Print Edition - 2018-01-20  |  On Saturday

No country for the poor

- MOHAN GURAGAIN
Poverty is the dark background against which the rich shine. It produces quiet, voiceless and helpless masses that leaders can practice their politics on

Jan 20, 2018-Almost every year, cold waves in the Tarai, which claim several lives in the region, make their way into newspapers. Yet every year, the news is only consumed—no action is taken to alleviate the suffering of scores of people who face the cold. Instead, the hardship of the poor is brushed off as their fate.

Poverty is made to last, perhaps. 

Poverty is the dark background against which the rich shine. It produces quiet, voiceless and helpless masses that leaders can practice their politics on. It creates a vote bank that can be bought and sold election after election.

Poverty creates hooligans that can be mobilised easily for criminal motives with petty cash. It is a vicious cycle that drives itself.

It is the curse that makes people submit to their fate. Poverty is a torturous burden which leads people to accept their plight unquestionably. It lets people succumb to diseases that have easy cures. It is that flimsy hut which gets blown by not-so-strong gusts of wind, that shaky house which is flattened by low-magnitude tremors, that fragile settlement which gets easily flooded, that thatched village which is devoured by flames.

In Nepal, we have lots of examples of the endless sorrow begotten through poverty. Trouble has been the staple for three winters in temporary shelters erected after the devastation of the 2015 earthquakes. Misery is the companion of people in villages of the Tarai who are unable to rebuild after floods swamped their homes. The miracles of medicine can do no wonder in Jajarkot where hundreds of people perish in epidemics year after year.

But the seat of power in Singha Durbar is not shaken by people’s hardships. Politicians have no dearth of resources to go abroad for costly treatments while people in the plains are dying for the lack of warm clothes, beds, and hot and nutritious meals as the winter chill pierces through their defenceless bodies.

The ordinary Nepali has continued to suffer, no matter what the political situation has been. We were suffering when the Rana oligarchy was overthrown 67 years ago. The democratic era that followed was hijacked by the king’s autocratic rule for 30 years. The restored democracy failed to deliver the nation from the chaos of corruption. People had believed that the federal democratic republican order that we’ve just ushered in would truly empower people. But that too has remained a false dawn.

All the promises ring hollow when people are deprived of basic facilities and services while our political leaders continue to misappropriate taxpayers’ money without accountability. Corruption has been so pervasive that one determined medical doctor, who was charged with contempt of court for staging a hunger strike against malpractices in the top court, was able to shake the judiciary.

Another height of ignominy is our Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, president of the Nepali Congress that faced an electoral rout, clinging onto power citing constitutional loopholes. The Election Commission, seemingly toeing the government line, continues to hoodwink the people by refusing to publish the election results.

In Nepal, elected offices, constitutional bodies and the government’s arms have always acted superior to the people. It was not long ago that the ousted chief of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority, Lokman Singh Karki behaved as if he were the unchallenged usurper of power in the post-monarchical era.

If we are that all-powerful voters, why are we treated as merely irrational masses, 

just tools in the hands of our rulers and our representatives who act as if they were our masters? Why can’t we have good colleges and universities to attend in the country? Why don’t we deserve well facilitated hospitals? Why do we have to ply dusty roads throughout the year? Why can’t we rest assured that our politicians and bureaucrats are in our service?

Properly done, federalising the country as part of state restructuring has the potential for unleashing development. It would be a break from centralised planning and programme execution if the provisions enshrined in the constitution are properly enforced. Time has come for us to identify local needs and seek solutions locally and as a nation.

Our kings’ speeches ended with ‘May Lord Pashupatinath bless us all’. Even today it seems as though we’re living just with the blessings of the lord, even when everything else continues to fall apart. When traders continue to rob us of our last penny, when the officials charged with protecting us leave us out in the cold by serving only their petty interests, maybe we’re only scraping by with the blessings of some untold divinity.

But we are also surrounded by a great deal of wealth, if we have the eye for it. Forget rebuilding, we would do our upcoming generations a great service if we did not destroy our heritage further. We can save our identity by preserving our cultural, natural and ancient heritage.

When the old foxes retire, and when the corrupt are done with their looting, hopefully the young, skilled and the passionate will find their footing and steer the country to its new glory. We’re on the lookout for that day, that opportunity, and those saviours of the have-nots and the defenceless. 

The writer tweets @GuragainMohan

Published: 20-01-2018 08:17

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