Lost Generation

Youth and Unemployment

MURARI SHARMA

A young man from my village in Bhojpur—let us call him Laksha for his anonymity—has been looking for a job for 17 years now. Laksha started his quest at the age of 18. Now, 35, he is yet to find one.

A high school graduate, Laksha is handsome, genial, sturdy, smart but simple. He could not study further because his family could not afford it. He could not stay long in big cities chasing jobs for the same reason. But he has made several sterile trips to Kathmandu and other large cities and asked many for help, including me, in search of job. Laksha was ready to work anywhere in Nepal and to go to the Middle East or Malaysia, the main destinations for Nepali workers.


PHOTO: DEMANDCOMPANY.COM

I spoke to a couple of friends whose offices had announced vacancies, but they already had their own candidates and a long list of supporters recommended by ministers and other political leaders. I approached some manpower agencies that sent workers abroad. They could, they told me, send Laksha if he was able the pay at least Rs 60,000 for a low-paying work in the Middle East, too much for Laksha.

Failing to find a job for him, I advised him to try Public Service Commission vacancies. Since he could not afford to live in Kathmandu or Dhankuta, he missed most of the deadlines for application. When he did apply, he did not have the materials and coaching to win the fierce competition for a few posts. I tried to help him even after I left for New York but could not, for the job situation was steadily worsening.

Now married and a father, Laksha continues his quest for a job. His only crime (if it can be called so) was his poverty and lack of political connections. Understandably, he is frustrated with himself and angry at the state. So are millions of his contemporaries—youth unemployment is above 40 percent in Nepal—sharing the same predicament. They are stuck in a groove of joblessness and poverty. Their productive capacities are being wasted. These people constitute the lion’s share of Nepal’s lost generation.

The Maoists recruited and exploited these angry and frustrated youth. These youth lost their innocence and education, and many even their lives. Those who survived the insurgency are now better off—some have joined the army and others have gone into voluntary retirement with a golden handshake. The government has announced to give two lakh rupees each even to the fake combatants disqualified by UNMIN.

But Laksha refused to join the Maoists. During the insurgency, local Maoists had taken him to their camps, but he left, for he did not appreciate their goal and means. He could have joined the ranks of fake combatants recruited by the Maoists to swell their numbers when the peace process was inked. But Laksha, a religious man, thought it was a wrong thing to do. Now he thinks, since only dishonesty pays in Nepal, he should have joined the grand fraud.

Laksha’s father says, Nepal has become hell for the young without political connection and money. Those who have strong political connections and the means to bribe politicians or to pay the exorbitant fee to manpower agencies find jobs at home and abroad. The Maoist outfits force development projects and private employers to hire their members. But the innocent and sincere youth with no such connections are left high and dry. Strangely, the government has a program for everyone but the youth.

For instance, politicians have lavished on all other groups perquisites and privileges—salaries, allowances, housing facility, vehicles, foreign trips and medical treatment, etc.—from government and opportunity to get rich quickly through corruption. Many bureaucrats enjoy similar opportunities. Businesses have shady government contracts, tax deductions, concessions on imports and incentives for exports. The old have the old-age allowance from government. The only program dedicated to the youth is education but state schools and colleges offer very poor education to prepare them for a productive life and career.

On the eve of elections, governments have announced programs to promote youth employment—to create jobs and to offer help for self-employment. Once the elections are over, these programs are forgotten until the next ballot becomes due in several years. Nepal imports everything. It could have established import-substitution industries and employed many youth. But it has not.

So, more than 2.5 million youth have gone abroad seeking mostly low-skill employment. These are the other chunk of Nepal’s lost generation. Virtually all of them have sold their property or borrowed money to pay the exorbitant fee charged by Nepali manpower agencies and their foreign collaborators. Though many of them are educated, these young people have been forced to take up menial jobs abroad for the lack of opportunities at home.

Worse still, exploitation, abuse and tragedies await them in host countries. Often they are not paid what was promised. Some return unable to endure inhospitable climates and abuse by their employers. Many die of diseases and dehydration in 50C heat. Young women are even more vulnerable. Unscrupulous agents promise them jobs but sell them to brothels. Employers abuse and rape many of those who go to work. Some of these victims return home with incurable diseases and babies born of rape to a life of social ostracization.

Those who can endure all this have to work 16/17 hours a day in hazardous conditions and save a few thousand rupees. Their savings often is not enough to repay the loan and pay for the sky-rocketing costs of living for their family back home. Their families are broken and children are forced to grow with one parent. They come back home weak, diseased and prematurely old. All these young men and women could have contributed towards national growth if they had the opportunity to work in the country.

If our politicians and government had been committed, these youth could have found work in the country. Leaders brag about making Nepal Singapore or Switzerland to win elections. Once elected, they realize that objective only for themselves by fighting over posts and power and making personal fortunes. People and country come remote fourth in their priority—after personal benefits, extended family benefits, and party benefits. Currently, they are holding the country hostage—without a constitution, without a budget and without a way forward—for parochial advantage.

Development and prosperity require visionary leaders like Lee Kwan-yew, Deng Xiaoping and Mahathir Mohammad who worked honestly and tirelessly for people and inspired them to work equally hard. Under their leadership, Singapore, China and Malaysia respectively have transformed themselves in one generation. Even Moumoon Gayoom and Manmohan Singh have unlocked growth in the Maldives and India respectively. But Nepal is yet to produce such leaders.

Only a few leaders have vision, desire and capacity to become statesmen on their own. Others have to be forced to rise above their petty interests; people can do so by exercising their right to vote in democratic societies. But why are the Nepali people, particularly from the lost generation, so tolerant of their self-serving and predatory leaders? A frustrated friend of mine puts it thus, “You have to choose one from the stinking field of rotten candidates.”

That might be true. But until the Nepali people take charge, promote leaders who deliver and punish who do not, Nepal cannot be a better country for its citizens, including the young ones like Laksha.

http://www.myrepublica.com/portal/index.php?action=news_details&news_id=44995

Published on 2012-11-18

Crisis with a Silver Line

By Murari Sharma

 Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s resignation from his post has thrown Nepal into a lamentable political crisis. The crisis precipitated when Mr. Dahal sacked the army chief and appointed his successor to replace him, and one of the key ruling coalition partners withdrew from government in protest. President Ram Baran Yadav added fuel to the fire by asking the removed army chief to stay put in his job. This turmoil was totally unwarranted, but it could turn out to be cathartic for the country’s messy politics.  

