C K Lal takes seriously the commitment to fairness and transparency recently renewed by bilateral donors, UN agencies and international non-governmental organisations operating in Nepal in his State of the State column ('Bogged down', #371). He regrets however that the Basic Operating Guidelines are not binding and suggests that, in the absence of parliamentary and social supervision, the good intentions they express may just be a propaganda tool.
In fact all programs and projects financed by external agencies are subject to close scrutiny by independent auditors, boards of directors, UN governing bodies and the parliaments of the donors' countries. A large number of them report to the Nepali government at the central and local level. Moreover many programs and projects include forms of public hearings and social auditing that give voice to local communities and to the intended beneficiaries. In recent years these attempts to ensure transparency and assess inclusion have been among the most effective instruments adopted by donors to respond to citizens' mistrust of development promoters, concerns about corruption, and growing cynicism about the privileges enjoyed by development workers.
The better surveillance by the Nepali parliament and the engagement of civil society representatives in monitoring donors' commitments suggested by C K Lal would definitely help make donors more accountable to the Nepali citizens. The development partners of Nepal would be pleased to see politicians and members of parliament show a stronger interest in development initiatives and in the many obstacles they face at the central and the local level. It would also be useful for a commission to be established by civil society to critically assess donors' practices and operations. If this body is politically impartial, socially inclusive and avoids conflict of interests by enrolling personalities that do not benefit in a direct way from donors' activities, I believe the signatories of the Basic Operating Guidelines should be eager to collaborate with it. Indeed, as C K Lal points out, 'this is an opportunity that stakeholders in Nepal must seize'.
Chairman of the Bogs group
What is the point of our journalists meeting Indian Maoists ('Not comrades anymore,' #373)? Go and meet Goit and Jwala. What do these Naxalites want anyway? Do they want more bloodshed in Nepal or to see Nepal spiralling down the path of destruction so that their countrymen in Delhi get to say even more about our affairs?
It's appalling and pathetic how the same so-called crusaders for democracy who were up in arms during the king's rule and against the media gag are now silent when journalists are being murdered and beaten by the Maoists. All they can do is remind the Maoists to be faithful to the seven-party understanding.
. Yes, it does seem we are trying to deal with the political crisis brick-by-brick ('Brick by brick', #373) but we are also building walls that are thwarting political unity.
This is leading to scores of other crises: humanitarian, economic, social, cultural, ethnic, moral and ethical. The mortar to bind the bricks together is therefore missing. A house built without mortar will loosen brick by brick, and finally crumble.
. There is a flurry of urges for the Maoists to mend their ways. I hope the advertisement on your last page (#373) of The Buddhist Path of Enlightenment organised by the Rangjung Yeshe Institute has attracted the attention of the Maoist leadership. Their dogmatism has already cost the country great suffering that will continue until and unless the comrades emerge from their ignorance. Their attempt to emulate the catastrophes caused by Lenin, Stalin, and Mao is futile. Given their unblemished record of patriotism, Prachanda, Baburam, Ram Bahadur, Mahara, Yami and Co should instead pay heed to the late Poet Laureate Lekhnath Poudel's quote: "Gyan mardacha hasera, roi bigyan mardacha" (wisdom always prevails over science). Buddhism is indeed the middle path, which ultra-leftists should experience to save their souls before it is too late. Otherwise, it is imminent that our comrades' souls are destined for eternal torment.
I commend you on the publication of 'Stigma therapy' (#372). This provides an opportunity for public discussion on the much ignored and taboo subject of mental health in Nepal. If not given appropriate attention now, the epidemic of mental health will have a serious impact on the country's economic and social development as well as its overall governance. This problem is bigger than the Ministry of Health can handle. Any response to mental health requires a cross-sector approach. Donors are thus required to be more flexible and responsive and not so driven by their own agendas couched in terms of so-called local ownership.
Some weeks ago, you published a letter highlighting the disastrous effects on health, family and community harmony of alcohol and tobacco use, and questioning the ethics of supporting these industries by allowing them advertising space. Your cynical caption highlights complicity no different from the politicians whom you regularly slam for their disregard of the country's future. Advertisers' images of sexual, social and corporate success from the right brand of whisky and cigarette should be laughably puerile to your readership. Yet corporations who couldn't care less about their product's contribution to family violence and abuse, poverty and cancer know that their money is well spent in your publication. Let adults make their own choices, you may say. Perhaps you should think about the example you are setting your children? You have even provided a business editorial to a company marketing low-alcohol shandy to teenagers. Wonderful, get them hooked young, and you've got them for life! In an impoverished society like ours, promotion of such products in the media is clearly harmful. And do you really need this dirty money to keep your paper going?
I can't believe that anybody would allow a road to be built through the Kali Gandaki valley ('Jomsom by road', #373). The area between Kagbeni, Jomsom and Tatopani possesses a stunning beauty. There is no other place in the world where you have a canyon flanked by 8000-metre mountains on either side of it. The villages of Marpha, Tukuche and Dana with their apple and orange orchards are some of the most picturesque in the world. This serenity will be gone forever. In the name of development (read 'money') somebody sacrificed the most unique and pristine environment on Earth and wrecked a huge chunk of a fabulous trekking route. The apples are hardly worth such an extensive and damaging project. It sounds like a Nepali version of the Three Gorges Dam. Congratulations to whoever made such a short-sighted decision. What is next, a road to Gorak Shep?