Ferrymen from Bote Community Left in Turmoil.
Until ten years ago, Gajvir Bote would be in a rush to diligently perform his duty as a ferryman on the Kaligand river. 82-year-old Gajveer Bote of Bagnaskali Rural Municipality-7 Dailatung spent 60 years boating. He used to make 30/35 people cross the river Kaligandaki at the confluence of Syangja and Palpa by boat every day. He was living well from that income. After the construction of Kaligandaki suspension bridge, he was displaced from the profession.
Gajvir carries his aged body and hobbles with a hunch. Last February, his barn caught on fire. Nowadays, he spends his time rebuilding his shed from dawn to dusk. Neither the Ward Office nor the Village Council office responded to his appeal for help. “I am building a shed by collecting discarded tins and tarpaulins to protect them from water.” He said.
Dailatung village is on the banks of the Kaligandaki river. The main occupation of the Bote community here was sailing boats. People from Dailatung to Bagnaskali in Palpa, Kaligandaki, and Gulmi in Tansen and Syangja traveled by crossing this river. However, after the construction of the bridge, their livelihood was snatched from them. Gajvir said. “After the construction of the suspension bridge, people started traveling through the bridge, and our boats sank in the Kaligandaki river, completely forgotten,” Gajvir said. He said that our livelihood is in turmoil.
Gajvir, a leader of the Bote community, not only rescued people during a crisis on his boat but also played a crucial role in the movement for political and social change. During the Panchayat period, Gajvir was involved in the leadership of the Janata Party, the Multi-Party Movement in 1990, and the People’s Movement of 2005-006.
People from this ward have become ministers by doing politics. Many people here have reached the top level in the political and social fields but no one has taken any initiative for the upliftment of the Bote community,”They come to ask for votes during the election but they are never concerned about our struggles to survive.” He said.
Until last year Gajvir used to live in a small thatched house. Recently, Gajveer has been living with his 68-year-old wife in a two-storied tin-roofed house under the Janata Awas program. Although he has six sons and four daughters none of them are with him. “Everyone got married and is doing their own thing. No matter how many sons and daughters we have, our concerns about taking care of the aging body never die”, he said.
In Dailatung, out of the total number of houses 17 houses belong to members of the Bote community. According to the 2068 census, the population total population of the Bote community is 10 thousand. In Palpa, the population of the community is 803. Among these, the number of women is 439 and the number of men is 364. While the total population of Palpa is 261 thousand 180, the population of the Bote community in the district is 0.31 percent. Similarly, 671 Botes speak their mother tongue. Based on the total population, the percentage of individuals speaking in Bote mother-tongue speakers is 0.26. Apart from Palpa, the Bote community are found in Chitwan, Udaipur, Makwanpur, Tanahun, and other districts.
Unlike the Bote community from other places, the Bote community here does not collect gold on the banks of the Gandaki for their livelihood. Most youths here have gone to Gulf countries and India for foreign employment. While the houses of other communities have tin roofs, most of the Botes live in temporary shelters. Apart from foreign employment, men from the community work as carpenters/carpenters and daily wage workers while women from the community work as domestic help or field help. Members of the Bote community do not own enough land to feed them. Therefore, they have to buy grains throughout the year to sustain themselves.
There is an increasing trend of migration to India and different places in Nepal for employment and economic advancement within the Bote community. Gajvir said that after the business of boating and fishing in the Kaligandaki river is in crisis, the people of the Bote community are leaving the village to earn a living.
- Yagyamurti Timalsina
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