Haliyas, a traditional form of bonded labor

Haliya means the ‘one who ploughs’. Haliya is an agricultural bonded labor who works on other’s land. This system of bonded labor is practiced in the hilly areas of mid and far western regions of Nepal. The term “Haliya” is associated closely with the system of debt bondage in the caste based communities.

The landlords are generally from the high caste Brahmin or Chettri or higher status ethnic groups like Gurung, Magars, etc. Most of the Haliyas are poor and lower caste landless people. They work for the landlords to pay off the principle and interest of loans borrowed by their ancestors and as they do not earn on cash, they are unable to pay the loan and it is transferred to the next generation.

There are three types of Haliyas– one is based on ancestry where they work for the landlords to pay off the loans taken by their ancestors. In the second type, they take little land from the landlords to cultivate in exchange of their labor. They work in their as well as the landlord’s field. In the third type, they work for the landlords until the loan is paid.

This is also one of the major forms of human exploitation practiced in Nepal. However, due to the increasing literacy and the active roles of NGOs and INGOs, this practice has decreased compared to earlier times.