 The crisis was building up over time. The Maoists themselves are primarily to blame for this. They have publicly and unequivocally avowed that their ultimate goal remains to convert Nepal into a people’s republic. The ruling coalition partners and opposition parties were deeply worried about it. Excesses of the Young Communist League, a Maoist outfit, have always been a cause of serious concern for other parties and the public. YCL members engage in preventing and disrupting activities of other political parties and in killing and maiming their opponents.

 People have been worried about the way the neutrality of the civil service, police and intelligence was being dented by stuffing Maoist loyalists and supporters in senior posts. Equally troublesome has been the way the Maoists were trying to undermine the judiciary’s independence by cowing the courts to give verdicts of their liking. The military brass was under enormous pressure to integrate into army ranks the 19,000 Maoist combatants living in the 7 UN-monitored cantonments. Reportedly the army chief, Rukmangad Katuwal, was resisting that pressure, which apparently led to his sacking on grounds of insubordination.

 A successful revolutionary, Mr. Dahal has proved to be an unsuccessful prime minister. His government could not pacify the ethnic outbursts and passions that continue to flare up. Frequent shutdowns and strikes continue to paralyze the country. Children cannot go to school; the sick cannot go to hospitals; and employees cannot go to their jobs. People are forced to live in dark, because there is power outage of more than 12 hours every day. There is no petrol at the gas station, no running water at the tap, no cooking gas in the store. These are not necessarily problems the Maoists have created, but the public blames them for not doing enough to resolve them.

 In the economic front too, the government has left much wanting. It could only spend 25 per cent of its budget allocated to development activities. Maoist economic policies, labor militancy, atrocities of political party-supported extremist outfits, and frequent shutdowns have been driving businesses to shut their door. Investors are looking elsewhere to invest. Agriculture too has suffered because the Maoists have not retuned the captured land, and landowners are not investing in land because they are frightened that the Maoists are going to confiscate their farms in the name of land reform. 

 Most important, the raison d’etre of the Dahal government was to write a new constitution, and that business was not going anywhere. Drafting a democratic constitution seemed to be the last thing on the Maoists’ mind. If they cared about it, it was not manifest. All these factors had disillusioned the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), a left of the center democratic party.    

 The dismissal of the army chief was the last straw that broke the patience of UML and the back of the ruling coalition itself. The prime minister and Maoist ministers had taken a hasty decision to remove him unilaterally, disregarding the UML’s advice to find a consensus solution to the row. As a result, UML walked out of the government in protest and pulled the crisis’s trigger. The crisis deepened when several other coalition partners followed suit, and the president asked the sacked army chief to stay on, despite the government’s decision.

 In his address to the nation the other day, Prime Minister Dahal announced his resignation citing moral grounds. But the resignation has more to it. First, the Maoists wanted to make the president’s order to the army chief to continue as a constitutional issue, which it is. Secondly, it would have been uncomfortable for the prime minister to continue working with an army chief whom he had dismissed, which is understandable. Thirdly and most importantly, the Damocles’ sword of no-confidence motion with uncertain outcome was about to hang over the government’s head, which was imminent.

 Now that the country has plunged into a deep political crisis, this is a time for sober reflection about how best to provide a stable government to the country that can ensure security and rule of law, protect democratic values and institutions and promote people’s welfare. Given the precarious condition of the country and shaky state of its peace process, this is not a time for a hasty, emotional and parochial decision.

 Other parties could form an alternative government, as they might be able to garner a razor-thin majority in the house. But they cannot govern, and the Maoists will make sure of it by churning the streets and by disrupting the house, something they have learned from other parties over last 9 months of their government. What is more, you cannot possibly leave the largest party in the house – they have 238 seats out of 601 — out of government altogether if you are serious about writing the constitution, whose approval requires a two-thirds majority.  

 We need to bear in mind that if the Maoists have been a problem player in the government, they could prove a nightmare out of it. So we need to find a way to accommodate them. Let us not forget, despite their many flaws, the Maoists have come this far in the peace process, and they still have enormous capacity for disruption and destabilization – for instance, the combatants and YCL – and prospects for their transformation into a democratic party. Here is what I think should be done.

 Ideally, we need a government of national consensus. If that proves impossible to have, then it should be a government that commands at least a two-thirds majority in the constituent assembly. A government of simple majority should be the last option. The primary mission of the assembly is to draft a new constitution, which requires the approval of a two-thirds majority. This is not a time to engage in political bickering, as the stipulated timeframe for writing the constitution is running out fast. Consensus and collaboration is the need of the day. Therefore, whichever party is able to form at least a two-thirds majority government should be given the opportunity to do so.

 Who could do it? The Maoists, Nepali Congress Party and UML come to mind. If they want, the Maoists could give another try to cobbling together a government of national consensus or at least of two-thirds majority in the house. Other parties should remain open to supporting the Maoists if they demonstrate genuine willingness and sufficient flexibility to do this. Although there are no permanent friends and foes in politics, there is so much accumulated acrimony between them that it would be inconceivable just yet for the Nepali Congress Party to support the Maoists. By the same token, the Maoists are unlikely to throw their support behind their declared class enemy — the Nepali Congress Party, the second largest in the house

 That leaves the third largest — UML – on the field. UML stands the best chance of constituting a broad-based government – at least enjoying a two-thirds majority if not an all-party one. The Nepali Congress Party, the second largest in the house, has already expressed its willingness to support UML for this. In quid pro quo for their support for Mr. Dahal’s government, the Maoists might, and should, be willing to accept UML leadership as well.

 I believe a national consensus or two-thirds majority government will change the game in Nepal. The constitution writing will move forward more smoothly and speedily. Businessmen and investors will feel secure to invest, farmers to sow and harvest, children to go to school in safety and the sick to have proper medical treatment. More confident about our future course, our friends and allies would want to provide us more assistance. Foreign investors would want to invest or expand their investment in Nepal. There could be a whole chain of positive multiplier effect.

Indeed, the current political crisis is a serious challenge to Nepal’s stability and progress. At the same time it has also presented us with the opportunity to form a new, broader based government than before and to engage in fresh thinking. As they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining, and we ought to make the most out of this flickering bright line.

