Nepali Times
Plain Speaking
Devendra Raj Panday's example


As finance secretary Rameshwor Khanal resigns after standing up to political pressure, it is an appropriate moment to look back more than three decades ago, when another secretary preferred to defend his principles and walked out of government service.

Devendra Raj Panday's decision then, as a mark of opposition to the Panchayat system, was an even bolder one since the regime then did not take too kindly to dissent. Few have done as much since to push the boundaries of social democracy, ignite debates on meaningful development, champion human rights, and argue for integrity in public life as Panday. What makes his life and work even more striking is that a man who was born to a privileged and traditional Bahun family, and had close links with the palace, went beyond his class and caste interests and sought to understand Nepal in all its complexity and diversity.

After quitting government service, Panday slowly become involved in the struggle for democracy. He publicly criticised Panchayat development strategies; built close links with NC leaders who often asked him for assistance; expanded links with professionals yearning for an open society; and built networks with the emerging community of human rights activists. All this was to play an important role in 1990, when Panday became the de facto civil society leader for the movement for democracy.

In recognition of his role, and the respect in which he was held by all the political forces, interim PM Krishna Prasad Bhattarai appointed him finance minister. Panday was frustrated by his limited brief to 'keep the economy on track'. He often recounts how he could not push welfare measures as the PM wanted the focus to remain on constitution writing and holding the elections, and sought to avoid any complications.

As the 1990s progressed, Panday became increasingly disillusioned. He felt there was little attempt to reconceptualise development from a democratic perspective, and the new governments had adopted core elements of the Panchayat development strategy. Except for the new rulers and the rank and file of the newly legalised political parties, democracy did not bring about a transformation in the lives of Nepalis. There was no distributive justice, leading to increased inequality. State structure remained exclusionary; inter and intra-party rifts had distorted democracy; politicisation of civil services became entrenched; the armed conflict was taking its toll on people.

Incorporating many of these concerns, Panday produced 'Failed Development'. He also mounted a stringent criticism of the international aid industry in Nepal, highlighting its failure to aid productive sectors that could generate lasting economic growth and allow a sustainable welfare state. He pointed out that while foreign aid had led to awareness among marginalised groups and enabled them to articulate their demands, it also helped sustain traditional power structures, protecting them from having to adapt to the new consciousness.

Panday flirted for a short while with direct politics in the 1990s, setting up his own party. But his primary role was in civil society, battling corruption and fighting for human rights, including at the regional level. As the conflict deepened, he felt he had a responsibility to find a solution. He was the first civil society leader to meet Pushpa Kamal Dahal in the early years of the last decade, and he had a simple message for the Maoist supremo Ė "Give up violence, and enter open politics. The entire left and social democratic space is vacant, and you will be successful."

As the palace began actively intervening in politics, Panday made the transition from a constitutional monarchist to a republican. The Citizens Movement for Democracy and Peace (CMDP) in 2005-06, which he led, was the game changer in the fight against the royal autocracy by mobilising the masses and urging them to have faith in the political parties, which had made such a mess of the 1990s. He was also an active behind-the-scenes player in preparing the ground for the broader Maoist-parties accord.

Since 2006, even as other civil society stalwarts have gone around lobbying to become MPs or obtain certain posts, Panday has rejected all that has come his way, including CA membership. Instead of personal gain, he has kept his focus on the bigger picture. At the cost of being called a Maoist, a ludicrous label for a committed democrat and human rights activist, Panday has consistently argued for continued collaboration between the parties and the Maoists in the spirit of the 12-point agreement; stood for inclusion, federalism, a new political culture and radical social welfare measures; spoken out against violence; and opposed all constitutional violations.

Thirty years after Panday left government service, it is beyond doubt that the establishment's loss was a tremendous gain for Nepali democracy.

No, minister, Nagarik

1. jange
... finally ending up as an apologist for the Maoists.

