By P. Kharel
Land of martyrs
In a country with one of the longest lists of public holidays, there was no national holiday on Martyrs Day last. And why is it that only four martyrs are prominently mentioned and honored and the rest of the thousands of martyrs recognised mostly by the loktantrik regime are reduced to “others, known and unknown martyrs”.
The Rana regime, partyless Panchayat polity, multiparty democracy and, now, “people’s democracy” have all produced martyrs. Each political system change was preceded by more martyrs than previously, with the number of the venerated souls substantially larger every next time right up to the post-2006 changes. The Madhes movement alone recorded more than four dozen martyrs.
In the first transitional government led by Girija Prasad Koirala, Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula was seen smiling when handing over compensation from state exchequer to the family members of those “martyred” which contrasted sharply with other home ministers during regime changes being condemned as villains both by the communists and Nepali Congress.
When last made public, statistics quoted by the news media put the number of martyrs at some 12,000, indicating that the figure could be even more.
Main opposition leader Sher Bahadur Deuba accuses the KP Oli government of acting against the “spirit of democracy”. The four-time former prime minister might just be correct, except that Nepalese people have always experienced similar conditions without respite.
And Deuba’s Nepali Congress was at the head of cabinets more often than any other party since 1990. KP Bhattarai was premier twice and the insatiable Girija Prasad Koirala holds the record of serving six stints at the helm of the state affairs.
Had things progressed at a pace matching only a fraction of what the major parties promised, Nepal and Nepalese in general would have been treated to prosperity long ago. With two-thirds majority, Oli could have made some impressive deliveries since spring last year. His only consolation is that Deuba’s tenures were no better.
Strange and intriguing
Strange are the recent statements of Deputy Prime Minister Upendra Yadav in the KP Oli government. He submitted an 11-point demand to the prime minister concerning Tarai issues. Some days later, he said it was the responsibility of the government to fulfill the agreement made with Dr Govind KC. This was on the eve of the government’s plan to ensure the passage of the medical bill in parliament “at any cost”, as declared by Communications and Information Technology Minister Gokul Baskota.
Yet, Yadav has the cheek to strive for having his bread buttered on both sides, that is, continue with his deputy prime ministerial position and pretend to serve the cause of the Madhes people.
Misuse of cars
At one time, when Girija Prasad Koirala was at the head of Nepal government, some 200 state-owned cars were registered against his name. The atrociously high number of motor vehicles was distributed to political cronies, relatives and hangars-on. Often, cronies’ cronies were also among the beneficiaries of the gross beneficiaries.
There was always corruption in high places since the dawn of democratic polity in 1951. During the first elected government’s time in 1959-60 when Nepali Congress leader BP Koirala was the prime minister, too, complaints about abuse of power and corruption were a regular feature at public forums and the news media. The premier’s own brother Tarani Prasad Koirala came under such heavy barrage of criticisms that the senior sibling was compelled to cast him aside at least to the public eye, though the probing eyes of the times were aware that Tarani continued to have the powerful brother’s ears and actions.
During the three decade-long partyless Panchayat, corruption cases were unearthed every now and then. It was also a period when anti-Panchayat critics reported, exaggerated and made up such cases as a malicious means to denigrate institutions and attack their credibility. The below-the-belt attacks have been taken sharpened and expanded in the decades after the 1990 restoration of multiparty system of governance.
Until a few years ago, corruption used to involve Rs 40 million or Rs 50 million. Today bribes account for Rs 4 billion to Rs 18 billion. If this is not a mutinous crisis created by political crimes, what is an emergency, pray?
Some years ago, the concerned institute of standarisation raided a traditionally highly popular “goondpak” shop near New Road Gate. Investigation found that the sweet product did not meet the minimum quality, and hence it was inedible. Irate people made the shop pull down its shutters or several months.
But back to business with roaring success were goondpak shops at New Road and elsewhere in the Kathmandu Valley. Recently, Sangam Sweets at Baneshwar was similarly raided. The sweets and snacks it served were reported to be below minimum standards. Shortly after, its business picked up fast. This scribe too visits the place for tea and snacks with regular friends.
One’s guess is that food stalls and sweet shops are raided once in a blue moon on suspiciously selective basis. There are literally thousands of tea stalls in Kathmandu Valley and beyond that do not meet the prescribed directives. I know a number of hoteliers who privately admit that the kitchens of quite a few multi-star hotels, too, would not meet the legal prescription. So help us all, Fate Luck!
Former member of the Eminent Persons Group, Surya Nath Updhyay, quoted in Naya Prtika: “The debate over regulation of open border [with India] concerns with the existence of the nation. If the border is not regulated, the nation will eventually cease to exist.”
Spice of Life
By P. Kharel