      

London

May 4, 2009 

Published in Nepalnews.com


 

सिंहदरबारको भित्तामा फोटो

मुरारि शर्मा

 

नेपाली पत्रपत्रिकाले काशी तिवारीकी श्रीमती बबिता तिवारीलाई भूमिसुधार मन्त्रालयका सहसचिब नगेन्द्र झाले ८ लाख रुपैया दिएर भूमिसुधारमन्त्री प्रभु शाह काशी तिवारीको हत्यामा संलग्न नभएको बयान दिन दबाब दिएको समाचार र बबिता तिवारीसहित ८ लाख रुपैयाको फोटो छापेका छन् | साथै सबै पत्रिकाहरुले राजनैतिक दबाब दिई प्रभु शाहलाई अभियुक्त होइन भन्ने प्रमाणित गर्न खोजेको समाचार पनि छापेका छन् | यो भट्टराई सरकारको कार्यशैली र प्रधानमन्त्री बाबुराम भट्टराईको प्रजातन्त्र र विधिको शासनको एउटा नमुना हो | आगामी दिनहरुमा सरकारले के कस्ता काम गर्ला भन्ने छनक पनि यसले स्पष्ट रुपमा दिन्छ |

बाबुराम भट्टराईले प्रधानमन्त्री भएपछि दुईवटा राष्ट्रिय स्तरमा कम महत्वका भए पनि अत्यन्त सकारात्मक काम गरेका छन् | एउटा त उनले नेपालमा बनेको मुस्तांग गाडी चढेका छन् | उनकी श्रीमती हिसिला यमीलाई जापानमा बनेको प्राडो चाहिएको थियो, त्यो अर्कै कुरा हो | मैले माधव नेपाल प्रधानमन्त्री हुँदा गरिब देशमा महंगा गाडी भन्ने लेख यसै पत्रिकामा छपाएको थिएँ | नेपालले सचिबहरुलाई एउटा झारा टार्ने निर्देशन दिए र काम टुंगो लगाए | कमसेकम बाबुरामले आफुले सस्तो गाडी चढेर र अरुलाई पनि सस्तो गाडी चढ्न उत्प्रेरित गरेर राम्रो उदाहरण पेश गरेका छन् | अर्को, उनले विदेश भ्रमणमा जाँदा लिएको तर खर्च नभएको भैपरी आउने रकम परोपकारमा लगाएका छन् | यी दुवै प्रसंशायोग्य कुरा हुन् | शान्ति प्रक्रियालाई पुरा गर्ने र संबिधान बनाउने काम पुरा गर्न नसके पनि यस्ता धेरै साना कामले पनि प्रधानमंत्रीको व्यक्तित्व र सरकारको छविलाई राम्रो बनाउँछन् |

तर मुलुकको दुर्भाग्य, अधिकांश जनताले ठुलो आश बाँधेका प्रधानमन्त्रीबाट भएका राम्रा कामको सुची यहिँ सकिन्छ र नराम्रा कामको सुची सुरु हुन्छ |  नराम्रा कामको शुरुवात माओबादी र मधेशी दलहरुको गठबन्धन सरकार गठनगर्न उनीहरुबीच भएको ४-बुंदे सम्झौताबाट हुन्छ | माओबादी र मधेशबादीको यो गठबन्धन प्राकृतिक हो कि होइन भन्ने बारेमा निकै बहस भैसकेको छ | कसैले यसलाई अप्राकृतिक भनेका छन् भने कसैले यसलाई प्राकृतिक भनेर ठोकुवा गरेका छन् | निश्चय नै यो दुइवटा विद्रोही शक्तिहरुको प्राकृतिक गठबन्धन हो |  तर यस्तो गठबन्धनले देश र प्रजातन्त्रको हित गर्छ कि गर्दैन भन्ने चाहिं आजको चिन्ताको विषय हो |

समाजलाई शान्तिपूर्वक चलाउन विभिन्न तत्वहरुको बिचमा सामन्जस्य र सन्तुलन चाहिन्छ | त्यसका लागि विपरित गुण भएका तत्वहरुलाई एक ठाउँमा राख्नु पर्छ | अपराध नियन्त्रण गर्न पुलिस राख्नु पर्छ | रोग निको पार्न चिकित्सक र औषधि चाहिन्छ | केटाकेटीलाई सिकाउँन र सुरक्षा गर्न प्रौढ चाहिन्छ | एकै गुणका तत्वहरु एक ठाउँमा आए भने त्यसबाट अवरोध र विनाश सिर्जना हुन्छ | जस्तै आगो आगो एक ठाउँमा भयो भने प्रलयकारी आगो जन्मिन्छ | पानीमा पानी थपियो भने विध्वंशकारी बाढी आउँछ | साधु साधु मिले भने बैराग्य आउँछ | चोर चोर मिले भने महाचोरको जत्था बन्छ | अपराधी अपराधी मिले भने महाअपराधीको गुट बन्छ | क्रान्तिकारी क्रान्तिकारी मिले भने अशान्ति र अराजकता बढ्छ | बिद्रोही बिद्रोही मिले भने समाजले सन्तुलन र सामन्जस्य गुमाउँछ |

दुई विद्रोही शक्तिको ४-बुंदे सम्झौतामा आधारित गठबन्धन सरकारले मुलुकलाई गलत बाटोमा लगेर भड्खालोमा हाल्न लागेको स्पष्ट देखिन्छ | त्यसैले यस सम्झौतालाई माओबादीकै एक खेमाले राष्ट्रघाती भनेको छ भने नेपाली कांग्रेस र नेपाल कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी (एमाले) ले कडा आलोचना गरेका छन् |  वस्तुगत रुपमा हेर्दा ४ बुंदामध्ये पहिलो बुंदा — जसमा माओबादी लडाकाहरुको समायोजन सम्बन्धी सम्पूर्ण काम विशेष समितिलाई सुम्पने कुरा छ — सकारात्मक छ भने अरु बुंदाहरु आपत्तिजनक छन् | त्यसैगरी भट्टराई सरकारले गरेका अधिकांश कामहरु पनि आपत्तिजनक वा विवादास्पद छन् |

