Thursday, 25 April, 2024

Tall Promises, Short Delivery

Mukti Rijal


The Prime Minister, Ministers and the ruling party officials look demonstrably confident, if not arrogant of their authority and oftentimes do harp on several tangible successes to the credit of the present government. Obviously a government of the party that holds historic two-thirds majority in the federal parliament, controls six of the seven provinces to run the sub-national authority and runs its writ across a big majority of the local government institutions-- Gaupalika and Nagarpalika-- should have no alternative than deliver and function to redeem the pledge made to the nation during the previous elections. But the government seems lost in a maze of tall promises and rhetoric. Many grandiose schemes have been promised .Grandiloquent ideas are churned .Tautologies on development and prosperity are uttered. But the ground reality is different and looks full of paradoxes and contradictions.
The government performance fails to inspire substantive hope. And no such ground exists for greater optimism among the people so far. When a government makes tall promises and fails to deliver a minimum of result to meet the basic aspirations of the people, popular disappointments and disenchantments are bound to grow. In fact, the government has been anticipated to target the basic day to day problems, inconveniences and hardships faced by the people in convincing manner and address them minutely, but it looks disarrayed and lacks focus. It is frittered away from the target. For example, Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli had promised that the Kathmandu roads will be fully toned up, improved and made sleek. The metropolis will be made swanky completely free of dust and dirt within a short span of time.
However, as the present government is nearing completion of two years of its ascendancy to power since the last elections, nothing has been done to keep the pledge since the Kathmandu roads and city ambience looks much more spoiled and deteriorated. The city transportation is further mismanaged rendering the city commuting very difficult. Undoubtedly, the nation had opted for federal restructuring of the state for ensuring participatory governance and development so that the people at the far flung and remote areas of the country could own up and align with state building process. But this transformative promise of federal governance appears fully overlooked and neglected.
When one scans through the news media headlines, one can come across several instances that indicate as to how remote villages in the far off districts have been allowed to suffer and languish in deprivation due to highhandedness and parochial interests of the dominant local politicians and contractors in particular. Even the government officials and technical personnel who dare to stand by and follow the rules and regulations-- though they are very few-- are opposed, attempted to be tamed. And the powerful local politicians use or abuse their political levers to harass the committed officials upholding the interests of the people for sustainable development.
Recently, Chief district officer of Bajhang district has been transferred unceremoniously particularly to avenge his resistance to give in to the pressures of the local politicians to conform to their reportedly abusive and corrupt development practices. The Chief district officer was alleged, as reported, of not getting along with the vested and unscrupulous interests of the local politicians.
During these days local politicians from ward chairman (Wada Adhyakshya) to mayors (Pramukh) have been involved in unleashing what is called as dozer road building boom. This plan has been executed by cutting into steep fragile hillsides haphazardly without any kind of planning. The dozer road construction is mostly carried out with an absence of proper drainage, reckless and mindless destruction of vast area of vegetation.
Dane Carlson, a landscape designer and researcher who knows intimately the on-going dozer road construction boom comments in a write up published in a local daily recently saying that the dozer road construction is quick and easy practice that mostly benefits contractors, unscrupulous government officials and politicians. It damages communities, landscapes and ecosystems across Nepal and beyond. A recent report published in Nepali Times exposed the details of the staggering percentage of contractors elected to mayoral posts at the local government across the nation.
The mayors in the local governments generally give contracts to their own firms for dozer road construction. In another Nepali Times report it is said that the road building caused the destruction of more than 283 local irrigation projects out of 440 in Bajhang district alone. As result, villages like Rayal have been badly impacted where paddy plantation has not taken place due to destruction of local irrigation system entirely built and managed by the local populace. Hundreds of families are thus left to fend off for themselves for reason of destructive and unsustainable road building practices clamped down in the villages without regard to the natural drainage pattern and ecosystem.
This writer has been a witness to similar practices of dozer assault on the fragile hill ecosystem in Arghakhanchi district where local elected politicians especially Ward chairmen have masterminded and led the dozer based road construction to cut the hill slopes haphazardly. Those whose do know and keenly observe the situation remark that the local politicians work in collusion with pseudo– user groups, technical personnel to foil any attempt to scrutinise the action. Local communities are neither consulted nor allowed access to information regarding the project operation
The government should be aware of the pitfalls and shortcomings seen in the performance at all levels through course correction measures and infuse new hope and inspiration among the people who are now feeling cheated by the politicians who made tall promises but failed to deliver.

(Rijal, PhD, contributes regularly to TRN and writes on contemporary political, economic and governance issues. He can be reached at