Nepali Times
Guest Column
Getting rid of the brokers


An apple farmer in Jumla has to protect his saplings through three harsh winters before they start bearing fruit. When mature, one tree can yield as much as 100kg of apples, and they sell for Rs 15 per kg in the Khalanga Bazar. These are packed into boxes and transported to Kathmandu where the apples sell for Rs 250 per kg.

The solution is not to tell Jumla farmers not to grow apples, but to put into place a price mechanism so that the producer is not cheated, and the consumer gets more apples for the same price. This means finding ways to connect farmers more effectively to market, cutting out or minimising the impact of middlemen, so that the farmers in Jumla get a fair share of the margin.

Similarly, in politics too, 28 million Nepalis who put their faith and aspirations in the hands of our political middlemen have been let down. Thousands of young Nepalis even sacrificed their lives to be part of a revolution and a people's movement to start afresh with a new constitution. Having done so, they went back to their hard lives eking out a living from the harsh land, putting their fate in the hands of those they elected. Four years and billions of rupees later, they are still waiting.

The question here is no longer why did a new constitution not get passed and who is to blame, but are we okay with exercising our valuable democratic right of casting our vote for the same people, parties, and ideologies all over again?
Just because elected leaders were not able to deliver on a new constitution, it doesn't mean that we should start doubting or looking for alternatives to our democratic system of governance. And the solution will also not come from merely finding fault and criticising our political leadership and parties.

Maybe the time has come to decide whether the political brokers on whom we had faith to deliver a better nation have been leading us astray. Like the apple middlemen, politicians have been taking advantage of the Nepali people's trust in them.

But change is happening in Jumla. A group of pioneering entrepreneurs with capital and market linkages in Kathmandu have got together with young farmers in Jumla, bought a large plot of land and started planting apple saplings. By taking the resources and value additions of urban Kathmandu and combining them with local skills and knowledge, the profit-sharing will be fairer. Who knows, maybe apples will also be cheaper in Kathmandu.

If only we could find such a bridge to bring together Nepal's political brokers with the people. But for that to happen, one of two things needs to be in place.

Option One is a realisation among the political forces that they have wronged the people whom they represent. It hasn't sunk into the current leadership that Nepalis are no longer interested in who is going to be the next prime minister, who are going to be ministers, or which parties are going to be in government. Those things make no difference on whether there is food on the plate.

A good starting point is for the leaders individually and collectively apologise to the Nepali people for letting them down. There needs to be an attitudinal change so leaders don't see themselves as "rulers" anymore, but as "servants" of the people. That is the only way they will win back the people's confidence, a prerequisite to facing the electorate in the next polls.

Many of you may be shaking your heads, thinking this will never happen in your lifetime. If so, you have to think of Option Two: the formation of a completely new political force made up of individuals who have excelled in their respective fields, Nepalis who have proven themselves and through their work, earned the trust of the people.

Individuals like you and me who have successful, comfortable lives will need to step out of our cosy cocoons to take on not only the challenges facing our nation, but also the political forces that are wasting time and squandering their mandates. No matter how fragmented they may seem now, when it comes to choosing the next prime minister, you can be sure the politicians will circle the wagons when their power is challenged.

Or there could be a combination of Options One and Two so young forward-looking individuals currently in the political parties, and individuals not currently in mainstream politics come together to forge an alliance.

Just like the apple farmers in Jumla forged a partnership with entrepreneurs from Kathmandu, the time has come to bypass the political middlemen.

Anil Keshary Shah is a banker and a concerned Nepali citizen.

See also:
Road to riches, KATY ELLIOT
Investment in Jumla's organic apples is bringing an old dream to fruition

1. who cares
"much as 100kg of apples, and they sell for Rs 15 per kg in the Khalanga Bazar."

so if i plant 1000, i can earn 15 lakh... then i should buy some hills at jumla. 

i heard a few years about about some manufacturing trying to directly sell products to consumers. after a few year, stopped hearing from them. may be its is not possible. 

depending upon the product, there are more than two middlemen. so this means, middleman is the must in business... all they need to be is professional.   ... in nepal, may be if there is good and honest insurance provider, price could become competitive. i think..