2. sukha


finally, for the change you have stopped  the political rheotric. But, where you have landed? with dr devendra pandey.... whom most view as a spent force...

i wish you had written about rameshwor khanal, who has given glimmer of hope among those gamut of  corrupts. I wish you had joined the hand with him and sentiments of millions nepali..... through your article..

please stop mission journalism.. this surrogate journalism.

hoping for better reading, next time...


3. rEMOT
pANDEY WHO?  HE hasn't done nothin for the country ...

4. Prem T, Kathmandu
Good article, Prashant. There is no doubt that Devendra Raj Panday is a civil society leader with exceptional commitment and integrity. But I have not heard much from him lately. I hope he has not been silenced by the bunch of impostors that likes to pigeonhole every genuine activist as a 'Maoist' - ludicrous, as you say. I see Martin Chautari has come out with a collection of his works. I look forward to reading it.

5. disbeliever
leave journalism, there isn't much in political space to be creative about, in Nepal. you are quite young to be spoilt like Pandey himself.

6. Paul Krugman
No progress possible until we start killing the Maoists. That will get them thinking. Just pick off a couple of bigshots. I'd start with Vaidya .....

7. who cares
what do you say about maoist and their pets- including some in uml, attacking rameshwor khanal?

somebody tell those foreign agents to stop attacking nationalist.

today nationalists are not that weak, alone as there used to be.

fake nationalism has no place in today's nepal, they are loosing ground.


Devendra Raj is highly over-rated, knew when to jump the Panchayat ship after being an apologist for absolute monarchy for so long. In person, a complete cynic. Never had anything good to say about anyone. Now has abandoned the struggle because others abandoned him. Wish him well, though, nothing against him personally. Looks like Jha is one of the few fans he has left. But why this eulogy on the man now? Aren't we supposed to be talking about Rameswor Khanal?

9. Chyangba Sherpa
So Prashant, you made Devendra Raj Pandey a hero which he never deserved to be. You must be a kid when all these happened - looking at the academic background and performance at the finance ministry, where he started is career, Devendra would have never been promoted to the top most post of secretary, so he was with the direct order of the then Royal Palace, which used to be called 'hukum pramangi' - promoted as Secretary at the Ministry of Finance as the Pandey family had close link with the palace (Dr Mrigendra Raj Pandey was Royal Physician). As his performance at the finance ministry as finance secretary as really poor - he had no choice but the quit and he did it with much fanfare. Empty vessel sounds much. He has no any significant contribution to this country. He is a useless politician and please stop writing such stupid coverage on a person who deserve nothing. I have found your writings have been a useless piece many times in the past.

10. Samjhana Poudyal

Dr. Devendra Raj Pandey is definitely an interersting indivisual and his action has shown that he is a rare breed who has made is contribution in several fields.

As far as poltics goes, howevere, has he been seen and used as an 'Useful Idiot' by the Maoist ?   

11. K. K. Sharma

If you think the present state of New Nepal is bright and beautiful, then the credit you have given to Panday for bringing this about is justified.

If the fruits of Panday's contribution is considered as leading New Nepal towards a Failed State [ a term associated with Nepal now, but never before], then the credit to Panday is just a credit for bringing turmoil in New Nepal.

By the way, revenue had declined due to Panday's actions while he was a finance minister in the K. P. Bhattari's cabenet.[ competent?] The inflation had risin by 200 Per cent, when the brains of Panday had predicted that it would fall by 35 per cent in 1990.  And of course,  he was the only beaurocrat who was promoted from a section officer to a secretary in just 10 years by Royal Negaha, ... what would that indicate?  And what would his actions against the King indicate in this context.? And what about the dollars he had received through INGOs every time he had made a anti-establishment speeches. His current silence could be [ just a speculation ] just that he has not received any dollars these days. 

