Monday, 27 May, 2024

Praiseworthy Efforts

Prem Khatry


There was a time when people joked about symptoms of critical stage and consequences of population growth in Nepal, saying – of all types of production, Nepalis are smart in family member production. People had begun to sense that a large family is a problem, if not a curse. The poor has larger family size as there was clear lack of awareness. For them and such others, large number of children meant stay secured with at least half as much if one half couldn’t survive. This was naïve village arithmetic – in order to retain some, you have to lose some. And there as many loses as gains. It is a research issue to find out the equilibrium thus maintained naturally.
Whatever the total number today, the issue at hand is the festival and how the 27 million plus Nepalis are planning to cope with the situation after series of misfortunes – the flood and the landslides, the post-monsoon rain still blocking the flow of movement to the destinations and more. To add to these unexpected and vexing problems, recently two more came in the list – the illegal price rise in transportation and the high market prices on all possible items needed to enjoy the festival and forget the monsoon blues.
It is a strange feeling that there is a government, the ultimate power-place and where the suffering, cheated and shocked people especially from the lowest rung of the ladder could turn into for solution and relief. And, yet it appears there is not. Small teams of price monitoring agencies reach the market and suddenly the shopkeepers gather together, gherao them and start creating a reign of terror? The helpless officials had this to say- 'finally we saved our life because of the security coming for our rescue.' The government fails to gherao the miscreants to lock them in so they celebrate the season's festival at the Hanumandhoka police cell. If the common people feel insecure and the law enforcing agencies also feel threat on life, what good is the government for? Where do people go for relief? This is the most unfortunate situation developing in the market places now. It is worse than previous festival seasons.
Jumping on law enforcing agencies is a crime of the worst kind. If the government fails to nab the miscreants and dispatch them to the custody for enquiry, people will not be able to breathe in peace. Forget the big, unfinished projects such as the roads and bridges where the contractors rule and sideline the government. They are in a position to make their TOR: the project won't be finished until we say but it looks like we have finished it. It took only 15 years to complete this small bridge. The government can take it without checking the quality because we also forgot how it all started and how it was finished. Contractors are speaking this language now.
Is 200-300 per cent price rise on simple kitchen items natural? Is a small fraction of the illegally rising price tinkling down on the producer's rice plate? Or, is it all going to the well-positioned and protected layers of the brokers' purse? People doubt that the brokers have owned the government agencies through their malpractices. As the situation at this season appears in their full command, it may appear so, unfortunate however it may appear. The situation is: the government has no concrete plans for production, any kind of production for that matter – grain, green, gray, whatsoever. With millions in the menial jobs all distributed over the globe, you cannot achieve much as proved by the latest business deficit figures.
Road plays vital role in the movement of goods, too. In the past 30 years, there have been more risky and fatal tracks than good roads. This is the reason why places like Bajura and others cannot dispatch their apple products. Dependency syndrome has been terrible in Nepal during the democratic raj. But the latest move of the government indicates it is going to resuscitate and help some of the ailing industries and give new life to them including the already dead ones. This was a step the government could have done much earlier. There is one missing item in the government list of reopening the closed production units – the Bhrikuti Paper Mill located at Gaindakot, Parasi. Since the need of paper is growing so fast over the years, it would be worthwhile to give re-birth to this industry.
There was a time when cloth, paper, agro-tools, leather products and other items were making good names and saving foreign currency. One morning one wise Nepali Congress’s finance minister virtually 'sold away' them in the name of privatisation. If the miscreants do not interfere and influence the government policy like they do in the case of vegetables, fruit and other items, the deficiency and dependency syndrome will virtually be reduced gradually. This is the need of the hour.
This is festival season. And, as the data show, per capita meat and fruit consumption makes quantum jump. This is because of the food habit of the Nepali people and the fast increasing Nepali population – displaying natural as well as unnatural growth. These mouths, wherever they come from are Nepalis and they need to be filled.
An important news this week was the supply of Dashain meat from our own producers. Some cooperatives and other businesses are said to have supplied Nepali brand goats this season. If these producers are encouraged, our markets can gradually change the scenario in dependency syndrome. Our forests, bushes, open greeneries are especially existing for such innovative ideas. We must salute such practices.
Finally, it is strange to even think Nepali economy can boost and make the government slogan- Samriddha Nepal, Sukhi Nepalis a reality. In order for this to happen, we must also add one half slogan – through native production. If a small cow dung gas plant at a private Biratnagar cowshed can make the headline news, the mutton-veg production plants can also do so provided that the government destroys the brokers' long and strong chain.

(Former Dean of Humanities & Social Sciences, TU and Fulbright scholar from University of California, Khatry writes on cultural issues)