".... no longer interested in who is going to be the next prime minister, who are going to be ministers, or which parties are going to be in government. Those things make no difference on whether there is food on the plate...."

time and again, it has been proven wrong. who becomes pm, from which party does make a big difference.

just look at present dalal.. who has been trying to bulldoze opposition while when there were madhav nepal or jhallu ram, they used to approach maoist before making major decision.

today, agent bhatterai unilateral declared next election.  

so, forget about the uneducated or poorly educated, educated like you should not talk like this.... if individual does not matter then why so many had to die to get read of another shah.

and not to forget that "when terrorist lead the govt., they are 100 times more likely too loot and they goons extort, threat more freely".

"A good starting point is for the leaders individually and collectively apologize to the Nepali people for letting them down. "

is the the most preferable and easiest for them. and maoist are the first one who dont mind apologizing, but its a different thing whether they really mean it or not. and once agent puspa said, they are the people's party cause they keep on apologizing to public..... so you do get what i am trying to say.

"Option Two: the formation of a completely new political force made up of individuals who have excelled in their respective fields, Nepalis who have proven themselves and through their work, earned the trust of the people."

that is what i said year, years ago. successful people who already has earned enough should retire at 55 and join politics. 

and individual like you, who are successful, but are not involved with violent gang should stay away from commenting politics cause if you speak truth like call terrorist a terrorist, you could get killed and if you lie then ..... 

2. Suffer Raj Koirala
I find this article quite contradictory, in that Nepali Times now has started getting views from a Bank Executive on politics. Shah seems to be promoting himself more than the cause of  democratic politics. He asserts he is a democrat, but his mom served as an ambassador and a virtual stooge of the old Panchayat coterie  in different postions. She had extremely harsh manners in treating juniors in the foreign service. In short, in a pretentious manner banker Shah derides others, excepting his own self-promotion as a possible leader, which is quite questionable if one is to query the Gyanendra circle linked financiers behind his bank!  Furthermore, Shah thinks he is living in the laps of luxury, but may be not knowing the real luxury a few thousand Nepalis are living abroad earning  a couple of million dollars. If we really alk about life style,  his current life style might appear that of a pauper, if the issue were really brought up. But still, let us go on to the main theme, which is serving Nepali people. So how have you exactly served the Nepali people, Shah?  And two what do you know about growing apples in three harsh winters in the Nepali mountains?  You article and  understanding of Nepali politics is so ridiculuous that comparison to real cast and characters in Nepali politics is pathetic. Besides, you have been seen in various cocktail parties, kowtowing and doing Namaste Hajur to the same people you deride.  So you think this is only to cultivate  your personal banking business?   Speak your mind up  Shah.   What a waste of  paper  for Nepali times.  I hope no true democrat will be dissuaded in the cause of promoting Nepali democracy compared to this guy Shah's shallow thinking on the issue. Truly,  I feel sorry in reading what a Nepali banker has to say about the country's future, not to poke fun at his  reddish (possibly Maoist looking south turning) eye glasses.

3. ray
An interesting article, but like the person above me has commented, a lot of people in Nepal will view the writer with suspicious, especially his background. 

But the time is slowly coming to look for an alternative and to challenge the bigots and thugs that are our current politicians. 

4. Ray Ban
Thanks to Anil Shah for an article which is like a breath of fresh air compared to what passes off as "opinion" in Nepal's media. They are all written by politicians themselves who are always talking and arguing and are responsible for getting us into this mess in the first place. Finally here is someone who has no axes to grind, and some people have to go on a personal tirade, even bringing Anil's mother into their argument. The article says politicians will fight technocrats tooth and nail because they will see them as a threat to their monopoly to power. Wow, I didn't think the author would be proven right so quickly! Thanks Nepali Times for bringing us a fresh new perspective instead of the same boring old crap from the pundits.   

5. sudha
I fuuly agree with Shah's views. I think the previous commentators reflect prevalent negativity that is damaging our society so badly.Let us keep our biases and prejudices aside and welcome a fresh idea, or at least discuss with an open mind.

6. Big George
Spare us the "will he or will he not" questions. You clearly have ambition for politics and are treading water. You will eventually have to reduce the pontificating and join the political arena. Do it sooner than later. 

7. Chandra B. Bisht

My reckoning from the comments posted here is that: If any of your family members were in any way involved with any erstwhile regime, you have lost all rights to comment on anything. The best option for you is either to leave this country or become a hermit that has renounced all worldly matters. Lastly, all Nepalese, however comfortable lives they may be living here at home are all paupers.

8. Rdr
Anil is right on. We need more such honest voices coming out from the professional circles who have real stake in the country.

9. biku
are we okay with exercising our valuable democratic right of casting our vote for the same people, parties, and ideologies all over again? 