उदाहरणका लागि, ४-बुंदे सम्झौताको आधारमा सरकारले फौजदारी अभियोग लागेका वा त्यस्तो अभियोगमा सजाय पाएका माओबादी र मधेशबादी केही अपराधीहरुलाई राजनीतिक खास्टो ओढाएर  तिनको मुद्दा खारेज गर्ने र सजाय माफ गर्ने निर्णय लिसकेको छ भने अरुको हकमा पनि त्यस्तै निर्णय लिने सहमति भएको छ | काशी तिवारीको हत्यामा आरोपित माओबादी भूमिसुधार मन्त्री प्रभु शाहलाई जोगाउन प्रधानमन्त्री भट्टराईले राजनैतिक दबाब दिएर शाहलाई उन्मुक्ति मात्र दिएनन् कि शाहलाई जोगाउन ८ लाख रुपैया घुस दिएको प्रमाण खुद मृत तिवारीकी पत्नीले दिंदा पनि अनदेख गरेका छन् | भट्टराई र उनको सरकारको विधिको शासन प्रतिको प्रतिबद्धताको यसभन्दा बलियो उपहास के हुन सक्छ? त्यसैले दुई बिद्रोही शक्ति मिलेको सरकारले समाजमा अपराधीकरण बढाउन लागेको देखिन्छ | यो ठुलो चिन्ताको विषय हो |

त्यस्तै  ४-बुंदे सहमतिको माध्यमबाट माओबादीले आफुले गृहयुद्धताका हडप गरेको सर्वसाधारणको सम्पत्ति फिर्ता  नगर्ने भूमिका बाँधेको छ | सहमतिमा पहिले कब्जा गरेको सम्पत्ति फिर्ता गर्ने प्रतिबद्धता छैन |  अब  कसैलाई आफ्नो भूमिमाथिको स्वामित्वबाट बेदखल नगर्ने र पिडितलाई सहयोग दिने प्रतिज्ञा मात्र छ |  यो लुटेको सम्पत्ति फिर्ता नगरी हजम गर्ने माओबादी दाउ हो |

भट्टराई सरकारको राष्ट्रप्रतिको प्रतिबद्धता कति कमजोर छ भन्ने रक्षामन्त्री शरद भण्डारीको तराईका २२ जिल्ला  फुट्ने फुटाउने विवादास्पद अभिव्यक्तिले पनि देखाउँछ | अन्य कुनै पनि मुलुकमा चाहे प्रजातान्त्रिक होस् वा साम्यवादी होस् त्यस्तो अभिव्यक्तिले रक्षामन्त्रीको राजिनामा अपरिहार्य हुन्थ्यो, तर नेपालमा र खासगरी भट्टराई सरकारमा त्यस्तो हुनु असम्भव नै हुनेछ |

रक्षा मन्त्रालयको कुरा गर्दा ४-बुंदे सहमतिमा समावेश गरिएको समाबेशीकरणको नाममा कुनै समुह विशेषको नेपाली सेनामा समुहगत प्रवेशको मुद्दा पनि आउँछ | नेपाली सेनाको स्तर बढाउन, यसलाई व्यावसायीकरण गर्न  एवं  बढी समावेशी बनाउन  र यसलाई निर्वाचित सरकारको नियन्त्रणमा ल्याउन नितान्त जरुरी छ | तर त्यसको लागि सेनालाई समुह-समुहमा बाड्नु पर्दैन, सेनामा समुहगत प्रवेश पनि चाहिन्न | समुहगत प्रवेश र समुहगत सेना बनाउनु भनेको यसको राजनीतिकरण गर्नु हो र रक्षामन्त्री भण्डारीले चाहेको जस्तो मुलुकको बिखन्डन गर्न वातावरण तयार पार्नु हो |

अर्को चाखलाग्दो कुरा हो मन्त्रीहरुको आचारसंहिता | नेपालमा नराम्रो काम गर्ने अनुमति दिन राम्रो नामको नियमकानुन ल्याउने चलन छ | गर्भपतनलाई कानुनी रुप दिन गर्भ संरक्षण ऐन, बन फडानी गर्न बन संरक्षण ऐन यसका उदाहरण हुन् | भट्टराई मन्त्रिपरिषदले मन्त्रीहरुले देश र विदेश भ्रमणमा जानुअघि प्रधानमन्त्रीसंग अनुमति लिनुपर्ने प्रावधान हालै गरेको छ | प्रचलित नियमानुसार प्रधानमन्त्री, मन्त्री, सचिबहरु मन्त्रिपरिषद्को निर्णयबिना विदेश जान पाउन्नन् | तर अब मन्त्रिपरिषद्को निर्णय होइन, प्रधानमंत्रीको अनुमति पाए पुग्ने भयो | यसले नियन्त्रण होइन, मन्त्रीहरुको विदेश भ्रमण सजिलो र गोप्य राख्न मद्दत पुग्छ |

यस्तो सरकारले यस अघिका माओबादी, एमाले र मधेशी दलहरुको सरकार एवं एमाले र नेपाली कांग्रेसको सरकारले गर्न नसकेका शान्ति प्रक्रियालाई तार्किक निष्कर्षमा पुर्याउने र संबिधान लेखनलाई पुरा गर्ने जस्ता अप्ठ्यारा कामहरु सम्पन्न गर्ला भनी सोच्नु हावामा महल बनाउनु हो | यदि नेपाली कांग्रेस र एमालेलाई सरकारमा ल्याउन सकेनन भने भट्टराईले गर्ने पनि  पुर्वप्रधानमन्त्रीहरुको फोटो भएको सिंहदरबारको भित्तामा आफ्नो फोटो झुन्डाउने सम्म हो |  त्यसभन्दा बढी आशा गर्नु व्यर्थ हुनेछ | भट्टराईले नेपाली कांग्रेससंग वार्ता गरिरहेको भएता पनि प्रश्न आउँछ, नेपाली कांग्रेसले भट्टराई सरकारमा किन आउने?

प्रचण्डले प्रस्ताव गरेजस्तो नेपाली कांग्रेसले अहिले माओबादीलाई संबिधान लेख्न सघाउने र माओबादीले कांग्रेसलाई चुनाबी सरकार बनाउन मद्दत गर्ने मोहपासमा कांग्रेस पर्यो भने गतिलो प्रजातान्त्रिक संबिधान त आउन्न आउन्न, माओबादीले नेपाली कांग्रेसलाई चुनाबी सरकार थमाएर आफु सत्ताबाहिर बसेर जथाभावी गरेर चुनाब जिती अरु दलहरुलाई सखाप पार्ने रणनीति लिने बलियो सम्भावना छ |  त्यसो भयो भने नेपाली कांग्रेस त सखाप हुन्छ नै, नेपालमा प्रजातन्त्र पनि मासिन्छ | त्यसैले नेपाली कांग्रेसले अहिलेको अवस्थामा माओबादीसंग त्यति सजिलै सहकार्य गर्छ भन्ने सोच्नु गलत हुनेछ |

