Some time ago I saw a clip in Facebook in which Prem Sangel claimed to have told current Deputy & Home Minister Ravi Lamichane about three important actions that should take at the start of his tenure. One was sending back to the police stations the various car drivers and personnel deputed to the homes of the officers to work as ‘domestic help’ or as cheap labour at state expense. This practice prevalent in our military and in police forces too. The foreign countries practice of military personnel being deputed as ‘Batman’ is being abused here. This custom was possibly picked up by our Post 1950 officers by what they had seen practised in Rana Durbars when some Rana progenies were granted army designations soon after birth or some years after! Another story going around is that PM Joodha during his premiership made it a practice to stay at his son’s durbars to construct them at state expenses! This is simply a practice of life-long facilities at cost of the state. People who knew these facts kept silent for this often pays huge dividends! One remembers vividly a picture in the newspapers some years ago of army personnel carrying the slippers/shoes of a Nepali President’s offspring from one place to another. Rumours abounded that lower army or police personnel were utilised as labour to build officer’s houses. Current supposition is that the Home Minister’s order of ‘Back to Barracks’ has already been rescinded. Has the ‘Wind of Change’ that the Nepali masses were anticipating, already evaporated? The Minister for Defence will have to act similarly too. Will he? Is this all destined to be like ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ a ‘Kalpanic Natak’?
Such practice in countries like ours to make a residence at state cost and present same to a former chief should be stopped forthwith. What extraordinary service has been done? This nonexistent practice elsewhere but introduced here in Nepal is as per our adage, ‘Kahin nabhayako jatra Handi Gaaon ma’! True a former President of US is generally helped by the state where he was born or lived in, to set up museum in his name after his retirement. All this when the house in which Bhanu Bhakta was born in is falling apart!
Many years ago I remember going to a building in the Jhamsikhel area that went by the name of Sashi Bhawan, a former Rana residence where the Indian Military Mission was stationed. After they left, the building became the residence of the C-in-C (now COAS) of the Nepali Army. This building was severely damaged by the earthquake of 2015 BS and like Laxmi Nivas occupied by the Paratroop Division of the Nepal Army was restored to its former glory. All very good and proper to retain our heritage. However as I passed by Sashi Bhawan I noticed its high walls presumably not to let passer-bys see what was inside. Situated atop these perhaps 10 feet walls in four directions stood rifle toting sentries, presumably for 24 hours duty around the clock. Such is the situation at Singha Durbar and Police Headquarters too when, after many Nepalis were killed by falling walls, the administration decreed that compound walls should not be over four feet! As such gun toting armed personnel are stationed in four directions of military and police compounds one wonders where the danger is coming from. Is it all a ‘make believe’ to fool the public. Is such blatant security necessary? What has happened to our friendly community police of the past?
Another fact of life is the police/army protection provided to the former PMs and Home Ministers after they have completed their terms of office. Is this really rational? Foreign leaders e.g. Abraham Lincoln and John F Kennedy were killed when in office. With so many ex-PMs and all residing in the capital the inhabitants are hounded by police and their vehicles stopped as these former leaders, with the accompanying motor-cycles, police vehicle in front and back with sirens blaring, create havoc and flare tempers of the ordinary man. Home Minister, please reduce the unnecessary guards and stop this harassment of the people. I remember that UK Transport Minister Ernest Marples for five years used to travel to work on his bicycle, as do many ministers and even the King sometimes in Scandanavian countries. From where have we copied such practice? What we should have copied was the attitude of the Queen of Hearts in ‘Alice in Wonderland’, who quipped periodically, ‘Off with his head’. We would have had less ex-officio PMs and Home Ministers to cater for after their retirements!
Our ex-government heads should be like Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva or simply Lula of Brazil who after serving two terms of office as President from 2003-2010 has been elected at the age of 77 years for a New Year term, twenty years after his first one 2003-2010. Another notable individual is former Uruguayan freedom fighter who spent 13 years in jail became President of Uruguay, a country like Nepal of just three million people. Jose ‘Pepe’ Mujica (born 1935 ), served as a humble Head of State for five years and when it ended lived in a tiny one storey home on the outskirts of the capital Montevideo. He drove his own VB Beetle to and fro to get around and distributed 90% of his salary to charity! Such should be a people’s leader.
One remembers that in the France of the IV Republic 1946 -58 it was said to be very common to meet up with ex-ministers walking along the Avenues des Champs Elysees of Paris. The state did not provide them lifelong facilities after their terms of office ended. A new V Republic with Charles de Gaulle started in 1958 and is continuing till the present day.
Sometimes I believe that the really true world is the world of the youngsters of the 21st Century. I have seen many of them, even in Nepal with what they call Oculus Quest, a contraption with four cameras. Putting this on their heads and with two controllers, one in each hand they move around playing games with infra red light. They seem happy and at ease in a Make Believe world of their own. They too like the Queen of Hearts are getting rid of the disturbers of peace in this world!
As a child I had been told the stories of HatimTai, Aladdin, Sinbad the Sailor. Later I read Gulliver’s Travels, Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass and realised that all these were after all ‘Make Believe’ stories too. It is all to make mixed up youngsters into grown up adults? Some may have gone through sad moments at the demise their parents when they had to listen to what is known as the ‘Garud Puran’ a harrowing tale concocted by the priestly class to con money from the bereaved for ensuring that their departed parent has a hassle free journey for his ‘Baikuntha Bas’.
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