Its a million dollar question so far.

10. It's My Turn

I like Anil's analogy: the importance of getting apples to consumers without interference of greedy middlemen! By eliminating the middlemen, farmers can be rewarded for their hard work and the consumers can enjoy apples with as little money as possible. What a win/win situation! If it is beneficial for both, why not eradicate the middlemen who manipulate the price? Well, sounds simple but there is a reason why middlemen are getting an opportunity to exist and flourish. Is ignorance the reason? I believe so. Who is to blame for this: the farmer, the consumers, both or neither? Interestingly, middlemen can be compared to politicians. Even worse, politicians often rank much lower on the scale when it comes to betraying trust and taking advantage of very people they claim to represent. Perhaps, not all politicians, but majority of them are there to rip us off, just like the middlemen. Sounds pathetic, but in our case, it's an established fact that rather than uplifting our lives, our politicians are there to suck blood out of us, as if we are just as juicy as the apples. Currently, these bloodsuckers are wreaking havoc in our country, and something must be done to eradicate them completely. They're like pests that keep on feeding. That being said, since we know the root cause of our suffering, we must do what we can to prevent us from getting screwed even more. Unfortunately, time is running out for us, and we need to search for an option really fast. Clearly, the Option 1 that Anil has offered will not work because repenting alone by these thugs makes no difference whatsoever. It acutally makes it worse as it will prolong the blood-sucking activity even more. The Option 2 seems appealing and feasible because it is within our reach. In my view, all we need is a few "good men," who are not afraid to work hard. I think it can be done if we get a little creative. Facebook rings your bell? The Arab Springs ring your bell? Yup, let's be little creative here! On the lighter note, let's not pay attention to people like "Suffer Raj Koirala" because he does not represent us, he represents the very blood-sucking politicians the article talks about. A "chamche" like him, who is not afraid to throw low blow, must be the first to go. Really!     

11. chanrika amarsinge
I don't know much about Nepali politics or who thisuy is, But I think Nepal is a beautiful country, and you guys need to sort it out, like we did in Sri Lanka, get it o  writer Shah?  I also think it is wrong to take a writer based on his past repressive family background.   Koirala clan always hated  the Shah royal family.  Shah looks pretty harmless, quite Woody Allenish and  even dares to  don a red pair of eyeglasses and reddish bow-tie perhaps to show his true inner heart's  chakari desire, to join the Maoists in their rampage, rape and destruction of  Nepal.  He might be pursuing his task legally as a banker, but that is ok if he believes in democracy.  He is right, if he has the money and if people will dare  caste one vote for him why not join politics?  He might end upas  Prime Minister of Mega Bank,  perhaps not Singha Durbar. That is OK.  Shah, hear me! In Sri Lanka, we always looked to Nepal as a land of peace and Nepalese people as honest and hardworking, free of ideology and always independent. I hope  that this rings a bell in  your mind and stop blowing in the wind.  Apples cannot be compared to oranges, and rightlty neither  your reddish sun glasses to  a  Buddist monk's orange pair!

12. samita rai
Hey Anil, if you really want to contribute to Nepal's future, I would suggest you leave banking and joing politics. It is better you taste the bitter experience of a politicians' life than just your rhetorical lambast.  I appreciate your views, but cannot make any differetiation between what you have to say, and what others have said before you in Nepali Times.  Democracy for whom? It is the people right? Better idea... why not do social service like Tulsi Meher?  I hope that you will do better that way.

13. Tashi Lama
Concerning change in Nepal's politics, it wasn't that simple as getting rid of brokers. The issue here is the real change within every Nepali individual, specially more over in the educated populace of Nepal, and than the change in the mentality of Nepali politicians. Open mindedness and moral moral values in the Nepali society is lacking these days, if we are looking for positive changes in Nepal, Nepalese people and it's politicians should learn to have open minded thinking and need to respect moral values and it's ethics. Open minded means understanding interdependence in everything happening, and respecting moral values means having moral responsibility by believing in the character of non-violence. Without bringing these real changes in the Nepali society, there is not much hope for stable, happy and harmonious Nepal any sooner. 

14. nidhi
it is not right to judge Anil on the basis of his mother's background. and he has right to comment on the current affairs as any citizen. his family background is not his fault. and he does not have to jump into politics to do good for the people. he is already in a position to devise and implement some effective schemes for the people of remote areas. i would like to see him contributing through his profession and his skills. the people should refrain from turning politics into profession. 

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)