Nepali Times Asian Paints
Economic Sense
Good neighbours


It is an interesting experience to get to the Indian states that do not border Nepal. When one travels to cities like Bangalore, one wonders why the Indian identity in Nepal is a problem and vice-versa. No one talks about the excess export of vegetable ghiu or how tea exports are ruining their local market. Neither do they dwell upon issues of dams and downstream benefits. For the South Indians, Nepal is a wonderful country that, apart from Mt Everest, has the revered shrine of Pashupatinath.

The market for Nepali tourism may lie here. Although the flight to Bangalore is non-stop, we need to increase the frequency. There is already enough flow between Nepalis flying for darshan to Sai Baba's ashram at Puttaparthi and devout Hindus flying to Pashupati to warrant it.

Nepal could also be sold afresh in this part of India as being a destination for the youth who want value for money. If the private sector tourism industry feels the government has not done its part, perhaps they could take this on as a pilot project to prove a point instead of leaving it to the Nepal Tourism Board.

Perhaps the best part of the South Indians is their drive and dedication towards building a good future for their children. This has created an economic growth surge in the southern states that surpasses national averages-which unsurprisingly, are dragged lower by the likes of our neighbouring states, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

South Indians possess spending power but exercise judicious control over extravagance. Consumer demand is fuelled by quality products. Mobile phones are a necessity, not like a fashionable prop, but as a valuable tool of modern life. So is the internet: the internet cafes are packed with people in almost all the railway stations.
The new breed of upwardly mobile South Indian professionals still believes in culture and heritage. They feel connected to the whole national ethos, and position their careers in terms of nation building. It is a trait sadly lacking from most young Nepalis, who are only too keen to take the first flight out.

The Beed imagines the difference it would have made if states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka or Tamilnadu bordered Nepal. By osmosis, could we have picked up good habits like cleanliness, education and civic sense? Our politicians would not be escorted by baton-totting goons and their leadership styles would not be fodder for television satire shows.

It's easy enough to bicker about the neighbours and fantasise about what-ifs, but in the real world, one has to address the whole as much as the parts. We can be allies too, if Dilli Darbar and Singha Darbar drop their defences just a little bit to benefit us all. So, the Beed ends this week's column with a homily, that may or may not apply: good fences make good neighbours, but good neighbours make good fences too.

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(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)