12. reb
I wouldn't categories Mr. Pandey as a Maoists apologist but see him and other stalwarts of the civic society as purposefully delusional.  They for sure are very well aware of the Maoists strategy for State capture (Prachanda, Vaidya, and Baburam only differ in the means and methods - not the outcome).  Vaidya's is direct head on; Baburam's is indirect circular, and Parchanda's is spoils to the victor - as long as he leads them.

The problem with the civil society wallahs are that they are acting like Ostriches - they are burying their head in the political quick-sand thinking the problem will go away.  They do not have an appetite for a fight since they know how bad the fight could become.  Picking on the Kingji's was much easier since at least there were constraints and limits that bound that gunda's of that regime.  Whereas the current gunda's can slit your throat, drive a powered saw into your thigh, beat you to death, cut and chop off your limbs all in the name of People's freedom. Oh they will free you all right - straight out of this earth into the heavens.  15,000 Nepalese are enjoying that freedom right now.

As for this piece of article by Mr. Jha, what are you thinking? Like the politicians, have you also lost sight of the current or the future but are stuck in the past glory!  The news is about "Agra" and you want to talk about "Gagra" - Is that what you learned in Journalism 101?  You could have at least weaved how Mr. Khanal has the potential to actively participate in the socio-political development of the society like Mr. Pandey has done and that his forced resignation will be not wasted but if nurtured correctly will help the Country in the long run. 

I miss CK Lal, at least his topic was on target whether one agreed or not.

13. rita

 What non-sense is this article?  Ok Devendra Raj Pandey is a fine man and he didn't fall for the trappings of the public service positions. But , what's the big deal? 

He's from a good family, had education that gave him economic security ....that's why he could afford to do it. Many elites around the world have contributed to development or social change...and that's quite normal. In fact that's what they are supposed to do. I don't see any point in glorifying that as an exemplary case.

14. sumi
What is he trying to say? That Rameshwor Khanal's outstead from public service can be contributory to another field ?

15. Soni
Strange, Rameshwor Khanal resigns and we hear about the reasons of Pandey's resignation, interpreted through the prism of dialectical materialistic prism of caste and class conflicts.

The fact that this may have served as an opportunity to understand the very fundamental flaw in Nepal's policy and intellectual circles is missed.

The fundamental flaw is that some men think they are smarter than the whole country put together and seek to move ahead through their fantasy of an alternative world, completely disconnected from the reality of real Nepal.

That is what makes them hate Nepal and become quitters. 

16. Ekalavya Sharma

comment # 11 hit the hammer at the nail what I was trying to do.

I  love to read comments than article.

17. naresh
Exactly right! #11
There's a grand illusion in social scientists, political scientists and politicians about what constitutes the role of a personality in public life.
First, it's not just you renounced the higher life, and came to sympathize others below your rung. Next, it's not the whether you're immured for years or decades. Yes, jail terms counts but other ways round! It's not even how much you suffer for others because one can remain happy making many others happy, or sad making others sad too. There are other mixed possibilities as well. It's not even what you did, man! It's the result, and result of the result .
From this narrative, BP Koirala can be said a grand failure, GPK Koirala's role can only be attributed after several years (depending upon our level of peace and prosperity then) and Prachanda may be granted mixed results. 
So Prashat Ji, be cautious before brandishing these inept personalities. If someone's doing 'bad', he can't necessarily be 'less good'. But who dared to write when KP Bhattarai died that his was a political life not upside, nor rest but a steep down-slide? You columnists lie often, even suffer often because your fundamental level of understanding about common topics is fallacious. Just like you write now.
Thanks #11.

18. Another Pandey
Would someone ask Dr. Pandey how he became a secretary in the first place?  Special consideration from King Birendra?  Lately, does he represent the civil society or the so called intellectual arm of the Maoist?

19. Soni

The breakdown in Nepal's governance is exemplified by this incident. If you were to believe what the Finance Secretary said it is not his reason for resignation which should worry you, ("he was tired of dealing with greedy and selfish individuals who used to visit me to fulfil their personal interests rather than with programs beneficial to the larger population") it is the immediate trigger which should cause deep concern.

