Recent reports of corruption involving (again) Labour and Transport Minister Mohamad Aftab Alam (Nepali Congress) will have provoked the usual outrage. Two separate stories in the 15-29 January issue of Himal Khabarpatrika chronicle his alleged misdeeds. Here is a talent for multi-tasking:
l Migrant labourers leaving Nepal are required to contribute Rs 1,000 to a fund, ostensibly for their benefit. Alam, like his predecessor Lekh Raj Bhatta (UCPN-Maoist), has been accused of using this welfare fund as his personal slush fund, spending freely on foreign trips, fuel expenses, and furniture for his residence.
l Traffic police recently introduced CCTV cameras to monitor driving tests, long notorious for inviting bribes that find their way into the pockets of middlemen, traffic police, bureaucrats, and ministers. Alam has been accused of pressuring Binod Adhikari, who was heading the Department of Transport Management, to remove the cameras. When Adhikari refused to comply, he was transferred back to the ministry.
Alam's is no ordinary case, involving two high-profile instances of blatant corruption. We suffer the consequences of traffic mismanagement every day, and one could not really sink lower than parasitising the one safety net, however inadequate, possessed by those poor Nepalis who keep the country's economy afloat.
Yet the accusations against Alam risk being subsumed in the culture of impunity, political and social, that allows so many to get away with murder. A few headlines, teashop gossip, perhaps a resignation, and Alam will rejoin the ranks of his parliamentary peers, satisfied with his fun in the sun if a little miffed that it had to end before he was good and ready. Indeed, it may be the foreknowledge that all things must pass that makes for the blatant voracity with which people like Alam stuff their pockets.
Yes, we are outraged when we hear of such cases. Our cynicism, and lack of faith in those meant to represent the best of us, mean we assume all charges are true. This in itself is a tragedy. But our outrage is fatalistic, thus impotent. What to do if so and so does such and such? He's not the first, and certainly not the last. But we are not so impotent as we make ourselves out to be. If it is true that corruption is so pervasive as to be omnipotent, we cannot plead helplessness for too long, pointing crooked fingers at crooked politicians. Sooner or later we have to acknowledge that we, too, have a part in corruption, and are culpable.
After all, the Kushwahas (of 'Does a fish in the sea not drink water?' infamy) and Alams of the world are not simply corrupted by power. Power merely raises their capacity to lower their moral standards. But their morals are flawed to begin with, just like ours. A teacher may favour a nephew over a stranger for admission into his school today; as foreign minister tomorrow, he may make his nephew an ambassador. In the absence of moral or legal checks on corrupt behaviour, everything becomes permissible in time.
We are also culpable in thinking that politics is paramount. There are some who feel that if the politics is sorted out through the formulation of a constitutional and legal framework that lays out rights, responsibilities and checks and balances, then a just and humane society will follow. But perhaps it is the other way around. Perhaps if we re-examine our own relationship to law and order, we will be better equipped to deal with power, and less liable to abuse it. Of course, it's not easy to make things difficult for yourself by, for instance, refusing to pay that bribe to expedite things. But it may be useful to understand that many of Nepal's systems are designed to be difficult precisely so you will seek the easy (and corrupt) way out. If we focus on streamlining such systems in a way that is fair to all Ė take the example of CCTVs for driving tests Ė then we can extricate ourselves from the moral morass of day-to-day life in Nepal.
Then we can hone our outrage to a fine edge when we hear of ministerial misdemeanours, and shout out without shame, "Off with his head!"
Our cynicism, and lack of faith in those meant to represent the best of us, mean we assume all charges are true.¬†But their morals are flawed to begin with, just like ours.¬†In the absence of moral or legal checks on corrupt behaviour, everything becomes permissiblein time.¬†But it may be useful to understand that many of Nepal's systems are designed to be difficult precisely so you will seek the easy (and corrupt) way out.¬†
But our outrage is fatalistic, thus impotent.
I don't think you know what you are talking about. I am sorry I have to say this, but its a fact.
The cynicism, that you claim is ours, is not, it is yours and your likes. Always trying to seek an easy explanation out of a complex problem.¬†
Nepal happens to be the most politicised country that the world ever saw. The rage that you call impotent, has been expressed so vehemently and so often that it has now lost its edge. Completely. And expressing rage and half baked opinion has become the modus operandi of this country's elite. The largest cash generative business, with an assured profit, is politics and NGO.
