The Rising Nepal of 20th July 2021 reported about our new Finance Minister Shri Janardan Sharma’s support to make ‘Make in Nepal’ campaign a success. My thoughts went to my childhood days when I collected stamps and match box labels. Sweden then was a major producer of matches. It was rumoured then that to compete with Sweden, the Japanese had named a town 'Sweden’ so that matches produced there could be labelled ‘Made in Sweden’! I recollected then that during the Rana rule and Panchayat days many factories had been set up in Nepal. Sadly all these governmental undertakings were disposed off in the name of free enterprise!
A story of around mid-20th Century is that a Japanese , with a stick of sugarcane in his hand got on a train in India. He pared the outside covering of the sugarcane and then ended up by making a fan out of its covering. He followed this by smartly cooling himself with it for the rest of the journey!
During former days it was customary to use, store and reuse goods and materials over the course of years. Now however we are in ‘Use and throw away’ era as the cost of labour has gone up. It is cheaper to replace goods than repair them. The old order has changed yielding place to new. However a form of re-cycling is being done in the Nepali fashion has me worried by its subterfuge. The district officer in Dhading found that the Family Size large plastic bottles of Coca-Cola, Sprite and Mountain Dew were all being re-used for a look like various aerated soft drinks with a somewhat similar name and cheating rural folk. This is a crime. On the other hand Pokhara has shown that such plastic wastes can be made into pellets and used for asphalting roads.
As a child I remember using sukuls or mats made of straw. Slippers made of straw were also in use then. Later chattees having cloth tops and soles made of recycled old car tyres replaced these as an improvement. Now the modern equivalents are the rubber made chappals being made in Nepal. One still sees some of the locally made goods such as raddis, bakhus, nanglos, dalos, dokos, wicker baskets, mudas and bedh furnitures. Rautes used to make wooden thekes. Traditional manufacture and usage of goods must be encouraged. After all wooden footwear known as clogs are still in use in Holland as are the leather made wear known as lederhosen or bundhosen in Germany!
A correct step is that all household eatable requirements such as biscuits, furindana or bhujia, pustakari, gudhpak and usables e.g. soap, toothpaste, disinfectants should also be produced locally in Nepal and not be imported into the country. What has recently been in a Facebook post is the necessity of proper packaging or contemporary avataar to attract buyers! Products should look chic not cheap. Finally however it is us Nepali customers to promote local products such as apparel, footwear, cosmetics or other daily requirements. Certain Indian firms i.e. Unilever, Dabur, Britannia and Patanjali are also based in Nepal and are producing household items not just for local consumption but also for sale in regions of Northern India.
With the increasing generation of electricity in the land it is good to know that Hulas is contemplating producing electric cars. However one recalls their Mustang jeep and wonders if electric cars will get a market. Other efforts are to assemble two -wheelers within the country but the reality is that it will just increase our fuel consumption. Cannot these be electric powered? Lowering of electric rates in Nepal is essential to increase domestic and industrial consumption.
Because of the lack of job opportunities many of our countrymen have been forced to go to foreign lands as unskilled labour and where many die and are brought back to Nepal in coffins. Having been overworked to pay back loans taken to go to those lands, many have no choice but to continue on. Some having suffered harsh conditions have come to the conclusion that if they worked just as hard in Nepal they would prosper. Some have started raising goats, pigs, bannels, poultry even kalijes or are growing apples, oranges and even kiwi fruit. Some are working on barren lands with the aid of mechanisation to increase yields. There is going to be some Nepalis who want to go abroad but cannot do so because of the lockdown and the fact that they have not been vaccinated. Such persons too must be helped with finance to work for a livelihood in Nepal. After this they must be helped to find a market and sell the products of their labour. Such steps must be taken to ‘Make in Nepal’ a reality. Imports from outside need to be restricted.
The creating and making of slogans ‘Make in Nepal’ is very impressive and beguiles the ordinary Nepali citizen that something is being done for the Nepali producer. However we have got addicted to tendency of doing ‘Eidharka Udhar and Udharka Edhar’. The profit in it is very good for not many personnel or production facilities are required. This has led to a stage where the custom made products of this country have to compete with the shiny glitzy products from abroad. Being a member of WTO there are perhaps some restrictions or barricades. We have a duty to ensure self sufficiency by protecting local industries. Some sort of restrictions have to be made with check points at our border to stop agricultural product from outside to come in quite easily into Nepal whilst similar products from here are prevented by various rules and regulations at foreign borders. Cannot we also arrange to enforce such regulations at our border so that foreign farmer’s products – vegetables and fruits are not brought in to Nepal to create chaos in our day to day living?
The author is a retired medical doctor and writes fiction under the pen name of Mani Dixit also. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd