What’s gone wrong?

  • A nation engrossed with lawlessness and democratic deficit is a blueprint for a failed state

Sep 5, 2017-

Nepal is a small country which hosts problems as big as a continent itself. For instance, the fate of post-disaster reconstruction, post-conflict peace building, human rights abuses, economic disparity, urban development, and widespread corruption reflects only the slightest of troubles the country is plagued by. Interestingly, most of the problems we refer to are the result of the government’s failure to play its part.

Our national woes and their generic context can be understood through observation of our daily problems. School going children are dying by falling into potholes while commuting. Our international airport bids goodbye to more than 1,500 healthy youths for labour migration from Departures every day, even as it welcomes dead bodies of fellow migrant workers at Arrivals. Nepal is a country where earthquake and flood survivors are hit harder by the inaction of the government than the disaster itself. One may come up with a list too long to read, but the harsh reality is that our country is plagued by lawlessness and bad governance.

After decades of equality rants, ideology clashes and everything else on the road to a federal republic, it looks like we have managed to end up exactly where we started from in the first place. If we look back over the last decade or two, we will come to the realisation that we are still a long way from where we’d want to be, or even where we think we are currently. While our fellow neighbours are Mars-bound and debating on the future of humanity amidst the exponential growth of Artificial Intelligence, we are cherishing our landmark achievement of criminalising isolation of women during menstruation.

With the varied range of problems in the different sectors of society and crisis hovering over the nation, the government only seems to be making things worst. The clash of the executive and judiciary, and the abuse of power and corruption in the state apparatus amalgamated by the inaction of government means that Nepal is not showing any signs of improvement.

Democratic deficit

To-date, the ‘democratic federal republic’ has been limited to a fancy term, rather than a functional principle of democracy and governance. The necessary condition for a functional democratic state is its adherence to democratic norms and values. Accountability and good governance through management of state resources in an open, answerable and transparent manner are a minimum requirement for a real democracy. However, with unfortunate coincidence, exactly the same elements of democracy are missing in our context. A democratically  deficient government with thoroughly unaccountable state machinery is driving our country towards the path of indignation and discontent. The government seems indifferent to the aspiration and needs of its citizens, and is being led by disenchanted leaders who are fuelling the democratic deficit.       

Every new instance involving the government and its responsibility is giving rise to disillusionment. We must be cautious, the upsurge erosion in democratic sentiments amongst the citizens is a direct road to the state’s failure, and that’s where our state apparatus is leading us. The government, tediously selling “faux democracy” in the name of democracy, is engaged in nothing more than a misleading stunt for fooling its citizens; this is exactly how nations come to fail.

Bounce back better

The current state of democracy is a result of a long fought battle and the sacrifices of many who believed things should--and could--be better. It has been a long road to democracy with a fair bit of work remaining. Those in the position to exercise power need to understand what they have and how it was attained. We still have time to salvage our country and make democracy work as it should, simply by “doing what one is supposed to do” rather than “doing what one wants to do”. Effective governance, democracy and political participation, and the rule of law are vital in the fight against democratic deficiency in the country.

Against the backdrop of recently conducted local elections, efficiently holding provincial and federal elections on the allocated dates is a must to keep up the aspirations of democracy. The elements of democracy—effective and transparent governance, political participation and the rule of law among others—need special emphasis to institutionalise what we have attained in the form of a political system. Nepal is at a crossroad, and isn’t well-balanced in terms of leadership and performance. Things can either go terribly wrong or get relatively better for Nepal, contingent on how the government moves ahead. The time is right to bounce back better because there still is time left before hitting rock bottom as a failed state.

Devkota is an advocate and holds an LLM in Rule of Law for Development from Loyola University, Chicago

Published: 05-09-2017 08:08

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