Nepali Times
Fourth Estate
The lure of the national



BIRGANJ Ė The Shankracharya Dwar near Raxaul is something of a gateway to the country of Hindus. With miniature replicas of Krishna Mandir and Pashupatinath precariously balanced on a concrete archway, the kitschy ceremonial entrance serves as a mark of Nepalipan. A bustling business centre on the border, Birganj takes its Hindu and Nepali identity seriously.

The tone of the local media is in line with the buildings along the main street: predominantly conservative, with a tinge of Hindu assertiveness. Along with Image, almost all the FM broadcasters in Bara, Parsa and Makwanpur can be clearly received in Birganj. With the exception of Bhojpuria FM, the primary language of broadcast of all the stations is Nepali.

Reportedly, 12 daily newspapers are published from Bara-Parsa. An exhaustive search of all the newsstands between the clocktower and Sri Ram Cinema Ė the commercial thoroughfare Ė resulted in a collection of only five dailies, all in Nepali.

The obsession of the Birganj media with 'national' issues Ė who said what after meeting whom in Kathmandu Ė is baffling. It's not just the language; the content of newspapers and FM broadcasts appears to be even more nationalist than that of national newspapers and broadcasters. Unless it's Hindu militants breaking plates at Maoist camps or erstwhile prince Paras mouthing platitudes, local issues and events are glossed over to report on events such as the marriage plans of Manisha Koirala.

The sugar factory at Garuda is operational for just three months a year. Mill owners were tardy in paying sugarcane farmers, so the latter switched crops. Now there is no sugarcane to process. This should have been a more important issue for the local media than the periodic hiccups of the NEPSE. The press prefers to report on the spiralling price of gold instead.

For Nepalis coming home, Indian Customs has always been troublesome. These days, the guards rummage through baggage even more carefully, looking for dal and sugar. The explanation is terse and mocking: "You can take as much explosives as you want. That's your government's headache. But no dal, no sugar and no chemical fertilisers. These products are subsidised for Indian consumers." For the local media in Birganj, these are trivial issues.

Journalists here set their priorities by what they see, hear and read in the national media. Most of them double-up as stringers for television, radio and newspapers based in Kathmandu. One such journalist complained bitterly, "Unless our dispatches deal with Gyanendra, Hindu militancy, armed groups or Karina Begum, they never make it to the newsdesk." Unsurprisingly, the leftovers of such stories are used for their own papers.

As long as nationalistic aspirations are strong, local coverage is neglected. The lure of pan-Nepal identity is so overpowering that even the daily Prateek, one of the most respected publications in the Tarai, positions itself as 'national' and tries hard to imitate the content of Kathmandu broadsheets. Terai Television, perhaps wanting to be close to the action, actually moved to Kathmandu. The best talents in Bhojpuri are mostly in the capital city. The owners of factories in the Birganj-Pathlaiya Industrial Corridor and the importers of Adarsha Nagar have their advertising-dispensing headquarters in Kathmandu. It's no wonder Terai Television went where the producers were rather than stay with their purported audience.

Everyone in the media wants to be national, because fame and fortune does not lie in speaking to or for the periphery in its languages.

India changing, PRASHANT JHA
Been there, done that, PUBLISHER'S NOTE
The failed people

1. Kamal Kishor
Very true. I once (1970s) lived there for some months. Those days we had to wait two days for the papers to come from Kathmandu. We had to listen to Radio Nepal or Indian Radios for any news. Then also, the debate in Terai was more about Kathmandu.

We discussed about Pushkin but never talked about Bimal so was Bhim ignored. People always felt proud of analyzing Kathmandu Politics than Birgung politics: everybody knew what was going on in Birgunj but not about Kathmandu. You were measured by whom and what you know about Kathmandu. Kathmandu connection was the ultimate goal and looks to be so nowadays.

It will continue till Birgunj becomes truly a regional hub of economy and commerce. Unfortunately, the talk of regionalism has always been centered around getting attention from Kathmandu and then moving into Kathmandu.

2. Anonymous
The issue of "local" vs. "national" is a recurring theme in Mr. Lal's articles. While I fully agree with the scribe's stance on "local"-- giving voice to the local voice or sharpening a sense of local belonging, I am very much troubled when "national" is equated to KTM. My question is-- Does KTM truly represent the "national" either in character, kind or spirit of Nepal? KTM as a citadel seems to me an artificial  island created by the alliance between the alien forces, the elite class, the military brass, and the unhappy conscience of the chattering class. What is there truly "national" in spirit in the narratives of "modern" KTM? A city that largely thrives on modern slavery, hungers for instantaneous  gratification, sleeps in winter of discontent and wakes up to the stench of all kinds, corruption, nepotism, crimes...People speak a "strange language" which will be hard even for Bhanu Bhakta to comprehend. A city which refuses to "see" the beauty of a hill cattle herder's "godhuli sansar', or hear a mountain lass's "suskera in chautari", or feel a Madhesi farmer's sun-burn back in the summer paddy fields. What is there "national" in KTM (except of course, the ancient relics left by Araniko's contemporaries or the local Newari culture)? I see KTM as self-centered, isolated and separated from the existential reality of the entire Nation. To me the multitude of "locals" in the periphery constitute the true narratives of our "national".

3. D G
The time to commute between Birgunj and Kathmandu even with a Railway System like in India ,which is not modern should not take more than  1 hour,should be rather less.
If the economy improve more efficient system can be introduced, which can make travel time less than 25 Minutes. Why not strive for that? Why blame our failed leadership; change them. Send all of them tried before including the so called revolutionaries into the dust-bin of history.
Young democrats move ahead; do,nt move the capital out of Kantipur; it will be disastrous. Let us have efficient railway service.