अतएव बाबुराम भट्टराई सरकार शान्ति प्रक्रियालाई निष्कर्षमा पुर्याउन  र संबिधान लेख्न असक्षम हुने त छंदैछ, ४-बुंदे सहमति को भासमा डुबेर मुलुकमा विधिको शासनको उपहास गर्ने, राजनीति र समाजमा अपराधीकरण बढाउने, राष्ट्रको अश्तित्वसंग खेलबाड गर्ने सरकारको रुपमा चिनिने छ | मैले एक पटक लेखेको थिएँ भट्टराईमा सफल प्रधानमन्त्री बन्न सक्ने गुण छैनन्, तर उनले गोर्बाचोव भएर देशलाई गुन लगाउन सक्छन भनेर |  बाटो रोज्ने उनले हो | जे गरेपनि उनको फोटो सिंहदरबारमा अवश्य झुन्डिन्छ |

भट्टराईको फोटो सिंहदरबारमा झुन्डाउदा उनका भूमिसुधारमन्त्री प्रभु शाहलाई बचाउन नगेन्द्र झाले काशी तिवारीकी पत्नी बबिता तिवारीलाई दिएको ८ लाख रुपैयाको फोटो पनि साथै राख्नु बेश होला, किनभने भट्टराईको सबभन्दा बलियो बिरासत त्यही हुनसक्छ |   तर त्यस्तो नहोस भन्ने भट्टराईलाई मेरो शुभकामना छ |

 

अक्टोबर १३, २०११  (published in Kantipur of 24 October 2011)


 

Why Nepal Lost GA Vote

Murari Sharma

Nepal lost to Qatar in the stray poll held in the 53-strong Asian Group at the United Nations in New York on 25 February 2011 for the president of the General Assembly (PGA). Labeled as a close vote by the concerned officials, the defeat was a devastating blow to Nepal’s diplomacy and reputation.

Generally elected by consensus, the president is the leader of the GA for a year, September to September. This is not, however, the first time that there has been competition in the group for the coveted post. Several years back, Saudi Arabia had bagged the post through a similar ballot.

There is a saying in Nepali that can be roughly translated into something like this: You see the doorstep after you have defiled it. Indeed, we Nepalis have a strange habit of not preparing enough for anything to turn the situation in our favor beforehand and spending all the time and energy on analyzing what went wrong afterwards.

Interestingly, one mainstream newspaper refused to print an article that identified Nepal’s weaknesses in the campaign and that suggested measures to overcome them several days before the poll and asked the writer to send it after the election was lost. How prophetic! Anyway, another newspaper published the article.

But that might not have helped the campaign much because the suggestions were largely ignored to our peril. That aside, it would be useful to examine ex-post-facto what went wrong in order to educate us about what to do when we are faced with a similar challenge in the future. That is if we care to learn.

Indeed, we have squandered the once-in-a-life-time opportunity to hold the high post. Now the diplomatic and media commentariats have set themselves in full swing to examine every shard of the shattered hope.

In UN elections, country, candidate and campaign decide the outcome. As Nepal had no edge over Qatar in terms of the country and the candidate, campaign was the only hope for Nepal to win the high chair.  As a country, Nepal – a least developed nation, which has just come out of conflict, which does not have a constitution yet, and which does not have a proper government for almost 8 months by now – was no match to Qatar, which has been a stable and prosperous state.

Yet logic favored Nepal. The country was an older member of the UN, had contributed several thousand troops to UN peacekeeping operations and had announced her candidature for PGA much before Qatar, which was seeking to succeed Bahrain that had held PGA from the Asian Group five years ago. But lobby was on Qatar’s side. Islamic solidarity, the reputation of being home to Al-Jazeera and host to the World Cup in 2022, and the economic opportunities she offered other countries favored Qatar.

As both countries had fielded good and strong candidates, there was not much advantage on either side at the candidate level. Our man, Kul Chandra Gautam, assistant secretary general of the United Nations until recently, was a bright candidate. Nassir al-Nasser, his country’s permanent representative (PR) in New York since 1998, was a smart candidate with considerable political skills.

In UN votes, like in national elections, bright candidates do not make the right candidates. You must have someone with political and people skills, not technocratic success, to get elected to PGA, which is a political post. I am not disparaging Gautam whom my successor and I campaigned hard to make under secretary general, because he was fit for promotion to that post.

Gautam chose the wrong bait from another perspective as well. He lacked the advantage of location and incumbency his competitor enjoyed. While he left New York a few years back, al-Nasser consistently hobnobbed with other ambassadors who were his constituency. This helped him breeze to easy victory in the poll.

It is a fallacy to believe that any former minister who spoke English well could have won the vote. But any sitting deputy prime minister or foreign minister unfit to become even deputy minister or our PR could have certainly done better due to their incumbency or location advantage over extraneous candidates.

Despite these disadvantages, Nepal could still have won PGA with the right campaign. But several factors worked against her. First, it was a blunder to withdraw Nepal’s candidature for the Economic and Social Council without seeking quid pro quo from Qatar, which was also a candidate for the same term. That was a sign of weakness, if not outright nervousness.  You do not win vote by being timid.

Second, it was a mistake to rely only on true but old planks for election – our UN membership, our contribution to UN peacekeeping – and not to bring current political and economic issues that many countries shared to win support. We should have reached out more with proactive diplomacy. Countries respond better, when they find that we are prepared to champion the cause they hold dear.

Third, though he might have stronger reasons to be present in Kathmandu rather than in New York at the time of PGA elections, it looked to the outsiders totally inappropriate for the Nepali PR to be absent in New York on the eve and at the time of the crucial vote. The PR in New York, more than anyone else, could have changed the game if he had wanted.

I am saying this from my experience. When I was representing Nepal in the world body, from 2000-2004, the country was in a worse shape. The Maoist conflict was in its heights. The king was etching to increase his power and control. Political parties were agitating, and political instability was at its peak. But in those four years, we won 14 out of 17 elections with proactive diplomacy and vigorous campaigns, defeating even South Korea. We lost only three, because the candidatures were announced just days or weeks before the vote giving us no time to campaign.

This is why the defeat in the PGA election should be attributed more to weak diplomacy and inadequate campaign in New York than to anything else. This is not the first time Nepal has lost a major election due to weak campaign. In 2006, Nepal was trounced by Indonesia in the Security Council vote by 28 to 158. That time, we were defeated by the largest Muslim country; this time, we have been defeated by one of the smallest Muslim countries.

Interestingly, someone described the competition between Nepal and Qatar in terms of David and Goliath to justify our loss. But in this election, Goliath should have been Nepal, not Qatar, which has a population of the size of Pokhara or Biratnagar.  Higher per capita income alone does not make for a nation stronger.

