Khagendra Shreesh, 40, of Bhujung, Galkot Municipality-6, came back to Nepal after working in Saudi Arabia for eight years. Even after his return, his fascination with foreign employment remained intact. Two years ago, he applied for a visa to Japan. His application was rejected, and his dream of a Japanese job, much favored in Galkot, evaporated. Shreesh is now busy managing a stone quarry, and employs local youths.
“After being denied a visa to Japan, I thought a lot about what to do. I eventually decided to give continuity to my stone quarry business, a trade passed down generations from my grandfather,” he says. In 2000, Shreesh was in fact the first person to start a stone quarry with imported slate cutting equipment and expertise in Bhujung. He currently earns Rs 50,000-Rs 100,000 a month from his quarry, and employs 10 villagers.
Tul Bahadur Pariyar, who also returned home after working in Saudi Arabia for eight years, is now content with his work at the quarry. “I am happy to be able to work in my own country, in my own village,” Pariyar says. “I get to live with my family and to follow on my father’s footsteps.”
Workers get Rs 3 each for preparing a ‘cut piece’ slate tile. As a person can prepare up to 500 cut pieces in a day, the average monthly income comes to around Rs 35,000 to Rs 40,000, depending on the amount of stone mined from the quarry. These cut slate tiles are used for roofing, paving the ground and on house walls and are in great demand all over Nepal. However, Shreesh complains of his inability to export tiles due to bad roads and legal complications.
“We are now preparing to register the quarry and have requested the municipality to arrange easy road and electricity,” Shreesh says.
Shreesh has also employed women. Kumari Shrees, 36, says carrying slate in her spare time helps her meet family expenses. “We get Rs 2 for each cut piece we carry and we can carry up to 150 pieces in one consignment,” she says.
It has only been a few years since slate excavation in the area started on a commercial scale. Only now recognized as ‘Stone Village’, Bhujung has always been famous for its slates. In the past, villagers used to make a living by selling stones mined from quarries; the stones were only used on roofs. With new technology and recent use of slate as alternatives to tiles, there is a lot of potential for commercial manufacture of slate here.
Hemant Bhandari, spokesperson for Galkot Municipality, informs that an initiative is underway for proper management of all the quarries in the municipality. “We know there is a good potential for stone quarrying here, but we have been unable to bring it under the law’s purview. The municipality thus has been unable to collect tax from this industry,” Bhandari says.