropping was taken in two conditions mainly, locally it was called Addhay, and Thekka.  Addhay involved sharing half of the total produced on the field with the landowner. Here, the landowner and the tillers equally invest and bare the risk. The Thekka involved giving a fixed return to the landowner in money. It depended on the size of land on rent and yearly money to be paid to the owner. However, working on the farm field was not throughout the year. During the off-season in the winters or after harvest, the households involved in addhya and theeka would join the wage labor work and make their living on it. The return from wage labor was more than getting involved in agriculture. Addhay and Thekka can be seen as means to have long term stay in the district headquarters. Involvement in sharecropping also comprised of trust building, mutual understanding, and reciprocity between landowners who were either present or had migrated to urban places.

One can earn around 600-700 rupees a day here.. It is for who can work,if people get such Hajirs, then earn in an average 500 rs per day. Like mistri works, like putting up walls for newly build houses such persons get, 750 rupees. Even if you take 500 rs as average wage per day, calculate how much it will be…?” (Natra Bhadur Gurung, age 55).

As per the above excerpt, a daily wage labor getting hired would receive Rs 600 – 700 a day. According to the skills possessed, one could even earn a maximum of Rs 750, whereas those who were just laborers would be hired for Rs 500-600. Such work on construction sites was available during winters, as at this time it is dry, so transportation of building materials like stone and bricks is smoother.  The climate favored making of bricks. During the monsoons such work declines due to difficulties in transportation, road blockages, difficulties in making bricks, and digging on the hill sides was a risky thing to do. During monsoon, most of the temporary migrants would be involved in agriculture. Even the labor migrants staying on rent would return to their origin to work on the field during the monsoon.

7. Constraints on Aspiration and Capabilities

7.1 Being on rent

Getting land or room for involved rent trust, trustworthiness was the prime concern for owners before coming to an agreement with potential tenants. As trust gradually increased with the passage of time during the initial stage, there was always an involvement of third person who was involved in introducing aspirant tenants to the owners. The middle man would have been well known to the owner and would have known the person looking for rent. Rent were collected on a monthly basis and varied from place to place. In the bazaar, a room rent was Rs 1200, while in other places, rents for a room were Rs 800 – 1000. 

In many cases, the owners were absent, this was seen in Bazaar and other wards alike. In such situations, the relative left behind, or the neighbor was given the responsibility to collect the rent on time. The owners would be remitted the collected amount, and in other situations owners who were absent would come to collect the rent once in a year time. Here again, there is trust involved between the owners and the relatives or neighbors.

Trust as an issue of concern here is between insiders and outsiders, the locals and non-locals, and when migration is considered to involve stayers and movers, at the villages people from outside were looked with doubt, and this was mainly concerned with people temporarily migrating here without buying any property.

  “Some people get out of society for his wrongdoing, and he migrates, such person comes to new vdc or village, then how can he be trusted…….See, such people look around for new village ... People who have resources migrate to good urban place, but other people who have been chased away; he does not have good reputation in his place and migrates to other villages.. some of these people in our village, are of these types in Palwa, and we do tell them. migration is of also two type, one looking for more better opportunity, that facilities good life and other is to migrate from place where they have faced embarrassment” (Kul Bhadur Karki, age 54).

As explained by Kul, not all people coming as temporary migrants could be trusted equally. They do come to have better opportunities but cannot be trusted fully. Many people come here because they were not tolerated at their place of their origin, or have done wrong at their place of origin.

Those people coming from outside, who come and earn other peoples property, are really not honest, and immandar. Because, these people come here because of family dukkha, and to earn their livings, but their own line is not good (Padam Bhadur, age 45).

The above two excerpts from different interviews of the participants show that the locals are doubtful about the non-locals. While giving properties on rent, trust has always been the main concern. For the non-locals, the feeling of being outsider has always been a problem. This difficulty starts from the initial stage of finding a room or land for rent to living as people on rent.

