The Nepal Police hired 115,000 temporary police personnel for the Nov 20 House of Representatives and Provincial Assembly elections. For 40 days, the Myadi Prahari was supposed to assist in the security arrangements for the elections—from traffic management to enforcing the election code of conduct. Now relieved of their duties, most of them have returned to their villages in different parts of Nepal. Some want to work abroad, while quite a few are determined to join the police force.
Chakra Singh, 27, from Bajura district in the Sudurpashchim Province, applied to be a part of the Myadi Prahari as he felt the experience would open doors for foreign employment. He wants to go to Canada or the US to work as a security guard, he says. Singh had worked in the Nepal Army for eight years. He was doing odd jobs before being selected for the Myadi Prahari. “I’m hoping the experience letter will help me get a good job abroad,” he says.
Forty-three-year-old Ram Bhujel’s reasons are similar to Singh’s. He joined the Myadi Prahari as he felt it would look good on his resume. A few years ago, Ram was all set to go to Malaysia. Covid-19 put a damper on his plans. Now, he is no longer eligible to work in Malaysia as they don’t accept applicants over the age of 40. “Romania was also on my radar but the recruitment agency asked for Rs 600,000 and I didn’t have that kind of money,” he says.
Ram, who worked with the Nepal Army in Pokhara for 16 years, is now preparing to go to Kuwait. He thought working in the Myadi Prahari was a good way to utilize his free time and earn a little money while at it. The police force, he says, is an entirely different setting compared to the army. Though the public is likely to view them as one and the same—as enforcers of law and order—there are hardly any similarities between the two, he adds.
“The army is more of an isolated job. You work within a certain area and that’s it. There is limited outside contact,” says Ram. Working as the Myadi Prahari though, he had to interact with many people on a daily basis. On his 12-hour shifts, he came across all kinds of people who wanted police help for a variety of things. Some would ask for directions or help to cross the road. Some even expected the police to rush somewhere to solve a family quarrel. “It’s a job that requires you to be active and alert all the time. You don’t get a minute’s rest,” he says.
Although fit individuals between the age of 18 to 54 were selected for the job, the Myadi Prahari ApEx spoke to say the work was still physically and mentally challenging. Kuber Gurung from Khotang of Province 1 in Eastern Nepal says he has newfound respect for the Nepal Police. Their work is tiresome and they are undervalued, he says. “I applied for the job as I thought it was a good opportunity to earn some money while preparing for the loksewa. But it also ended up teaching me the value of hard work and discipline,” says Gurung.
Dilu Bhujel, 20, from Chabahil, Kathmandu, agrees with Gurung. Dilu says he was always fascinated by the police, and that it was a childhood dream to don the uniform. But he understood the responsibility that comes with it only when he served in the temporary force. The police have rigorous routines, long hours, and low pay. It’s only natural for them to sometimes lose their cool, especially when they have to deal with an array of unpredictable scenarios every day. Losing temper is not a way to brandish power, as we tend to think, but a sign of work getting to them, says Dilu. “A little consideration from the public can make their work and lives so much easier.”
Dan Bahadur Karki, acting spokesperson of the Nepal Police, says most applicants for the Myadi Prahari were those looking for some sort of job. A stipend of over Rs 50,000 is enticing, he says. Then, they also want to pick up skills that can make them employable in the security forces both in Nepal and abroad. Recruiting companies tend to prioritize those who have served in the police, even if it’s a temporary posting.
Pay and position aside, many youths joined the Myadi Prahari considering it to be a foot in the door of the police force. They felt it would increase their chances of later being accepted into the Nepal Police. Nithilesh Mahato, 21, Siraha, wants to be a police officer and plans to apply when there’s an opening. It’s a prestigious job, he says. The 10-day training period was an amazing learning experience as he got to learn under those in the force. “I consider myself lucky to have been a small part of the police force. I feel like it was a step in the right direction,” he says.
But the Myadi Prahari experience was far from hassle-free. The training was demanding and the actual work risky. Some officers were injured in the line of duty. One was killed. Spokesperson Karki says the cabinet will decide on the compensation for the deceased’s family. Apparently, they will get around Rs 2m. But nothing can make up for a lost life. Those ApEx spoke to shudder at the thought that they too could have died. “The election is generally a tense time. You can never predict what will happen, says Gurung.
A total of 125 temporary police personnel faced disciplinary action for not doing their duty properly. Despite several warnings, most of them were found to have consumed alcohol during work hours.
There’s an issue with their stipends too. Most of the Myadi Prahari claim they haven’t been fully paid. They expected to get a fixed salary at the end of their tenure. But they were paid in small installments instead, and are yet to receive at least around Rs 10,000. They don’t know when it will come or if it will at all.
“If we had gotten a lump sum, we could have done something with that money, like paid off a loan or invested it somewhere,” says Ram. He adds they have been told that the cost of the uniform will be deducted from their wages. That means they will have to pay Rs 6,000 for clothes they are unlikely to wear again.
The Myadi Prahari face an uncertain future. There’s a glimmer of hope that their experience in the force will help them gain a footing in the security agencies. Having gotten a taste of what being a police officer feels like, they wish they can now get a similarly prestigious job. Going abroad to work isn’t a choice, but a compulsion, they say, for it might be the only solution to their financial woes. “Unless the government creates more jobs, Nepalis like us will have no option but to continue toiling away in foreign lands,” says Singh.