Rot Digs In Too Deep

People's Review - - LEADER - BY P. KHAREL

In 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 sub­com­mit­tee 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 oil­rich West Asia. Shock­ing is that the for­eign min­istry of­fi­cials al­lowed the files con­tain­ing streams of com­plaints against ill­treat­ment of women to gather dust in their clut­tered clois­ters in­stead of com­mu­ni­cat­ing the same with the home min­istry for co­or­di­nated fol­lowup 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 mid­dleper­sons 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, twothirds 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 li­cence­mafia, 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 in­de­pen­dent­minded 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 non­co­op­er­a­tion 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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