By PR Pradhan
Now, we have a new Army Chief Gen. Purnachandra Thapa. He took oath of office and received insignia from President Vidya Bhandary on 9 September amidst a function organised at the President’s Office. The same day he assumed office as the Chief of Army Staff (CoAS).
Currently, questions have been raised on the Nepal Army’s professionalism. Political leaders in both ruling party and also in the opposition have started to say that the Nepal Army has shown interests in profit making business rather than performing professionalism.
Some Nepal Army proposals for investment in profit making organizations have been kept pending by the Defence Ministry, according to reports. Which are the business proposals, it has not been made clear. So far, the Nepal Army had shown interest in resuming the Hetauda Textile Industry, which was considered as a profit making industry during the panchayat days, but it started to run in loss after the introduction of multiparty democracy and finally was shut-down as the political parties in the government made it as a party workers recruitment center. Not only the Textile Industry but many other government undertakings faced the same fate. Today, the nation is facing a serious deficit in foreign trade. This is the result of politicization in the government undertakings.
Along with the introduction of multiparty democracy, under the influence of the Westerners, Nepal adopted a free market economy. The beauty of the Panchayat democracy was a mixed economy. The government was playing the role of market control through the government undertakings. Today, in all sectors, brokers have become active. Even in the vegetable markets, brokers are enjoying big margin of profit but the farmers are exploited. It has become a headache for the government. Now, the government has started to face problems of free market economy. Developing a mechanism for ending the broker-dominated market has become a big problem for the government. The Panchayat system had established the Nepal Food Corporation, National Trading Company, Salt Trading Co. etc. organizations to control and provide regular supply in the market. Decades ago, Nepal had adopted its own type of economic system under the Panchayat system. Currently, China is practicing the very mixed economic system. Therefore, if the government has little sense, it should adopt good things that the Panchayat system had introduced for economic prosperity.
There is a strong voice that the Nepal Army should not do business. But if we talk about the South Asian region, the Pakistan Army, Indian Army, Bangladesh Army, among others, are doing many kind of business very successfully. In Bangladesh, the Army is even running five star hotels.
Talking about medical institution run by the Nepal Army, it is considered as one of the best institutions in the country. Students feel proud to get admission in the institution belonging to the Nepal Army.
For the last three/four years, the Nepal Army is continuously trying to run the Hetauda Textile Industry. Currently, we are importing dress for the Army and other security organs from abroad. If the Nepal Army will run the textile industry and meet the demands of the security forces, to some extent, we will be able to substitute import of textiles. It may contribute a lot in reducing our trade deficit.
The government has given responsibility to the Nepal Army for construction of strategic roads including Kathmandu-Nijgadh fast track. The Army performance is good. However, it has been alleged that the level of corruption in these projects have been very high. This has obviously defamed the Nepal Army’s image. On the corruption and commission issues, the Nepal Army leadership has to be alert. Also, for professionalism, the Army should not make any compromises.
Rukma-good or Rukma-bad?
In the history of the glorious (Royal) Nepal Army, I saw two very weak and opportunist commanders. They are CoAS General Pyarjung Thapa and CoAS General Rukmagood Katwal. They have played a very cunning and devious role during the 2006 April uprising. They have seriously hurt the Nepal Army morale as well as professionalism. There was foreign conspiracy while declaring Nepal a secular, federal republic nation. The commanders during that period, instead of working for saving the glorious identity of the nation, surrendered to those who were involved in serving the foreign interests. The then Royal Nepal Army never defeated in any encounter with the Maoist guerillas, unfortunately, without such defeats, the Nepal Army was defeated in the entire war with the Maoist. If the then commanders had taken a bold stance that time, neither the nation would have been declared secular, federal republic, nor we should have seen the present mess and decline of the nation from all sides. Gen Rukmagood is just a symbol. He is a good man to speak to, but a bad man to command the force.
Let’s see, how the new chief will work to make the Army a prestigious institution!
Nepal Army and professionalism
By PR Pradhan