Thursday, 13 June, 2024

Control, Manage Or Leave Alone

Prem Khatry

It is easy to play with the word if you happen to be a man with pen, or, at this time, a keyboard. The head right under the tuft is a factory you maintain as the words emerge from that part of your body.
The relevance of this short presentation for the week is the tough time before a big national festival or, for that matter, one could even say, before a series of festivities engaging the entire populations divided across the religious, social and economic lines. For the sake of joy and sense of fulfillment, every Nepali wants to celebrate the festivals in the spirit of leisure, pleasure and accomplishment. Nepalis begin to turn the calendar page showing the festival season, marking specially chosen days with red and smiling at each other. Kids know what is being brought for their childish pleasure.
The sociology of Nepali festival is that not all is well with all of us during the festival season. Time has separated us, albeit temporarily, and thrown to all the continents but our thoughts are here in Nepal all the time. However, whether you are here in the lap of the mighty Himalayas or out in the forests of Malaysia, or the deserts of the Gulf or the snow of Victoria, Canada, we are about to celebrate these festivals at any cost. This is culture, this is tradition.
What will be the nature of festival celebration this year? This has been a very tough year for the low income Nepalis. You saw floods here and drought there, fertiliser here and nothing there. There has been not enough food supply in remote regions. So much so that medical supply for Mugu district was made available by Save the Children Fund but the sacs remained in the custody of a hotel in Nepalgunj for the entire summer when the help was in extreme need. Somebody played foul game and the concerned authorities were not aware of what happened to the medical supplies when people were suffering in the destination.
A very dangerous Dengue came and it has not gone as yet. The tiny animal didn’t spare big name doctors – from Eye Hospital, Tilaganga to the Sahid Shukra Infectious Disease Control, Teku. People were panicking to hear the news. And, to top it all, monsoon scale rain pours occasionally near the end of September.
Are things under control? One may ask. If the word 'control ' is desirable in the case of Dengue, flood or price hike syndrome, it didn’t mean much this season. The government data show never before was this kind of uncontrolled hike in market price observed in the previous pre-festival season. The news also explains the situation where the tyrannical role of the 'broker' is going unheard and unseen. This may further appear in more dangerous form and virtually 'kill' the festive psychology of the people. Except for those whose face appeared in the newspaper the other day as haves and clear target of CIAA net, all is now well with the average Nepalis. For the other category, all the seasons are the same – everyday is a festive day, every mood is a festive mood.
Traditional wisdom says: Control may sound like a harsh word; the better word option could be 'manage.' This is what the nation is lacking. Normally a teacher comes to the classroom - nursery to the senior ones. She has to make the classroom atmosphere conducive so even the 'rowdy and spoilt' kids could listen to what she has to say. Her job as a successful teacher is not to control but to manage the classroom environment.
Small issues such as overnight price hikes, the increasing role of the 'bichauliaya' (middleman) in anything under the sun – from the tomato picked up cheap and turned into 'gold' in the market in cities- needs to be managed so their tyranny ends and producer-consumer relations are established and improved.
The word 'control' at this time of globalisation is obsolete. We live in the world of competition – fair, fine and fruitful. In such a situation, where does the middleman come into picture? The government and its arms must know this. Take a death case in a hospital. In the past, the doc used to 'bury' or 'cremate' their mistakes. Now the relatives claim the death is unnatural; it is because of the grave mistake of the docs. May be it is; so the hospital initiates a negation. Guess who is the protagonist from the other side? It is a middleman, who has nothing to do with the case, nor does he/she know much about it. The bereaved family receives a small chunk of the compensation; the leader of the (not genuine) hooligan 'family' goes scot-free with large sum. He has to 'manage' his clan and its prosperity at the cost of both sides related in the case.
These people can paralyse transportation system, they can dismantle laws passing through proper channels and they can fix price in the market long before the items even touch the stalls of a shopkeeper. Isn’t it shocking to learn from responsible government servants that even the justice at all levels of our courts is influenced by the clan?

Price rise
Finally, the unnatural growth in market prices is forcing the middle to low class housewife to think over about having the same quantity of mutton, tomato, onion, greens, etc. in the kitchen. Time will show for sure but it may happen that some popular but inexpensive items like spices, fruits, eggs, pure ghee, and others may totally disappear from the shelf of the shop and havoc is on the way. Or, more likely - substandard, unchecked and unmarked item may flood the market toward the peak times and force the consumer to accept the items without proper verification. The secular Lord Pashupatinath will not speak word about this and may wink, with the gesture – leave alone, don’t bother.
(Former Dean of Humanities & Social Sciences, TU and Fulbright scholar from University of California, Khatry writes on cultural issues)