While Nepal is still struggling to get the values of a federal democratic system strongly enrooted, both its giant neighbours are focusing on their economic growth. The recent turmoil, sparked by medical entrepreneur Durga Prasai, has given hopes to the fundamentalist right-wing factions to increase their aspirations while it has given reasons to set the priorities right for the stalwarts of a federal democratic system in the country. There are many Nepali citizens who are now fed up with the periodic sparks, ignited by individuals who claim to stage protests for the development of the country and the people, but ultimately land up ensuring their own petty interests.
Although Nepal never witnessed an anti-colonial backlash as it was never colonised by any country, there has been various movements against regimes within its own territory. The main fight to establish democracy was against the monarchy of both the Rana and Shah dynasties. After a series of people’s movements, where both the Nepali Congress and the communist parties played critical roles, the absolute monarchy was abolished in 2008. Unfortunately, moving away from the feudal patriarchal mindset of governance systems and establishing a federal democratic country has not been a smooth transition. Since 2008, the country has had 11 governments to date. Most of the time, the governments were toppled by inter-party rifts between senior leaders within a party and intra-party bickering among coalition members, who formed governments.
These political parties were on the frontline during the people’s movement against the royalties. Unfortunately, they have been accused of resorting to corruption and agreed to come to power no matter what, instead of focussing on the development of the nation.
Now a fresh group of protestors are emerging. Balen Shah, with excellent professional background, contested election as an independent candidate and became Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City. This has given a message that the Nepali citizens want change. Shah has done some exemplary work utilising his skills as a structural engineer and long done research of the Kathmandu valley to improve his constituency. He is facing difficulties, but is moving ahead and needs to be given the benefit of all doubts and wait to see what he actually achieves by the time his five year term comes to an end.
Then there are journalists like Rabindra Mishra and Rabi Lamichane, who have entered politics claiming their leadership will change the face of the country but have been merged in a series of controversies themselves. One phenomenon that is very unfortunate is the participation of business tycoons into the political system. An overall blanket cartel system exists where the nexus of politicians and businesspeople work together for each other’s benefit. The Non-Resident Nepalis (NRNs) and their association too is very much politicised and individual NRNs are aligned to one or another political party.
The business community who should be focussed on improving the overall economic activities leading to economic and financial growth seem to be instead promoting corruption by aligning with political parties and supporting or opposing them based on their own petty interests. Names of business tycoons like Binod Chowdhary and NRN pioneer Upendra Mahato has often been linked both to the country’s pride and corruption.
Now Prasai is dominating the social media. After the recent November protest, he initiated agitation in the Kathmandu Valley. He has managed to come in the limelight of the Indian media who watches Nepali politics and business closely.
Prasai falls under the category of a Nepali with both political and business interest. He was a central committee member of the CPN -UML. One of the biggest money-making businesses in Nepal is the medical sector, especially establishing medical colleges and extracting exorbitant fees from the students. Prasai has been linked to different controversies, including being alleged of loan default of Rs 750 million by Nabil Bank to establish the medical colleges B&C Hospital in Jhapa. Now he is leading a campaign ‘Save the Nation, Nationality, Religion, Culture and Citizen’ that aims to restore monarchy and Hindu state.
Instead of being a fan following on social media and going to the streets to protest with any populist individual who may have vested interest rather than the interest of Nepal and Nepalis, the citizens now need to reflect on what is it that they actually need? Why should we go back to monarchical system or become a Hindu state when we revolted against that and have a system which, if implemented well, can uplift the country? Focus of all politicians, business communities, NRNs and the people themselves should now be on a social movement with development interventions that are for and by the Nepali people.
The fan following of people like Durga Prasai is a slap in the face of honesty and dignity. Often micro-finance clients, who are mostly women from low-income families, are accused of fraud and the Rastra Bank encouraged bringing stringent laws against them. How can an individual accused of default be supported to stage a protest on the streets to topple the basic foundation of democracy? The people now need to set their gears right. Development agenda should be the priority.
There are now ample examples of youth who have gone to work in European and other countries and have returned home with professional knowledge, skills of better farming and livestock management skills. Some have started establishing companies which produce computer chips and products that can be exported globally. The governments and NRNs who want to invest in Nepal should look into ways of investing in such youth and others who can create work for themselves and generate employment for many. Nepal’s geopolitics is such that India and China will always have an influence in Nepal. While staging street protests now the people especially the youth need to look into the economic and financial growth of these two countries and try to strategise a system where the private sector moves away from the cartel with the politicians and set up social entrepreneurial enterprises which will help move Nepal out of poverty.
(Sharma is a senior journalist and women rights advocate firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter handle: @NamrataSharmaP)