He says that "a supplementary budget was being prepared at the official residence of Deputy PM and Finance Minister Adhikary and the private residences of influential individuals without even consulting the Budget Division of the ministry". What this shows is a complete breakdown of trust that the political class should have in the bureaucracy, at least its top echelons, and absolutely no regard for secrecy in the conduct of the affairs of a nation.

I guess the effort here is to divert attention away from the real issues into some useless discussion over an opportunist's escapades with different political ideologies simply because he lacked the moral fiber to stick to one single stand.

The incident also highlights how difficult governance in Nepal has and would become because of the acute level of rivalry between political parties which makes the whole thing a complete zero sum game. That's what the Maoists want it to be.

20. Guinthe

# 11 - perfect analysis #18, #17, #10, #9 all point to one thing - the inexperience of this journalist (and he is of the majority in Nepal) about the happenings of the past and who fails to do much research before writing.

Its not about person people its about the facts....get your facts write before you go on your rhetoric praising or bashing anyone.

21. Harry Subba
Devender Babu Janch Bujh Kendra ( an institution which was created for engaging the  Crown Prince , without power by King Mahendra) As Birendra became King ,it became very powerful and was instrumental to ruin the civil service, It was like the Savak of Iran for that time. As a junior officer of JBK could insult or harass  a higher officer of the govenment. ko jabardast sadasya thiye,. Uni Uoa Sachib chhada afaile kosis garera teha guseka thiye. *Unko tehahuda ko chamatkari kam sabai tes bakhatka CIvil Servant haru lai ramrari thaha chha. Afulai promotion garauna, niyamfernalagai kana, purano namniskeka haru lai rokka garayera puna naya afu lai  pramotion garna milne rule nikanlagai , revised list bata saha sachib bhayeko birsiye.
 This action derailed the civil service He is a pioneer in ruining the civil service.  His matiyars were Mangal Krishna Shresta and Achut Bahadur Rajbhandari ,it was  in 2032.

Later he resigned as Finance Secretary during the referendum; as he differed on certain issue with the then PM Surya Bahadur. His mentor was Chiran Thapa. So he thought that the PM cannot do any harm to him.  Everyone knows that in Panchayat there was two camps. One moderate led by Surya Bahadur another hard -liners led by Gyanendra- Damodar Sumsher- Sarad Chandra Shah etc. It was a fight between the twoon fundraising for the referendom. So Devendra trid to be a heroand opposed  the PM's plans. The PM wasmore smart than Devendra Raj so he accepted the resignation of Panday. He made it a fait accompli andonly aftetr a few days interval informed the palace secretariat.
 So Chiran could not help him . Ciran would no dare to rake issue with the PM more so  at that critical time.
 That led Panday to conversion to democracy as the story goes.
 These are not forgotten till now by many.
All that glitters are not gold. Ther are skeleton in  the cupboard.
 No malise, it is just to make the record strait for persons who were not ev thought of those days and are writing articles eulogizing persons about whose past they don.t know.;Prashat or Ashutosh.

22. naresh
Comment #15,
you too hit the red hot iron. Sometime, when one hovers round in the alternative world of phantasmagoria, he/she needs some mints. You give the writer right mint.
The typical realities of Nepal are not role models, lest you elicit some dummies, but some radical perspective through the pragmatic prism.
First, note the immediate concerns, and concerns that are of immense importance in the future. Then, words aren't emotions, god knows, they're not even actions. So what is the workable plan under existing circumstances(like public, politicians)?
This would never corroborate your treacly pursuit of extolling a man who's so little credibility to grant. There are many honest people (since people are usually honest?), but honesty alone doesn't make a puissant figure, nor a role model. It needs competence like leadership and protean abilities to think discreetly. 
And what makes an ideal writer? He needs some catching words, organization and figures. He also needs some vernacular, that can be aided by dictionaries, thesaurus, books, laptop and research. You many have first four, but either you lacked research, or misled yourself of dis-careful prompt or brutally rammed some injunctions due to fanaticism. So it doesn't make Pandey and you ideal.