That said, we would not get anything by engaging in mutual recrimination over the spilt milk. But the loss of PGA ballot should make us wiser in selecting the posts we fight for, choosing the candidates for those posts, and investing our diplomatic strength to win future elections. This is what we should take from the blow it has given to our diplomacy and reputation.

London

February 27, 2011

(Published in Nepalnews.com on March 1, 2011)


 

UNMIN’s Exit: Good for Nepal

By Murari Sharma

The fear about a military coup or Maoist revolt expressed by Karen Landgren, the outgoing chief of the United Nations Mission to Nepal (UNMIN), at the UN Security Council and statements from several Maoist leaders in Nepal manifest how deeply they are about the mission shuttering its door soon, as the government has decided not to seek its extension. While the mission’s departure might look premature to many, there is reason to panic. It might actually prove to be coup de grace to obstructionism, which is dragging the peace process, and help us take the process to the finish line faster.

I had read an instructive and interesting story as a student in India about coup de grace. A family fell into hard times after the breadwinner father died. Rather than working to make a decent living, his three sons sold their property and lived on the proceeds. At last, they only had their house and a legume tree in their backyard left. They lived in poverty on the meager income from the sale of the legumes. Once, their father’s fast friend came to visit them. In the evening, the mother cooked all the rice they had which was not enough for more than two people.

Citing fake reasons, two elder brothers did not eat. The guest and the youngest son sat down for dinner, but the son ate little pretending that he was not hungry that much. At night, the guest heard the brothers telling a legume buyer that they would accept whatever he gave because they could not bargain much due to the guest’s presence in the house. When the brothers went to sleep after the trade, the guest felled the legume tree and left. Few years later, the same guest came back to see how the family was doing. The family, now prosperous, treated him very well and expressed their gratitude for cutting off the legume tree and forcing them to work to make a living, which had made them wealthy.

Change, always unsettling, is often rewarding. The UNMIN’s impending departure has rattled many nerves, because its presence has been reassuring to many of us in that the United Nations, an institution where Nepal also has a stake and some voice, was watching over the peace process. I have witnessed in the seven years working with the world body, other countries, where UN missions have been closed, have often felt the same way, but become more self-reliant and stronger after the UN mission left, from Cambodia to Mozambique to Guatemala.

That is what I expect to happen in Nepal too. Once the UNMIN leaves, both the Maoists and the other political parties will have to either advance the peace process more diligently on their own or accept facilitation from a country that has more resources and political influence than the UNMIN to lean on the recalcitrant side. Either way, they will have to bridge the wide gulf on such key issues as the integration of Maoist combatants, formation of government and writing of the new constitution and carry the peace process to its logical end.

While the Maoists want all their combatants integrated into the army, other political parties and the military have opposed the idea. Their opposition has further intensified after a video footage of the speech given by Maoist Supremo Prachand at the Shaktikhor cantonment outlining his strategy to politicize the army and capture the state, was leaked to the media.

Nepal is heading to break all records of working under a caretaker government, which has already been more than five months. The process of electing a new prime minster has hit a tactical stalemate. Desperate to become prime minister again, Prachand used the UML President Jhalanath Khanal to kick out his own UML colleague Madhav Nepal from the chair. In apparent retaliation, the caretaker Prime Minister Nepal has prevented both Dahal and Khanal from becoming prime minister. And the Nepali Congress and Maoists would not support each other.

It has become increasingly clear that the constituent assembly would not be able to deliver a new constitution within the extended timeframe. While the Maoists want to write a “people’s constitution” and keep their combatants in cantonments until the general elections are held under the new legal framework, other parties want a democratic constitution completed only after the combatants have been disbanded. The technical reasons cited for a lack of progress, some of them serious, seem more to be the Potemkin’s village to hide their real intentions than real obstacles.

Unless these differences are resolved, the fragile peace process will continue to teeter and even collapse. The UNMIN’s reassuring presence was hurting rather than helping the process. For instance, too worried about the Maoist threat to walk away from the peace process, the UNMIN has treated the former rebels with kid’s gloves whenever they have breached their commitments — including the combatants freely walking in and out of cantonments with weapons on the UNMIN’s watch. This has encouraged the Maoists to maintain Manichean duality between revolution and peace, the latter as an obstacle to their objective. Because of this, the mission has not been forceful in criticizing other parties for their failures, either.

In the neighborhood, neither India nor China looks favorably at UN involvement in resolving conflicts in their backyards. New Delhi feels uncomfortable with the UNMIN because it has sent wrong signals to the Indian Maoists creating mayhem in the red corridor and emboldened those who want greater UN participation in the Kashmir issue. Beijing too is concerned that, taking a cue from Nepal, its troubled minority provinces might wish to insert the United Nations in their affairs. Therefore, both our neighbors would be happy to see the UNMIN’s back.

Whatever the reason, the UNMIN’s departure will be good for Nepal. It will force both the Maoists and other political parties to make new compromises and fulfill old commitments to advance the peace process. The Maoists will no more have the mission that has offered a curtain behind which they could continue paying lip service to peace while preparing for revolution, as their latest resolution has manifested. And other political parties will have to get their acts together to defend democracy and freedom, rather than shifting blame to the UNMIN.

What Nepal needs today is not lingering uncertainty on the UNMIN’s watch but fresh and more vigorous efforts to strengthen peace and protect democracy. Reducing poverty, educating people, and giving more voice to populace must be integral to such efforts. Therefore, let us ask the United Nations to deploy a robust peace-building mission with a well-funded and coordinated development agenda and not shed tears over the impending departure of the utterly ineffective UNMIN.

January 7, 2011

(Published in Republica of January 9, 2011)


 

Ethics, Capitalism and Power

Murari Sharma

Research has proved that the  richer are more unethical than the poorer and are likely to cheat, lie and break the law.

ABC News quoted Paul Piff, a doctoral student at the University of California at Berkeley who published an article in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “We found that it is much more prevalent for people in the higher ranks of society to see greed and self-interest . . . as good pursuits.”

In the wake of the anti-capitalist and anti-bank Occupy Movement — triggered by the filthy bank bonuses so soon after the reckless banks gave us the 2008 recession, and started in New York and spread across many cities around the world – a debate has ensued about why people in high society demonstrate unbridled greed for money and power.