Neighbors here are not cooperative; I do not feel good about neighborhood in Taksar. The people see me as newcomers and try to dominate us” (Chandra Bardewa, age 19).

I do not have my own house here I am considered as outsiders, local people do not treat us alike as we are looked up to working for someone else, I feel not included in the society, I feel not being not included in the community. Khagendra told the people to feel that we are not from this vdc, and do not consider us for including us in their activities” (Khagendra Gurung, age 56).

The above excerpts of outsiders show how insiders do not treat outsiders alike and outsiders feel excluded and stigmatized. However, as outsiders come to have access to better living conditions, better opportunities and facilities, the non-locals have always depended on locals for space for rent,  room for dwelling or land for earning in farming i.e. Addhay or Theeka.

7.2 Differential Access to basic needs: Water, Electricity, and Cooking fuel

Apart from differential access to land and food production between the non-migrants and temporary migrants, a major constraint in access to basic needs such as water, electricity and cooking fuel was noticed in the study site. Availability of water in the study site came from historical water spout called the saat dhara (seven taps) and Sillichoung Waters, a water distribution facilities owned by the local user’s community of Bhojpur VDC. The access to electricity was provided by the branch of Nepal Electricity Board Bhojpur and wood for cooking fuel was extracted from the community forest as per the rules and regulation of the community forest user group.  The first and foremost prerequisite was registration of ownership of house and its documents. This precondition only gives permanent residents access to these resources by ownership of a house. Such conditionality has excluded temporary migrants from having access to formal pipe lined water supply, electricity lines and share of wood distributed to each member of the local community forest user group. In practice, the temporary migrants did not get membership to the local user community; this deprived them of access to the respective basic resources. This subsequently made the temporary migrants dependent on the landlords and the facilities provided while taking up land or housing for rent. The table below shows the accessibility to water, electricity and cooking fuel for temporary migrants.

Table 4: Differential Access and Types of Rents

Thapa-Table 4 Differential Access and Types of Rents

 Source: Field Survey (2013)            

The table below shows the source of availability of different basic needs, and household numbers having access and not having access to respective sources.

Table 5: Temporary Migrants and Access to Basic Needs

Thapa-Table 5 Temporary Migrants and Access to Basic Needs

Source: Field Survey (2013)            

As discussed earlier, the temporary migrants do not have a formal channel to get access to the basic resources. They entirely depend on the landlord and the type of rent that is acquired. The lack of ownership of land and housing restricts temporary dwellers to certain source of basic needs. The above table gives evidence to the differential access faced by temporary migrants as compared to permanent residents who have ownership of land and housing.

8. Conclusion

This article attempts to sketch human mobility in the Himalayan hills of eastern Nepal. It contributes to understanding mobility practices that are described by livelihood strategies and associated capabilities of households involved in migration. In doing so, the article presents an ethnographic sketch of migrants at Bhojpur VDC, their aspirations and ways of making a living.

This case study shows that migrants who are driven by aspiration and existing capabilities to realize better well-being and doing are faced with many constraints at the destination. Migration is a choice taken up by aspirant actors who chose among different ways of living. The choice to live in a different place other than their village of origin and to seize available opportunities is triggered by a change in aspiration. This relates to what people want to be and want to do. Aspiration connects to what people want to be in the future, to realize and actualize their aspiration, people tend to use their existing capabilities, and mobility is one such capability that people of the hills in Nepal employ as the means to reach aspired ends. Taking example of the temporary migrants who face constraining conditions of relatively deprived access to health, education, and economic conditions such as limited employment compared to the people who are local residents of the destination who are having access to basic services and available opportunities, migration has given people access to different capabilities which were earlier not available at their village of origin.


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Author (s) Biography

Binayak Krishna Thapa is a Ph.D Research Fellow, Dept. of Development Studies, Kathmandu University, Nepal. His research interests include migration and development. He has published a number of articles in peer-reviewed journals.

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Reshaping Aspirations and Capabilities: A Case Study of Internal Migrants in Eastern Nepal by South Asian Youth Research Institute for Development is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.