23. deratumponderum
The article and more importantly comments have made me realize how internet has now become a great tool to learn real politic of Nepal. I am relatively young and dont know any insiders to give me dose of scoops that I get from commentators. Surely some commentators could be operating with theier inherent bias. On the other hand, I dont expect the  lame stream media ( thank you sarah)  to give me a fair representation..but I can surely study and try and make unbiased opinions based on cornucopia of comments that follows articles like this one. If only there was some way to verify these claims/assertions by the commenters. I would love to read rebuttal on few assertions by commenters? Nepalitimes/Prashant  are you game? Lets give it a shot. I know commentators can remain anonymous and have some advantage. But I think "dialectical" is the way to go.  
On the other note: How are columnist chosen in Nepal? Whats the Criteria? Knowledge /intelligence or your ability to simply cover the news? Thinking of Nepalese journalism ,I remember the national shame after the crass/obscene behavior by journalists in the palace  after gyanendra's last speech at Naraynhiti.If people of that mental stature are allowed to write articles then I dont see hope at all. 

24. Tapan
Rukh na bhayeko desh ma arelko rukh pani thulo rukh ma ganninchha. Yesto ukhan chha.  Sayou chuha khakar billi chale haj karneko.
 It's good that Devendrabau is a turn-coat now. He can be a hero to those who are born yesterday,not to those born earlier.
 But repentance has its own value.
 Anyway Devendra is now in the right track,hewas in the wrong in the past.
So is the other icon Harkha Gurung, who was a strong pillar of the Panchyati days and got transformed himself later after enjoying the perks of the panchayat As  one for example in many  he was minister in the Tulsi Giri's cabinet also. Rhis is justfor information on facts pupose.  History must be based on facts not on emotions.  So durbar's loss became our gain for democracy.

25. Gole
#8 Joshi

You are absolutely right.
Yourcomment on Devendra Panday is the best in few words. You hit the bull's eye.
We are here to watch W G Grace playing cricket, none of the monkey tricks of others. We better concentrate on Rameswar Khanal only and not make someone hero who does not deserve that type of place. Too many skeleton on the cupboard.

26. Prakash
After reading the artical and the comments that the artical triggered I am more convinced that Devendra Raj Pandey is not an exemplary figure to be followed by the new generations.The artical has misrerably failed in its mission.It did more harm to the purpose for which it is written by provoking comments which dug out the past  of DRP and made him an oppurtunist (which he is not ).I myself who knew him some what closely during 1990 movement did not know that he was close to the hardliners during Panchayat era and was appointed in 'Janch Bhuja Kendra' by Chiran Thapa.That he resigned from the post of Finance Secretary not because of differences in opinions ( like Rameswar Khanal) but due to a personality clash with Surya Bahadur Thapa.He was shrewed enough to keep all these (secrets) with himself and turned himself to a human rights activist and 'a true democrat' and became close to Krishna Prashad Bhattarai who made him Finance Mininister. During the 2005/06 movement he turned himself to 'a true socialist' and continued his good relations with Baburam Bhattarai.And after the 12 point peace aggreement,tried his best to act as an advisor to Prachanda.However Prachanda used him as an 'Useful Idiot' (See Comment #10) till he needed him.Despite all these shortcommings in the field of politics Devendra Raj Pandey is an interesting indivisual who has made his several contributions in different fields.In my opinion Samjhana Poudyal ( commentator #10) has described his personality very correctly. 