4. D Gajaraj
Population density of Eastern Tarai on an average is 3 times that of the hills. so I prefer to remain tied up with the hills and mountains..
United we stand. Myopic local leaders should get their eye-sight corrected.  After some more years Tripathis, Tiwaris, Pandes, Kayasthas, Jhas, etc start living in Kathmandu environs of the hills become hilly as in the past. The Lichhabis turned into Newars! Vice versas the hilly billies turn into madhesiyas, as have happened in the past.

5. Nirmal

The main causes for this kind of journalism in Nepal are basically two:

Crisis of vocational training

In recent years nobody has raised the need for journalists to have notions of law after  knowing that the lessons taught on this subject in the faculties of Communication Science is very limited and scarce in Nepal.  Although there is the demand for specific titles, journalists should have studied philosophy and literature or law. So, the journalists must possess some knowledge about the various branches of law, or at least be able to read and interpret laws and judgments as well as remember basic legal principles that they learn in Universities.

Today this is true. In these schools of journalism, the students are taught primarily to communicate, to communicate whatever it is. Therefore, techniques are taught, not content: they do not learn history or philosophy or literature or economics or international relations or law, matters with which the media deals on a daily basis . I will not say whether this is good or bad, although I think it is disproportionate to use a couple of years to learn the rules of communication, relatively simple and more practical than theoretical.

In all case, the final result is that journalists and media professionals do not know rights, and this is reflected every day, both in news writing as in the opinion articles. The mistakes are constant and confusion introduced is evident. This is serious as, fortunately, we are in a state of law, we are not ruled by men but through the democratic laws so journalistic action must think through the channels that the basic rights envisage for. Without legal knowledge it is impossible to opine with sound fundaments thus contributing in many cases, the discrediting of democratic institutions.

Reviewing the press in the last years I find many examples. Many times, it is a heap of nonsense that do not respect the minimum rules of intellectual rigor and logical consistency, perhaps due to contempt or ignorance, or both at the same time, of the principles of the rule of law. However, when I suggest that there should be minimal legal training to journalists, all would respond that this is a very interesting issue, no one will take a step to implement it.

Quantifying mania

Today is a day when the victory of the amount is a fact. Each media house tells us how bestseller they have been during all the year. The amount is based on a simple scale: the numbers. The more papers sold, the more successful they are. Undoubtedly, this statement is true for the workers in the commercial departments of the publishers. But how one can fall into the fiction that the amount is synonymous with quality? The figures cast a shadow over the nuances. And the need for simple classifications is solved by uncritical use of the sum of the products, even in journalism. When the quantitative paradigm is successful, why read then, na?

6. Puspa
Kathmandu represents the country:  
1. More than 10% of the country's total population living here including people from all ethnicity, socio-economic strata, employed, unemployed.
2. 100% of the political leadership; parliamentary members, bureaucrats, diplomats; almost all expatriates also live here
3. Nepal's (so called) national-god, goddesses  are also in Kathmandu
4. All the country's rural development in planned, implemented, monitored(?), and evaluated from Kathmandu.
5. All the (so called big) media are kathmandu-based (some printed vernaculars started to publish from Biratnagar, Chitwan, Nepalgunj but I dont know what does it mean)
5. 1-4 are enough (!) for ruling a country.
6. What else remained out of Kathmandu.... social injustice; exclusion; poverty..... who cares of it.

7. Inquirer
Where does CK Lal live and where did he make his fortune?

8. DG
Kathmandu Oh Kathmandu.
 Clean its Rivers by building Intercepting Drains at both sides.
Complete the river bank roads; the missing links.
 Impose strict traffic disciplines with rule an d regulation.
Link Patan with Kathmandu with 3 more bridges.
 Build Check Dams and Ponds to catch rainy season downpours ,recharge to raise ground water level.
Finally build Railway link for faster commutation , linkage  and integration with Tarai.and its  booming population.
Kathmandu is still romantic ,friendly, and smiling .It demands a transformation.It is beset with many difficulties and problems.Because it is concerned with the livesof men and women for better or worse. Its rationalization and modernization involve a radical change of habits and traditions and acceptance of of much that is new. Its not easy, it has to strike a right balance and harmony with the demands of modern life and the ability of the people to keep pace with modern thinking and cosmopolitan outlook as the new emerging Capital City of the New Republic.,contrary with the sloganeering of the Newa State in conformity withits population composition..

9. anish
A very good effort by the author to raise an important issue. While Federalism and Regional supremacy seems to be the battle cry, the issue couldn't be farther from receiving any real patronage of present day politics. Federalism, decentralization or whatever you call it, should start from the region itself and not the center. As long as psyche of the people in hinterlands remains center-oriented, there can be no federalism or even a decentralized governance.

10. anish
A very good effort by the author to raise an important issue. While Federalism and Regional supremacy seems to be the battle cry, the issue couldn't be farther from receiving any real patronage of present day politics. Federalism, decentralization or whatever you call it, should start from the region itself and not the center. As long as psyche of the people in hinterlands remains center-oriented, there can be no federalism or even a decentralized governance.

11. Steve
That's why we need federalism in Nepal. It's the most important factor for the decentralization and development of Nepal especially keeping in consideration the rural-ness of the country and the difficult terrain. 

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)