Rautes left in the lurch amid incessant monsoon rains and lack of shelter

The Raute community, a Nepali indigenous nomadic gypsy ethnic group, has relocated to three places in less than two months.

As Rautes leave an area flowing the death a community member, they have shifted to different places in Salyan and Surkhet in a period of about a month and a half months. Due to the lack of proper shelters, they have been living in makeshift huts along roadsides amid heavy rains in Salyan and Surkhet.

The Raute community considers a place inauspicious if someone from the community dies there. Hence, they move places every time someone dies. According to the chief of Raute community Suryanarayan Shahi, two men and two children had died in the recent months.

The two men died due to excessive consumption of alcohol, while the seven-year-old girl and the one-and-a-half-year-old boy died due to cold.

“It’s raining and cold, but we can’t find a shelter so we are living on the streets. We don’t have foods and other necessary daily items after our shelters were damaged by heavy rains. Some people in our community are ill, but our only option is to resort to natural herbs for treatment,” said Shahi.

Durga Khatri, who has been working as a facilitator to educate Raute children for the past three years, said Rautes had been following the tradition of moving places after someone’s death for generations.

“Everybody’s sick because of the incessant rains and also because of the lack of shelter as well as nutritious food,” Durga said. She added that Rautes were on the verge of extinction as their population continued to dwindle every year.

Chief District Officer of Salyan Laxmidevi Humagain said that many Raute men were dying due to excessive alcohol consumption.

She informed that a health camp was organized on Saturday with the coordination of the Health Service Office, District Administration Office and the Nepal Army’s Sabuj Gadh after they were informed that several Rautes had fallen ill. But the camp was disrupted due to heavy rains.

“We found that the Rautes are facing dire shortage of food, shelter and daily household items.”

At present, there are only 46 households in the indigenous Raute community. Hari Bahadur Khatri, chief administrative officer of Kalimati village municipality in Karnali Priovince, said that Salyan now had only 142 Rautes, while the number stood at 146 last year.