Reminiscences And Reflections

<br>HIMALAYA SHUMSHER RANA

Sept. 11, 2012, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 06 No. -07 Sept. 07-2012 (Bhadra 22, 2069)<br>

I would like to begin my introductory remarks quoting two romantic lines penned by poet Wordsworth on the eve of the French Revolution:

 

Bliss it was to be born at this age;
But to be young was very heavenly.


I, too, have been an excited witness to three revolutions in Nepal.

 

First, as a Rana, listed in the roll of succession to Prime Minister, I was a witness to the halcyon days of the Rana regime and its abrupt downfall due to the political revolution in 1950. Committed to democracy, I rebelled against the Rana regime in 1949 and was thrilled when King Tribhuvan announced in February 1951, that democratic governance will be ushered in the country.

 


I had the unique privilege of serving the country as the first Finance Secretary and then as the first Governor of the Central Bank i.e. Nepal Rastra Bank in the decade 1951-1960.

 

Following a coup d’état by King Mahendra in 1960, my tenure as Governor was terminated in purge of the top civil servants regarded as pro-democracy. Finding out that I was under surveillance and could be trapped as a saboteur, I decided to go abroad and applied for a job to the United Nations Secretariat.

 

My innings with the UN and United Nations Development Program which began in 1962 spanned twenty-four years. I returned to Nepal in 1986.

 

In 1990, I was a witness to the second revolution resulting in the dissolution of the party less Panchayat regime, restoration of democracy, and eventually the end of the license and permit regime. Bored with a retired life and buoyed by the liberal economic policy, I ventured into industry and private sector banking with notable success.

 

The Nepal Communist Party-Maoist launched the people’s war in February 1996. Deeply disturbed by the massive loss of lives and property due to the armed strife, I took the initiative to publish on July 25th, 2002 a public appeal in the Kantipur daily signed by prominent members of Civil Society, calling for peace talks between the government and the Maoists. This was the beginning of my inning as a conflict resolution activist. Once the 12-point understanding between the leaders of the Seven-party Alliance and the Chairperson of the CPN-Maoist was signed on November 22nd, 2005, I virtually closed my conflict resolution organization named “Nepal Citizen’s Forum.” I regard the 12-point understanding as the agreed route to peace and end of the transition, and am worried that it is being sidelined today.

 

Fortuitously, numerous assignments as a national civil servant, international civil servant, industrialist, private sector banker, and civil society activist, have come my way during my life time of eight decades. I wished to share my experiences with my compatriots and foreign friends. Hence this book.

 

In the first Chapter,  I have briefly described my childhood as a Rana boy, the traumatic experience of the 1934 earthquake, and the festivals joyously enjoyed by the Kathmandu residents during the Rana period.

 

In the second chapter, captioned “Inquilab Jindabad” i.e. Long Live Revolution, I have tried to unfold how my years in Bombay as a student transformed me to a commoner and a revolutionary.  I joined the Nepal Democratic Congress in Calcutta in 1949 which was then treason. My revolutionary activities are mentioned in this chapter.

 

The third chapter gives a rare picture of Nepal’s political, administrative, economic and social situation during the Rana period.

 

The years 1951-1960 were an eventful decade for me. In the fourth chapter, I have given an account of my assignments. As the First Finance Secretary I set up the Ministry of Finance, prepared the first four budgets of the government, modernized the customs offices, established the Excise Department and the office of the Accountant General, and prepared for instituting income tax. Next, as the first Governor of the Nepal Rastra bank I succeed, among others, in arranging for the circulation of the Nepalese rupee as the legal tender in Terai region of Nepal, in stabilizing the exchange rate between the Nepalese and the Indian currencies, and making Nepal independent in foreign exchange transactions. Furthermore, my comments on the Koshi agreement and on the Trade and Transit treaty signed with India bring to light some background to these treaties not known to many.

 

I had inklings of King Mahendra’s coup d’état in 1960. In the fifth chapter I have given my version of why it was staged.

 

In chapters six and seven I have attempted to give an account of my UN assignments as development practitioner and administrator in New York, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Indonesia and Pakistan. Channeling and coordinating a variety of technical and pre-investment assistance from the numerous United Nations Agencies, to countries at various stages of development to trigger and accelerate their socio-economic progress posed challenges. It required a deep understanding of the development priorities of the country and thorough knowledge of the capacity of the UN agencies to deliver. Monitoring timely implementation of projects and evaluating their impact were other challenges. Facilitating scores of UN personnel and experts, hailing from different countries, to perform satisfactorily in their assignments required wide administrative experience and personnel management skills. Vignettes of some features of each country where I served should be interest to the readers.

 

Chapters eight and nine deal with my activities after returning to Nepal in 1986 on retirement from the UN service. I took the lead in establishing the Gorkha Brewery as a joint venture with a Danish company which brewed and marketed the high quality lager beer, Tuborg. After handing over the company to my partner, I took the lead in establishing the fourth private sector commercial bank, Himalayan Bank Ltd. as a joint venture with Habib Bank Ltd. Pakistan. I became active in conflict resolution from July 2002 to November 2005, and in observation of the General Elections from the year 2008.

 

I have included an account of the Royal Massacre that I personally happened to know about.

 

The Nepal Citizen’s Forum, which I led, has been an advocate since the year 2003, of a Constituent Assembly to draft and proclaim a new Constitution of Nepal. We are deeply saddened by the inglorious dissolution of the CA due to the inability of the political leaders to agree on its features for as many as four years. I have realized the need of a critical mass of independent minded Civil Society members in the country to influence the political leaders, and I have starts reviving the Forum for this purpose.

 

In the last chapter, entitled “Reflections,” I have expressed my views on some contemporary issues of Nepal. Noting its natural and ethnic diversity, I have chosen to call Nepal a rainbow country. Presently, the country is having through one of its most difficult phases. Politically, leaders have failed. And, I am concerned that Nepal will be a failed state. I have candidly commented on Nepalese politics, the Constituent Assembly, Nepal-India and Nepal-China Relations, Water Resources and Economic Policy.

 

As I have stated in the Seventh chapter I travelled to China from Myanmar in 1974 to observe living conditions in a communist state because I had concluded that eventually communism would dominate the politics of Nepal. Presently, Nepal is overwhelmingly leftist – democratic socialists and communists in different colors. Models of communism enforced by Stalin, Mao or Castro have been or are being shelved as they ignored the private sector market and ideologically forced people to work for the community. The majority of the Nepalese people are not in favor of political-social transformation by obstructive, destructive and confiscatory campaigns. The challenge to the leftist politicians is to craft a socio-economic policy that is tailored to the country’s socio-economic condition and democratically acceptable to the majority of the people of Nepal. I have suggested a few basic considerations for economic policy.

 

I have recommended adoption of a regime in which there is partnership between the public and private sectors, creativity and entrepreneurship are encouraged and rewarded, the zeal of investors and executives are not dampened by ceilings, rent seekers and inheritors are heavily taxed, syndicates and cartels, artificially jacking up prices are controlled, basic goods needed for living are made available to the common man at cost price by an efficiently run public distribution system, and the poor and senior citizens are aided by the state as much as it can prudently afford.

 


(Excerpts of the statement delivered at the launching ceremony of Rana’s book)

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