It is a known fact that a number of Nepali Nexus have existed in our society for a long time and I am trying to note just a few of them here. Nepal’s first lady Deputy PM Sailaja Acharya created a furore when she was chosen for the post but refused to take up the responsibility until the chair on which her predecessor Minister of Agriculture has sat on and which was linked with corruption was removed and a new one brought in place. Only when this was done did she accept her ministerial appointment! May the lady’s soul rest in eternal peace.
The reality in Nepal was that until recently the agricultural products of different parts of our country could not be transported to other areas because of lack of roads. Now that has changed and though the products are produced locally in adequate amounts for Nepali customers these are still expensive than other agricultural products from our southern neighbour entering our country without adequate check for pesticides and other undesired chemical being done at the border. These are of great risk to us Nepalis as the pesticide content of these can damage the kidneys of Nepali consumers. The hidden fact is that the government gets the duty levied as importers pay their dues to the concerned authorities. The safety and health of the Nepali citizen is of least regard. To protest such detrimental existing situations and to draw the attention of the authorities, Nepali farmers have been dumping tomatoes and other vegetables on Nepali highways in various parts of the country. The question remains, is anyone taking notice? The latest complaint is that even the locally produced milk by Nepali farmers is not being bought by dairy concerns in Nepal who give preference to products from the south. It follows that income from import duties will decrease more and more as the country meets its requirement and becomes self sufficient.
A classical tale which recurs every year is that of the fertilisers. Though Nepali Agriculture Ministers have stated and re-echoed parrot wise that a fertiliser factory will be set up in Nepal, this has never become a reality. Governments have come and gone but the objective has never been met. Is it the lure of excessive profits for importers and even ‘kickbacks’ to friends in high places that is the cause of this? An ongoing delegation led by the Chairman of the National Assembly of Nepal to Russia made a request to their counterparts and have been told that Russia is ready to supply urea fertilisers to Nepal. Will our government take up this offer? Such action will definitely improve Nepal-Russia relationship which has been on the downslide after Nepal voted against Russia for its action in Ukraine. The correct action would have been abstention as done by India!
Another long existing grievance is against the sugar importation lobby that does so from various parts of the world. This is a long standing practice and some of the sugar was said at one time to vanish on route. The fact is that allowing importation against the interest of Nepali farmers is not warranted. The mill owners in Nepal are accused of not weighing the sugar cane that the farmers bring for a few days so that the weight of the canes decreases because of heat and the drying up that occurs. Even after this the payment is not on schedule and so the farmers are made to suffer and have to plead to the government to take action against such mill-owners! The result is importation especially at times of Tihar when the whole Nepali population hankers for a sweet taste in the mouth.
I remember a time during King Mahendra’s reign when the Birgunj Sugar Factory was set up with the purpose of helping the sugarcane growers of that area. With this action the production of alcohol – whiskey and rum was started using the molasses which was a by-product. Unfortunately new masters of the land saw to it that this factory and many others producing paper, shoes, brick and tile, cloth etc were sold off at rock bottom prices with the argument that the government should not be involved in such productions in this modern age. A surprising footnote is that the current Pradesh government is toying with the idea of restarting a sugar factory once again.
All these thoughts brought to my mind that many years ago when I was driving up the Kalikastan slope from Singha Durbar side I met the then PM Bhattaria Baje thundering down in his Mustang jeep that had been assembled in Nepal by the Golcha Group of Biratnagar. I can’t remember if it had a number plate. Though it was well publicised that attempt at assembling a jeep closed down. Was it just a gimmick to draw attention?
A very recent news that attracted my attention was about the electric vehicle Yatri motor cycle which a group of half dozen young Nepali entrepreneurs, as reported in Ratopati have assembled with Chinese manufactured parts the electric bike but have not been allowed to market their product. The Law Ministry has apparently refused to give them number plates saying that there is no provision as per rules of 2049, 2060 nor of 2074 BS to do so. All very surprising when Nepal made e-rickshaws are allowed on the roads. Are there not other parties wanting assembly plants in Nepal? Does this mean that the publicity about ‘Make in Nepal’ is all ‘Bakamphus’? Entrepreneurship should be encouraged and not stymied by Nepali authorities in the interest of those importers of similar models from outside of Nepal. It is heartening to see in Twitter that both Mahabir Pun and Harka Sampang have spoken up for the young entrepreneurs who are trying to assemble and market the evYatri.
There is news that the government is looking into to matter and trying to get necessary legislation through our two Houses of Parliament. One hopes that this will soon occur.
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