This last week of January has become a memorable one for me in that it awakened and also surprised me immensely. The first was the news given by DPM Kamal Thapa that the government was serious to hold local elections. These elections have been due since 1997. It is only eighteen years that the people have been deprived of their rights. At this point I recalled that our previous and then PM Sushil Koirala had, as he took office stated that local elections would be held within six months and that the constitution would be brought out within one year. Soon enough his two Deputy PMs, Bamdev and Prakash Man started repeating this statement like parrots. Then there was the question as to how local elections could be held until or before the whole administrative set up for the country was decided by bringing out the Constitution.
Well, the Constitution is now out but is the path ahead clear and easy? Our citizens in the Madesh were not satisfied and a blockade, obviously sponsored by India took place. Has it backfired is a reasonable question? As per local demands by Madhesi citizens, the first Amendment to the Constitution has been passed but things are not back to normal. True, some of the entry points into the country are open, but not all. The position regarding Birgunj, from where 70% of the goods are brought into Nepal is not clear. Apparently the cold weather has sent most protestors home and the tents at the centre of the protests are empty except for a few sadhus who have started a fire and are sitting around the dhuni in the middle of the bridge. Our authorities could not be bothered about this handful of temporary occupants.
Why is this so? As I wrote before, most of the people in many of the Southern regions of Nepal are quite happy. The authorities are turning a blind eye whilst the ‘energy mafia’ peddling petrol, diesel and gas are working full time making hay, sorry money even when the sun is not shining in this cold winter season. Our Minpachash is over but the cold continues to harry us.
Some constituents of the government are not happy and many of our populace feel that this government must fall. But are they doing anything about it? No. Others are saying that a consensus government is essential and should be formed soon before anything can be done. Why then the delaying tactics?
It seems that those in power and playing politics are not interested in local elections. On first thoughts the fear may be that a large percentage of women candidates will be more successful at the local level as a large number of men are out of the country, working overseas. Furthermore the election commission has even suggested that 50% of the candidates at local levels should be women and also that voters should have the right to reject candidates. Is this what frightens the male parliamentarians? The writing on the wall is that as new leaders emerge all over the country the older order of politicians can start counting their time in office. If we want a new generation of thinkers and doers for this country, the time is now to hold local elections of the newly created 217 municipalities and the 3,157 VDCs in the country.
But what in fact is the state of affairs? The body for re-structuring the local bodies as per the new constitution will only be formed in mid-February. The Ministry of Local Development states that seven commissions have been formed to formulate necessary acts and lay down procedures. It might take as long as one year for this to happen. It is not just the question of Village, Municipal Councils and District Assemblies. When will all this ever be completed, as the House does not seem to be working as it should? There is also the formation of the provincial set up which in itself is difficult as we still have not decided on the number of provinces the country will have! Members seem more concerned about party matters and doings and so meetings of the House are postponed as per the demands of the different parties. National needs do not seem to be a priority for the members.
The second news that drew my attention was one printed a day earlier. With all the black marketing, blockades and corruption that are rife in the country, I was almost sure that Nepal would be one of the most corrupt nations. It turns out that we were the 126th most corrupt nation in the world in a field of 168. Whilst this may be a cause of rejoicing in some, in others it could be astonishment, or downright depression. I leave my readers to express of tolerate their thoughts as they feel. I for one believe that our present situation is the result of the doings of our present day politicians of all colours. What we need to do is not to give our votes to our present day leaders but instead to elect all new members at all levels so that we can start with a clean slate. This may just wishful thinking but unless we take drastic steps, nothing is ever going to change in Nepal.
The author writes fiction under the name of Mani Dixit. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd