Cheated in South Africa: Story of Rakesh Kumar Sharma

In Southern Nepal, lies a small village called Bhramarpura in Mahottari district. Bhramarpura village has sent more men abroad, mainly to Malaysia and Gulf countries for foreign labor than any other village in Mahottari district. This is significant because Mahottari district is the second largest source of migrant workers in Nepal. Bhramarpura could arguably have sent the most number of migrant workers of any village in Nepal.

Between December 2016 and January 2017, I traveled to Bhramarpura village to speak to migrant workers who have returned. I spoke to Rakesh Kumar Sharma. Below is a short clip that shows highlights of his interview.

The interview was recorded in his native language Maithili. Below is an English translation of his full interview.

Rakesh: Hello, namaskar! My name is Rakesh Kumar Sharma. My home is in Bhramarpura, Ward Number 5, Mahottari district in Janakpur zone. I went to Qatar in 1995 to work at a Food Supermarket. I came back in 1999 on a leave of around 28 days or a month. After that, I went again and came back in 2003. I had earned moderately there and after coming back I progressed well. I was not married, so after coming back I got married as well. I did not go anywhere for four years after my marriage. I spent time with my family and I had two daughters as well. Then, I planned to leave again, this time to Iraq. In 2007, I went to Iraq. For three years, I earned well in Iraq. Then, in 2010, I came back home. I spent one more year with my family after my return.

Again in 2011, I thought I should go abroad, somewhere different, to earn better. So I tried for South Africa. I contacted an agent there through Delhi but the agent cheated me a lot in the process. He cheated me by giving me illegal visa, about which I confronted him. He insisted that I should travel on this visa and if there would be any problems, he would compensate for it. In the process, I also put forward a condition and he agreed. So, I flew from Delhi directly to Tanzania. The agent told me that he will send me to South Africa but I had to wait for 10-15 days in Tanzania. I ended up waiting there for 1 and half months, but nothing happened. I wanted to go back to Nepal using the round ticket that the agent had provided. But when I went to the agency thinking I would get the tickets, I found that the return ticket was not available. I felt stranded. I was helpless. I had nothing with me. I was left with only 200-300 for food and to pay the hotel I was staying at. I was trapped very badly. The CID (detectives) used to come frequently and inquire about my passport. I went on a visit visa and I had ten more days left. I used to tell them that I had come there to visit their country. I didn’t tell them that I was there to go to South Africa. If I had done that, they would have put me in jail.

I asked the agent to send me tickets but he then switched off his phone and stopped being in contact. I thought I have to find a way out. If not, then I would have to go to jail. If my family and relatives heard about it, they would be worried about my whereabouts. Then I called my nephew, who lived in Saudi Arabia. I explained to him my problems, how I was trapped and that the agent cancelled my tickets and that I need a ticket, at least to Delhi from there. I found out that the ticket to Delhi was around 64,000 Nepali Rupees or 40,000 Indian Rupees. The flight tickets to Kathmandu would be 95,000 Nepali Rupees. Still, I got tickets to Delhi from Air Emirates. The agent was in Delhi as well. So I figured that I would go to Delhi and get hold of the agent and do something about my problem, get my money back from him. When my nephew sent me the money, I bought the tickets to Delhi at IRs. 40,000. He sent me the money in dollars. I converted it. I bought the tickets in dollars. After that, I came to Delhi and cautiously called the agent to meet me. I told him whatever happened, has happened but please come to meet me. I told him that I am trapped and to please think of an alternative. He agreed to meet me at Pahargunj. I went to a park in Pahargunj and met him. The agent, who was dealing with me to return to Nepal.

I told him that I do not even have the money to go back. If I went from Delhi to Patna, Patna to Bhitthamod, and from Bhitthamod to my village Bhramarpura, Janakpur, I did not even have money for that. How would I go? He called the other agent and told him to give me the money for plane, or rail tickets along with 1000 Indian Rupees, so that I could somehow come home.

After coming back home, I went to meet the agent but he had left his home. I’m still looking for him. He still owes me those four lakhs (Rs. 4,00,000). The agent’s name is Pradeep Yadav, a resident of Ratanpur. He is also a doctor by profession. Recently, I caught up with him. He said I would give the money tomorrow. But still a person told me, a friend, well-wisher, that he is a big agent. He has cheated people and sent his son to Bangladesh to study medicine with the money. I actually tried to find out and it is true that his son is studying medicine in Bangladesh.

I asked some of my friends to help me as my money was stuck and I want to get my money back. Then I talked to the agent in the presence of my friends. He still repeated that he would pay me tomorrow. It has been five years since I lost the money to him. When I try to look for him, he runs away. When I ask his wife, or family, they say that he is not at home, he is away and that when he comes back, you should talk to him.
This is why; I would like to request all the friends who go abroad to be thorough and cautious before going. Do not fall in the trap of any misleading agents. Once you get stuck, it is very difficult to get out of it. This is why, to all the outgoing people, every youth, every friend, I would like to send a message that you need to be careful about these agents. When the time comes to leave and you know about any work opportunities, then give interviews in the bigger manpower agencies in Kathmandu. Only after taking the best advice, go to another country. Do not get tricked by agents, is what I would send as a message.

Q: Have you received any help from the government?

I haven’t received any help from the government but I have made like a bound, a contract paper with the agent and I am thinking to present that bound paper. But many of the agents are telling me “why would you present the bound paper? You should fix this issue by discussing with each other.” Even so, I think I should at least knock on the government’s door for help, as I need justice. I am an earning laborer and I have given him 4 Lakh rupees and am still not them back. I have spent so much in this society. Everybody knows how much interest is taken on loans in the village and in banks. I am thinking that, it has been 5 years since I lost my 4 lakhs. I have told many friends and when I try to meet and discuss this issue with the agent in their presence, he refuses to get in contact. I have to ask help from the government at least once. They need to provide me with justice. I am moving towards it and am trying to get involved in this.

— End of Interview

I would like to sincerely thank Avinash Mishra for his editing and narration to bring Rakesh’s story to life. Similarly, I would like to thank Preeti A. Karna for transcribing the interview from Maithili to English. I would also like to thank Md. Riyaz Safi and Rupesh Shah for extending their support during my field trip to Bhramarpura village.

This work is part of a student media grant by the Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University. I would like to thank The Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University (ConDev, for its funding and support. ConDev seeks to improve the effectiveness of development programs and policies for conflict-affected and fragile countries through multidisciplinary research, education and development extension.

See previous posts

Migration in Nepal – Data and Trends

Role of Literacy Rate and HDI on Migration in Nepal

Daily Life of Nepali Migrant Workers in UAE

All Glitter and No Glory

High Risk and No Return

Children in Khairba Village of Nepal

Life in Bhramarpura Village of Nepal

Injured in Saudi Arabia, a worker is told: “It was your bad fate”

Life in Harsar Village of Dhanusa

Nepal to Malaysia and Back: Story of Ratan Sah


Puru Shah

Puru Shah is the founder of Madhesi Youth. For Madhesi Youth, he primarily writes about human rights issues and articles with an emphasis on data analysis & data visualization. His goal is to promote justice, equality, sustainable development, and youth empowerment in Nepal. Connect with Puru Shah on Twitter (@digitalsubway)