Piff’s study illuminates only a half of the story. The other half can be deducted through logic and reasoning: People with questionable ethics and fraudulent behavior are more likely to become rich and powerful. Nepal’s experience bears it out very well.

Greed is integral to human nature, but capitalism has taken it to an unprecedented height. Charbak, one of the South Asian philosophies, said some 5,000 years ago, that there was no god, no heaven and hell, and no rebirth. It encouraged unencumbered material pleasure: यावत जीवेत सुखम जीवेत रिणं कृत्वा घ्रितम पिवेत, भष्मीभूतस्य देहस्य पुनरागमनम कुतः (As long as you live, live comfortably, borrow and enjoy, because the cremated dead body will not come back). But religion and society restrained the adherents of this philosophy.

Mentioned for the first time around the 13th century, capitalism gave the freedom for making money and accumulating wealth to all. It allowed people to do almost everything they wanted to make money and to keep what they earned. As a result, capitalist societies in the west produced enormous wealth, secured prosperity, and reduced poverty. Capitalism blended with compassion created prosperous western welfare societies.

Now compassion has been eroding fast and welfare societies have been crumbling steadily in the west. Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize winner in Economics, in his book The Idea of Justice, says that niti (fair laws and institutions)is important but not sufficient for justice; you need nyaya (justice or fair outcome) as the ultimate societal goal. While the niti part remains in place in western societies, the nyaya part has been significantly weakened.

Several factors — such as the decline in religious values such as piety, abstemiousness, and mutual sharing; growth in urbanization; rise in deregulation; increase in indebtedness; and arrival of militant conservatism — have contributed to this erosion. Growing secularism frayed ethical and moral fabric and increased urbanization gave anonymity to individuals and loosened society’s control over them. Then came the deregulation– promoted by US President Ronald Reagan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and spread by the World Bank and IMF – that did three things.

First, it, together with the decline in religion and ethics, transformed greed from grotesque to glorious and allowed reckless accumulation of wealth with few religious or legal controls. This has produced such evils and crises as the widening gap between rich and poor, stratospheric bank bonuses at the cost of depositors and taxpayers, Maddoff swindle, and economic crises, including the sub-prime mortgage scandal and the resultant 2008 recession.

Second, deregulation spurred globalization and enhanced global prosperity by opening up markets and off-shoring and outsourcing production to inexpensive locations by multinationals to rake in higher profit. Developing countries benefited from their comparative advantage and BRICs – Brazil, Russia, India, and China – became important economic players but millions in the west lost their jobs.

To boot, western countries fought the Iraq and Afghan wars without raising taxes sending their debt through the roof. The 2008 recession aggravated the situation further, as revenue dwindled while expenditures continued to soar. Countries like Ireland that did all the right things and Greece that was profligate needed bailing out to keep them solvent.

All this gave grist to the militant conservative mill in the west to advance their long-cherished ideological agenda — small government, tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor in the name of promoting investment and balancing the budget. Now the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, as the job losses and sluggish economic recovery hit the poor hard. Consequently, social and economic nyaya has eroded fast.

It seems that western conservative parties, relying on money and support from the rich, have increasingly begun to view democracy for the rich, by the rich and of the rich, because only few poor support them. This is not something Nepal should accept but, unfortunately, the country’s politics seems to be taking this very road.

Nepal is not in the same league as western countries by a barge pole. Despite the claim and rhetoric, it has been neither truly capitalist, nor credibly democratic, nor substantively compassionate. But politics-business nexus is getting so thick that it raises a litany of ethical and legal questions in the Himalayan country, more serious than they have ever been in the west.

In Nepal, the nexus between corrupt politics, crony capitalism and crimes is getting much thicker than in the west. Most government contracts go to businesses with strongly political connections. Politicians protect rogue businesspeople and criminals when they are caught breaking the law. No businessperson has gone to jail, for instance, for pocketing more than 3 billion rupees in VAT reimbursements using falsified bills and invoices. Criminal gangs operate under the protection of political parties. Businesspeople and criminals pay politicians handsomely for such favors.

Politics has become business by another name, a means to make money and remain in power forever, in Nepal. Plato must be turning in his grave in discomfort witnessing how his putative philosopher guardians have turned into a rapacious lot. No party is above the water. But the new political arrivistes, the Maoists — the self-proclaimed champions of the poor and proletariat who are raking in money not just through corruption but also through coercion and crime — are ahead of the pack.

Evidently, Nepal has been democratic mostly for political leaders and their supporters who treat themselves as above the law. When caught in a criminal act, their case is withdrawn tagging it as political, something for which all parties are guilty – some more than others. Nepal is a country where a sentenced murderer serves as a member of parliament rather than serving time in jail and the police have to apologize for enforcing the traffic rules. It is a shame that the thief, as the adage goes, chastises the constable.

The government bleeds with compassion only for political leaders, their kin and close supporters. For instance, it sends them abroad for minor treatments while people die in local hospitals for the lack of saline water and belittles real martyrs by declaring, for money, their dead supporters in gang fight or traffic accident. If you are a prominent communist leader’s son, you could get 20 million rupees just by pledging to climb a mountain – a very quick way of getting rich — that so many others have scaled on their own. Actually, the government exists to serve the politicians and their cronies, not ordinary people.

Corruption, crony capitalism and crime have made politicians the second richest group, after businesspeople. Before 1964, landowners had that honor, but the land reform slashed their wealth. After the 1990 political change, politicians have displaced landowners from the second position. If the situation continues as it is now, they could edge past businesspeople in next several years.

Paul Piff’s study has proved that the richer are more likely to be more unethical and break the law. We also know for sure that those who sell ethics and break the law are more likely to become rich and powerful, for which the evidence is already overwhelming. But some restraint on their greed will certainly elevate the status of Nepali politicians in public eyes.

London

29 February 2012

(Published in Republica of 24 March 2012)

Federating Nepal: Carving out right

Murari Sharma

Members of the newly formed but still headless state restructuring committee have an unenviable task on hand. They will have to strike a balance between inclusion and income and aspirations and capacities to fund them. They will also have to resist the quick fixes and short-termism of politicians. Only time will tell whether they can rise to this expectation.

For starters, federalism is not a panacea for inclusion, but enlargement and fair distribution of national pie is. Federalism is a structure. You need investment and growth in education, health, accessibility, jobs and freedom to work to expand the pie, and right policies to distribute it. Federalism has not made India, Pakistan and Nigeria much inclusive in last six decades. A unitary United Kingdom became inclusive before flirting with federalism.