27. a commoner

28. Ekalavya Sharma


So as you  I had very high regard and respect for Dr. Pandey but later was disappointed. He truly became a "useful idiot". Other useful idiots that Prachanda produced during those years were CL Lal, Damannath, Krishna Pahadi and many more who had made (who still are but not to that great extent as five years ago )  hegemony over Nepalese media.


Every time I read Jha article I get more from comments than what he writes.  

29. Amartya Sen
paul krugman? yeah, right. ;)

jha baje, plz be current. and talk about rameshwor khanal.

30. wise
PJ, you are doing a great job! Keep hitting these "useless idiots" where it hurts them. Bravo!

31. naresh
Mr. Sen #29,
Is Niall Ferguson not better substitute for Paulie??
Or you you yourself for Ferguson, too?
But what these big guys write is of little reference to us. So either we should have willpower to be like them, or we should pine to disregard them. For first option, we should opt for Yale and MIT, then must learn to eulogize American Establishment. However you shouldn't forget to pander the commonest of appeals that you write for multitudes of crazy American; that's what they say. And you must learn to doublethink your roles: best confirming yourself of ideologue and a bloke of power-mongering. You fancy write some books as if you're the best of them, forecast some easiest of impulses and reward or correct yourself because then the person and the phenomenon becomes you. Then you catapult the throngs, condescend them and upbraid them as it necessitates.
Or: You get to be saintly where you earn generally less than Rs. 20,000 for an article, or where your book sells less than thousand, and become Gandhian (because it suits the explanation to do so), or you become revolutionary of a sort like Nepolean in Orwell's Animal Farm, write oft-deemed rigmaroles, listen Narayan Gopal  and few Urdu Gazals (because they are full of compassion and eternal derivatives of life!!!).
So what would you choose between the two??
Rather to become Amartya Sen...of course. However Joseph Stieglitz also reins some Keynesian lines...

32. Pashupati
Please do not compare the honorable Mr. Khanal with the astute Monarchist turned opportunist Mr. Devendra raj Pandey..

He is at the most an opportunist person. When has he spoken on the rights of the common civilian, a common working man, a taxi driver, a fruit seller, or the civilians who suffer 12 hrs of load shedding. Where is his civil society when it comes to raising their voice on crimes that every day people face from Maoists and others? Where is he?

He took maximum advantages from the Kings when they were in power and when they became weak, he miscalculated and thought he would benefit from the leftist alliance. He is nothing but an opportunist and must not be highlighted in this light when appreciating a genuine civil servant like Mr. Khanal.

33. Ankeey
The comments were worth reading and this is the first time I am reading this newspaper, it helps me evaluate and understand the veracity of this paper and its columnist. I hope the author will be understand and internalize the comments posted by the rreaders. He will be able to write something that is worthy of reading if he understands those comments and use it towards benefit of is arguing the case so as to give the reader opportunity to interpret themselves.

34. Raj

The comments by readers on this article by Jha are far more interesting than the tribute by Jha to DRP.  First, I think that Jha is using the NT for personal ends.  Praising DRP to the extreme, and recall a previous article on a former UNICEF staff.  NT should not allow such extreme personal attacks or one-sided praise, but opinion pieces should be balanced and based on facts. Is NTimes editorial losing its integrety?

Second, I too  agree with comments 8,9,11 and 32 that DRP is an opportunist who knows the strong positive correlation  between politics and powerful "professional" positions in Nepal.  I personally observe that he is the most opportunist of all his family members, because he has used every political party to cater to his own ambitions.  Only Prachanda beat him at his game.

He used his previous high prestige positions to get funding from donors for his civil society stunts and once the funding ended, his stunts and gimmicks ended.

DRP has fooled donors and Jha, but could not fool the public and therefore could not get elected





35. roshan
crappy analogy. the journalist might want to consider writing on smaller things and social matters than taking on politics with such poorly researched article. Clearly the readers know more..

36. weas
wasn't he supposed to the prez if maoists had their way completely? or was that just a carrot ..?

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)