Friday, 17 September, 2021

Understanding Dhulikhel's Development



No nation or territory can move forward without the presence of vigorous, visionary, honest and unwavering leadership. Only such leadership has the ability to bring about sweeping changes in people's lives through the development of education, health services and other infrastructures.
The book under review is about Bel Prasad Shrestha, popularly known as the "Father of Dhulikhel". Acknowledged for his charismatic leadership and tireless efforts, Shrestha has transformed Dhulikhel, a small rural town, into Nagar Panchayat. He served as the Mayor of Dhulikhel Municipality for two terms even after the restoration of democracy in Nepal in 1990.
Needless to say, Shrestha has played a lead role in the establishment of Kathmandu University (KU), various schools and Dhulikhel Hospital. Because of these institutions, Dhulikhel has now become an important centre for education and health services. He has also been instrumental in materialising a drinking water project in the city.
In addition, he has made an immense contribution to developing Dhulikhel as a preferred tourist destination. He created a benchmark for the future lodges and resorts in the city by opening Dhulikhel Lodge in late 1960s. With dozens of posh hotels and resorts, Dhulikhel has now been incorporated into all the tour packages created by locals as well as foreign tour operators. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has badly affected the city's tourism business since its emergence one and a half years ago.
Numerous hiking trails have linked Dhulikhel with various nearby rural settlements and green hills. Since Dhulikhel offers an amazing view of many mountains, it has become a tourist hotspot. Both domestic as well as foreign tourists visit the city to experience hiking and explore the local Newari culture. The city boasts good transportation facilities as the Kodari Highway and PB Highway pass through it.
Thanks to the campaigns launched by Shrestha to preserve the natural environment and maintain the area neat and clean, Dhulikhel is still less polluted as compared to neighbouring areas like Banepa, Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. This shows how committed leadership can make a difference.
He was able to materialise many development projects because of his simplicity, far-sightedness, unselfishness and positive thinking. He is also capable of taking the community of people, policymakers and donors into confidence.
Being a hardworking and dedicated leader, he has been involved in many organisations to provide services to people. He has also been able to set a good example of how one can contribute to society even without having a good position, huge financial resources and political power.
This book includes a total of 25 write-ups and memoirs on Shrestha by people who have worked with him in one way or the other. British educationist Aidan Warlow, who worked as the principal of Kathmandu University High School, is among them.
Warlow mentions: "Bel Prasad's concern for education in the Dhulikhel area was of great importance. He never claimed to be an educationist himself but he had an instinct for knowing what was needed and he made sure that the right action was taken."
Shedding light on Shrestha's continuous contributions to Dhulikhel, another writer Bharat Jangam recalls how he (Shrestha) worked to increase Dhulikhel's income. According to Jangam, Shrestha is not only a successful businessman, politician and social worker but also the creator of modern Dhulikhel.
Similarly, former administrator Bihari Krishna Shrestha writes: "Despite his (Shrestha's) age and prosperity, he remains a passionate visionary for the development of Dhulikhel. His shining example proves that the country needs many leaders like Bel Prasad to make a New Nepal."
Another foreign writer Cheryl Colopy, who is quite familiar with Shrestha, has such a comment: "Bel Prasad sets a high standard for everyone who would follow in his footsteps. He has not slipped into the kind of self-serving performance that is so common among officials, here and elsewhere in the world. And he does not congratulate himself. He implied that other towns in Nepal could accomplish what Dhulikhel."
Likewise, in his memoir titled 'Dhulikhel's Living Legend', Don Messerschmidt highlights Bel Prasad's role in the development of Dhulikhel. He adds: "And if you ask local residents to name the most outstanding leader of the past two decades, Bel Prasad tops the list. He did not lead Dhulikhel's development alone, of course; but he is considered its most famed advocate and driving force."
It goes without saying that Shrestha is a multidimensional personality. He is a good writer. He has several books, articles and speeches to his credit. Hari Manjushree has portrayed Shrestha as a writer.
In his write-up 'A Role Model For All Nepalis', Kedar Bhakta Mathema praises Shrestha for his remarkable ability to deal with the most complicated issues. "His words never hurt others. He is only full of ideas; he possesses the ability to materialise them."
As the title suggests, the book is fully concentrated on Shrestha, who is a rare creative development thinker and planner. He is certainly a role model for everyone given his dedication and innovative ideas and vision for the community's development. This book is expected to help further popularise his important development model and experiences.