Nepal’s federalism has less to do with inclusion and more with the assertion of indentity politics. For instance, the privileged groups in the plains, BRYK – Brahmins, Rajputs, Yadavs and Kayasthas – want “One Madhesh One Pradesh” to extract more power from Kathmandu but do not want to share it with unprivileged minorities. Several BRYK leaders have threatened to dismember Nepal if their demand is not granted, which indicates an external hand, rather than the goal of inclusion, behind this.

Still, I strongly support federalism that can be an instrument of competitive progress and inclusion, as the United States and Brazil have done. These countries publish comparative statistics in various sectors to promote competition between states. Brazil also displays these statistics on huge hoarding boards by the roadside everywhere. States with better performance get higher federal support. Counties receive support accordingly. All this has promoted competition and progress, making the United States the most advanced country and Brazil, an economic miracle in South America, the seventh largest economy in the world. As the economic pie expanded, these nations implemented ambitious programs for inclusion.

Although ethnic federalism has a mixed record, I am not opposed to it, per se. Ethnic federalism failed spectacularly in the Soviet Union and Sudan and is on the verge of collapse in Canada and Belgium. But India has been able to hold the union together with such federalism, so far. Ethnic federalism becomes feasible in countries where ethnic groups are clustered together and population overlaps are limited. Nepal is not one of them due to its overwhelming population spillover outside ethnic homelands.

In the hills, no ethnic state will have the majority of that particular ethnic group due to population overlaps. For instance, the Limbus, the largest group in Limbuwan, will have less than 50 percent population. Out of Limbuwan’s likely six districts, three — Sankhuwasabha, Dhankuta and Ilam – have a majority of the Rais, a different ethnic group. These districts might prefer to join Khambuwan, a Rai state, across the Arun River. The Rais, though largest group in their state, will be in minority, and two districts of Khambuwan will have Chhetri majority. Similar situation exists across the hills.

In the plains, the Tharus, the largest group, outnumber other ethnic groups in Sunsari in the east, and Dang and Bardia in the west. They cannot have a contiguous Tharuwan. The BRK are spread widely, while Yadavs are located mostly between the Koshi and Rapti rivers. Hill Brahmins constitute the largest group in Jhapa and Morang. Chitwan has more hill people the plainspeople. The plains also have wide racial and cultural differences. The Tharus, Koche, Meche and Dhimal are Mongoliod, while the BRYK  are Aryan. Muslims belong to a different civilization altogether. So the terai too does not have much room for ethnic states.

There is no consensus among political parties and no consistent logic behind their proposals. The Maoists have proposed 14 states, the UML 10 states, and the Nepali Congress seven states. The BRYK controlled Terai parties want the entire plains as one state. Hill tribal elite want each tribe to have their own states. Several parties do not accept federalism at all. Unfortunately, none of the parties has carefully considered the financial viability of the states they have proposed.

All lofty proposals die at the altar of financial sustainability. Every Nepali wants to see Nepal become a Singapore, Switzerland or United States. But do we have the resources to make such a commitment?

The answer is no. A unitary Nepal spends more than 70 percent of its income from revenue under regular budget. Several regular expenses – for instance, fancy vehicles and thousands of liters of fuel procured by projects for ministers and secretaries and the military budget included in forestry, industry, and civil aviation — are hidden in development budget. If such expenses are included, regular budget gobbles up more than 80 percent of revenue. That leaves a paltry 20 percent for development budget.

Under a federal Nepal, the situation will be worse. While the central government must maintain its paraphernalia, albeit reducing slightly, states will have to create and fund their own legislatures and bureaucracies. A rough calculation suggests that the creation of five states will increase regular expenses by 50 percent and eat up the entire revenue. More than five states will force Nepal to borrow to even to fund regular expenses of central and state governments.

In view of all this, the restructuring committee will have two main tasks. First, it should find agreement on how the country should be divided into states: Vertically, horizontally, ethno-culturally, or combining more than one of these factors. Secondly, it must determine the number of states based on financial sustainability. What is politically desirable is often financially unfeasible.

Opinion polls suggest, vertical states would receive the widest support. They will be easy to create. The committee could simply recommend converting the existing development regions in to states, with necessary adjustments in names and borders. Four would be ideal financially and five could be manageable. The main political parties should have no difficulty in abandoning their proposals and agreeing to this option. But hill tribes and the BRYK are opposed to it.

The BRYK have demanded a single horizontal state for the plains. If that logic were to be followed, the country could be divided horizontally into three states – one each in the plains, hills and mountains. Financially, the state in the plains will be highly sustainable and in the hills manageable. But the one in the mountains will have to rely on the other two for its survival. Neither the main political parties nor the hill and mountain tribes will accept this proposal.

Ethno-cultural basis will lead to the creation of several states. Nepal has about 100 ethnic groups with their own languages and cultures. Ideally, every one of those groups must have a state. Muslims must have their own state too, because they represent a different civilization. This option could make all minorities happy, but none of the states is likely to be financially viable and sustainable for several decades.

The restructuring committee could also toy with the hodge-podge approach the main political parties have followed in developing their proposals. It is all right for politicians to seek a marriage of convenience. But it will be a shame if the restructuring committee consisting learned people, several of them having PhDs, recommends something that lacks consistent governing logic or defining principle behind it.

I have no doubt about the credentials of the members of the committee to do a fine job, though I am not too confident about their ability to resist political pressure. They are all educated, enlightened and successful people, risen in society on the strength of their integrity, intellect, and independence. However, in a country where even the Supreme Court has to concede defeat on the unconstitutional extension of the Constitutional Assembly’s term, it is natural to entertain doubts about the committee’s ability and will to stand up to political pressure.

That the committee is headless indicates the uneasy road ahead. Pressure and temptation will be there. The far right, hankering for the good old days, will want to preserve feudalism as much as possible. The far left, having stirred animosity among various groups, want to have the country fragmented into little pieces so they can impose North Korean-like dictatorship.  Both groups, having levers of power in their hand, will try to impose their will by coaxing, cajoling, threatening and frightening the committee members. Politicians in the middle will peddle their influence more subtly, promising posts, positions, and opportunities for business.

Temptation is more powerful than pressure. I hope the members of the state restructuring committee will resist them both and offer a logical and rational blueprint for Nepal to become a federal union. They must make sure the rights of the majority are protected while advancing the rights of the minority, both at national and state levels, for a lasting peace and unity. In the line here is the country’s future and the committee members’ reputation.

London

30 November 2011

(Published in Republica of 4 December 2011)