Nepali Times
It’s a circus out there


Everything they say in travel guides about Nepalis being a peace-loving and gentle people is true. In any other country they'd have set fire to gas stations and hijacked diesel tankers by now.

Our drivers wait for 12 hours in a petrol queue, and they are still laughing away and playing chungi in the middle of the road. And when they are told the pump has run out of gas just as they get to within a stone's throw of it, do they run amok and go on an arson spree? Nope. They shrug their shoulders and head back to homes which have no power and no electricity.


There are a lot of reasons why there is no gas in the pumps (except for 'd' none of the points below are made up):
a) NOC owes IOC so the Indians are doing to us what Gazprom is doing to the Ukrainians
b) NOC is exacting revenge on the people for not being allowed to raise prices
c) Dealers are hoarding because of the Madhesi blockade of the capital's highway lifeline
d) This is part of Nepal's commitment to the Kyoto protocol to reduce our carbon footprint by cutting fossil fuel use to 1990 levels
e) Tuesday was a Dhading Banda
f) The Prithbi Highway was blocked on Monday by youths angry that their friends were in police custody for robbery
g) A tanker broke its axle at the entrance to the Thankot petroleum depot, and blocked 34 other tankers from entering the facility. NOC refused to pay for a crane which sat there for three days.
f) And now tanker drivers are on strike.


A gas shortage is a great leveller. The more dependent you are on the fossil economy the more badly hit you are. So for 95 percent of Nepalis who don't own vehicles of any type, there is no direct impact. And only 35 percent of Nepal's population is hooked to the grid, so a majority of the population couldn't be bothered about load-shedding and in fact must be saying khuching to the rest of us. This is the revenge of the powerless.

There is a shortage of just about everything in this country: electricity, water, gas, kerosene, diesel, CDMA phones, SIM cards. The latest is that Rastra Bank has run out of bank notes. Yes, in case you hadn't noticed, there is a shortage of cash in this country.


However, there is never any shortage of alcohol in the market. We never run out of booze. And pharmaceuticals. The Ass has yet to hear of the neighbourhood pharmacy running out of drugs. (In Chitwan, a distillery has just widened its product range to also manufacture medicines to treat liver ailments.) And how come we never hear of a cigarette scarcity in this country?


At the annual function of Nepal Telecom recently, its CEO got away with severe criticism of politicians. Must have taken a lot of guts since the guest-in-chief was none other than Maharababu. The comrade listened attentively to the man, who really let himself go since this is the end of his term. But grapevine has it that CEO in question has already been granted an extension because of generous campaign funding to the right quarters. Is that why the minister was mum? So when are we actually going to be able to make a proper phone call on Tero mobile?


While the first Maoist election campaign speech by none other than Comrade El Presidente himself was getting going at Khula Munch, the Army was staging its Shivaratri rehersal just over the fence on Tundikhel. Does this come under the Comprehensive Peace Accord, the Ass wonders.

It's getting more and more difficult to separate election campaigns and rallies as they are happening cheek to jowl. Last week, the Marxist Leninist (Maley) faction of the CPN decided to have its first election rally at Ratna park. Trouble was, it was a Saturday and the venue clashed with couple of other ahm sabahs including one by the All Nepal Federation of Security Guards (Non-revolutaionary).

But there were also two young circus artists who were staging their controtions to the public and pulling a huge crowd. The Maley audience started deserting to watch the circus kids squeezing through hoops, so the young comrades shooed the contortionists out of Tundikhel and in the process roughed up some of the spectators who dared to complain. This election is going to be a circus.


Peacenick minister Ram Chandra Poudel is the least popular member of the government among the international community. After his heated exchange with the Danish ambassador recently it is clear Ram Chandradai doesn't care too much for diplomatic niceties. The Ass wonders if he is the b?te noire of the Europeans because he's the only one who can't stand them telling us what to do.


(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)