Quacks and quakes

- Narayan Manandhar
Quacks and quakes

May 31, 2015-

As some Nepali pundits are busy explaining the nuances between ‘bhukampa aayo’ and ‘bhukampa gayo’, Nepal continues to be rocked by aftershocks of varying degrees of intensity. Among so many things to boast about in Nepal, the earthquake will invariably be the latest one. Nepal is an earthquake-rich country.

Hopefully, the upcoming generation of Nepali students will open their essays on Nepal like this: Immediately after April  25, when the country experienced a huge jolt, a blogger, identifying himself as a geologist, posted an article saying, “At least for 80-90 years, Nepal need not worry about big earthquakes” and advised that “Nepal can comfortably engage in developmental works”. One week after the posting of this entry, there was another big jolt on  May 12. Our geologist writer must have scurried for cover.

Angering the gods

Among various explanations, both scientific and non-scientific, about the earthquakes, two explanations caught this writer’s eye. One reason, coming from our neighbouring country India, speaks of the havoc in Nepal—the land of Pashupatinath—due to so-and-so non-Hindu political leader visiting Kedarnath without first getting purified. Second, the chariot of Rato Machhindranath, which was being put together for its 12-year celebration, was pulled from Bungamati without performing the required rituals. The successive tremors are simply an expression of dissatisfaction by Lord Karunamaya, the god of passion.

Frustrated at not being able to comprehend the causes behind the tremors, it has even been reported that some people in Gorkha (hopefully, Baburam Bhattarai is reading this) decided to burn the effigies of Mr/Mrs Earthquake while others took part in demonstrations displaying placards that read ‘Bhukampa murdabad’ (down with the earthquake). Some sections of Nepali society are currently busy performing various kinds of worships like shanti puja, kshyama puja, and bhumi puja. Hopefully, Mother Earth will listen to such frantic calls and prayers.

Corruption, rampant

The earthquake also provided an opportunity for national and international media to highlight Nepal’s rampant corruption, particularly in the housing and construction sector. Clearly, the blame shifted from the supernatural to the man-made. This is a welcome move. Definitely, there is corruption in the housing and construction sector in Nepal. However, such accusations will be baseless and biased without first understanding the types of houses that collapsed, their location, the intensity of the tremors, and the number of people who were killed. A foreigner had written a fine piece in this newspaper, referring to the April 25 earthquake as nature’s randomised experiment, where a careful study of houses that collapsed and those that did not, before the debris is cleared, could provide valuable information for architectural engineers.

Probably infatuated by corruption stories, another writer in Kantipur daily even went to the extent of suggesting the use of black (illicit) money deposited in foreign banks for relief and reconstruction works. There is no shortage of geniuses in Nepal. Our honourable Finance Minister should better heed his ideas, instead of seeking the wavering of debts provided by multilateral and bilateral agencies to Nepal.

The Finance Minister’s move is no less daunting than our private sector businessmen seeking an interest rate rebate by the Central Bank.

One particular habit that this scribe could never understand is that of the people who sleep outside in tents but move into their houses to cook and attend nature’s calls. They seem to know exactly when an earthquake will strike.

Same as it ever was

Last year, this scribe bought a book by Major General Brahma Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, called the Great Earthquake in Nepal 1934. This was not of particular interest to the subject matter, but as a result of irritation created by some NGOs adept at organising earthquake awareness programmes in January, coinciding with the earthquake that took place in 1934.

John Rhys Bevan has compared the earthquake in 1934 with the current earthquake in an article titled ‘Same as it ever was’ published on recordnepal.com. Yes, unfolding events were virtually similar. However, he missed an important point: during both natural crises, the prime ministers of the country were out of Nepal. In 1934, PM Juddha Shumsher was out of Kathmandu (during those days Kathmandu was Nepal) spending his leisure time hunting animals in Far-Western Nepal. In 2015, PM Sushil Koirala was out of Nepal (nowadays, Nepal is Kathmandu), attending a junket meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia. Comrade Prachanda was intensely speculative in that regard, going so far as to question, “If the earthquake in 1934 helped bring down the Rana regime in Nepal, the earthquake in 1988 helped pull down the Panchayat regime. So which regime is the 2015 quake going to bring down?”

Manandhar writes extensively on governance and corruption issues

Published: 01-06-2015 07:54

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