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Rot Digs In Too Deep

By P. Kharel
pkharel1In an incriminating report presented by a probe committee on August 8, officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are found involved in activity that spawn human trafficking in Gulf countries. An on-site report of the sub-committee formed by the International Relations and Labour Committee of the Legislature-Parliament disclosed that officials had been applying pressure on Nepal’s diplomatic missions in the countries to do things that flouted existing regulations and aggravated human trafficking in oil-rich West Asia.
Shocking is that the foreign ministry officials allowed the files containing streams of complaints against ill-treatment of women to gather dust in their cluttered cloisters instead of communicating the same with the home ministry for coordinated follow-up measures.
That such a state of affairs is the order of the day in connection with an issue that has troubled and pained many a heart over the physical hardships that Nepali women suffer in West Asian region is a national shame. Beaten, deprived of regular salaries and exploited in horrifying ways that send shivers down the spine, thousands of Nepali women are waylaid by middle-persons bent on profiting from such exploitative methods.
Humanity gets lost as far as perpetrators of such clandestine activity are concerned. The logical quest in a truly functioning democracy would concern with what actions were taken against the culprits. Ours is a political system based on the best Constitution in South Asia and compares well with those of the US and prominent European democracies. The hitch, however, remains: Its democratic features are confined to paper and much of its letter and spirit are dumped in breach than hailed in practice.
CRIME & PATRONAGE: The prevailing situation is an outcome of a culture of political patronage and protection given to characters known for anti-social activity. In an atmosphere where criminalisation of politics has been gaining ground, impunity has become the order of the loktantrik days. All hell breaks fast and loose against the tenets of the Constitution, when politics gets mixed with criminalisation, aggravated by rampant impunity. This is the case in South Asia in general.
For the last the last 30 years, two-thirds of parliamentarians in India, the world’s “largest” democracy, is reported to have criminal cases pending against them at various courts of law. And India is not an exception in the world’s largest region, though.
Given the prevailing practices, no file any public office moves without a political nod. Securing approval is even more challenging, unless there is a political channel to refer to affirmatively. Since civil servants in Nepal are openly organised under the banner of various political parties, their programmes are graced as chief guests by the leaders of the parties they are affiliated with. Civil servants with Madhesi decent have flouted the basic norms by housing the office of the Rastriya Janata Party whose banner flutters atop the building in the prime land provided by the government at Babar Mahal.
That is precisely why the word “mafia” for patronised and organised malpractices is circulated with such flourish in Nepali society today. Some intellectuals and analysts maintain that corruption has been institutionalised. So there are licence-mafia, land mafia, manpower mafia, education mafia, VAT-defaulting mafia, hydropower mafia and health mafia, among a host of others. What can an ordinary citizen draw from all this?
Politics in Nepal today places personal interest above party interests, factionalism gives greater priority to its narrow interests well above national interests and some groups put foreign interests on a higher pedestal than party or national interests. In practice, impunity-promoted political culture has centralised and tyrannised all sections not affiliated with any of the larger parties.
THAN & NOW: Never had independent-minded people previously suffered discrimination to the extent that they hardly have any chance of fair competition in any sector. An indication of mediaeval tendencies is affirmed by the fact that most of the “intellectual” leaders, self-styled civil society champions and “senior experts” had found their professional footing during the bad old panchayat days. These include quite a few hailed for their “towering” contributions made through government-funded institutions.
Indeed, the partyless panchayat period was by no means an ideal environ for the best practices in modern, democratic governance. It was also under constant criticisms and non-cooperation from sympathisers of multiparty champions while the ideological opposition punctuated their activity with violent measures alternated by proclamation of peaceful intentions.
The relentless political divide over the type of polity to be adopted for the nation was itself a major obstacle for unhindered development activity. Not so in the loktantrik years, though the outcome fares poorly when compared with previous decades.
Democracy should be made relevant to all; must raise hopes of all; provide equal opportunities to everybody and accept the principle of making peace with defeat, always shunning violence. Fortunately, Nepali leaders too agree with this. Unfortunately, they ignore it when making decisions, thus sowing the seeds of grave consequences whose form, method and timing can be unpredictable.

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