‘If I Say Left, the Government will Go Right’: Dalit Perceptions and Experiences of Governance and Social Protection in Three Villages in Sarlahi, Nepal
My PhD research used a qualitative methodology known as grounded theory while applying a political economy lens to the situation of social assistance provision in Nepal. 70 interviews were completed with a diverse range of key informants predominantly residing in Kathmandu. These included development partners, NGOs, GoN, unions, private sector, academics, journalists and political parties. The district of Sarlahi was chosen for beneficiary interviews because it has low human development indicators and because it covers the Madhesh region and as such the people residing there have a high degree of exclusion. 21 beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries in 3 different villages were interviewed, including the Village Development Committee (VDC) secretaries. Additional interviews were completed with district-residing GoN officials and local political parties.
The research found that in all villages, but particularly the one closest to the border, Dalits faced more challenges registering and accessing their benefits than others. They also had more payment discrepancies. This paper will document 4 specific cases that highlight the challenges facing Dalits. These case studies will cover a widow, old aged, disabled, and child grant recipient. It will cover their lifestyle challenges/household dynamics, perceptions of government and discrimination, their risk profile, grievances and access and use of the transfers.
The paper makes the point that if these cash transfers are meant to help Dalits feel more included by the state then public financial management, adherence to government guidelines and monitoring need to improve. Otherwise Dalits are being reached by a system that leaves them feeling more excluded rather than protected.