Over the past twenty odd years, and particularly in the last 15, we have witnessed children coming out in the streets to protests about things that neither nor their parents have any understanding of, people wax eloquent about the need for this and that step - I got asked about my vision a couple of weeks back.¬†
Fools who could not stitch a table cloth are talking about, and giving eloquent speeches, about how to build a nation. This nation has been brought to its knees by the collective impotence of its journalists and intellectuals. Politicians are the only ones you appear to serve.
You¬†talk about our¬†morals being flawed, but tell me Einstein, if it were so, how does this nation survive amid so much turmoil? Can you list me the name of any two countries that survive as a¬†salvageable¬†unit with these many fools in-charge?¬†¬†
Why everything has become permissible is because you, not us, you¬†have made it permissible. Do you recall the lies being spread about the Army, the Police, the tricksters defence of the rotting politicians? Do you recall how slowly and gradually the honest and competent politicians were made victims of vicious lies and propaganda? Do you recall how KP Bhattarai,¬†and many like him,¬†were shunted away from active politics?
You appear to understand what Nepalese systems are designed to do, eh, bright isn't that? Hallelujah, what has't thou done my lord, lately?
Nepal's systems are what they are because they are¬†socialist. Founded on distrust of people, germinating from the idea that only a government is smart, benevolent and capable enough to do the right thing. And, if you think this is bad, then think of the time when Rt. Hon'ble Pandey's dream comes true.
It is not us mate, its you. Sort this thing out, start by working a little harder on your columns. I don't need to, I don't get paid to do this, you must.
21 JAN 2011 | 7:53 PM NST
"Yes, we are outraged when we hear of such cases. Our cynicism, and lack of faith in those meant to represent the best of us, mean we assume all charges are true. This in itself is a tragedy. But our outrage is fatalistic, thus impotent. What to do if so and so does such and such? He's not the first, and certainly not the last. But we are not so impotent as we make ourselves out to be. If it is true that corruption is so pervasive as to be omnipotent, we cannot plead helplessness for too long, pointing crooked fingers at crooked politicians. Sooner or later we have to acknowledge that we, too, have a part in corruption, and are culpable."
Well said! Yes you are culpable!
So stop calling the corrupt looters "democratic parties" and accusing their opponents of being against democracy.
Call them "corrupt looters" and help drive them out of politics!
21 JAN 2011 | 12:10 AM NST
3. Slarti Reading Nepali newspapers and weekly's you are bound to get the impression that there is no hope for this country.¬†
Politicians have built such a network of dependents by virtue of their socialist agenda that the Maoists run a structured mafia organisation with the YCL acting as their enforcers.¬†The fact that they are able to pay for all of these people, bears witness to the extent that they have looted this country.
Nepali Congress still depends on the fact that many loyalists were placed in the government and many businessmen benefited during their no holds barred privatisation campaign in the early 90's.
The mathematics of it all makes you wonder what could have happened if these clowns could engage themselves in something productive.
But at a time when journalists are working overtime to ensure that real issues get overshadowed and politicians are able wriggle out of all the wholes they dig for themselves and the people of this beautiful country, it is important that these issues are highlighted, little by little.
Over the past two decades, so many industries have had to close their doors, trade union leaders have enriched themselves and forced businesses to close doors. What is left is wiped clean by government officials at their political masters recommendation.¬†Entrepreneurs and¬†employees and ¬†are left to live the life of a destitute.
The media in the meantime engaged itself in partisan politics as if that is what was required. When politics should have been a sideshow, it has become the only show in town.
You want security, join politics, safety, join politics, steal, join the Maoists, loot, join the Maoists, murder, Maoists will help, and if you want to be a thief in government, join the congress, Aftab Alam did. Now, why do you blame him?
You blame him because while you want to fill the pages, you don't want to work to fill the pages.
If you did, you would have found that this is what happens in all countries which imported an alien ideology and imposed it on their people with the convenient excuse of a democracy. When they were actually imposing socialism.
Why did they want socialism, simple, because that offers the most convenient path to loot. It is a con-artists ideology.
22 JAN 2011 | 2:19 PM NST
4. Slarti You very conveniently blame our collective morals and cohones to explain away the situation that we currently are in.
Did you ever stop and ask, what is it that the politicians need to deliver and that we want? What is it that we want, reasonable, and can reasonable expect to be delivered by the politicians?√ā¬
Have you ever wondered what federalism, secularism, socialism, and all of that claptrap has anything to do with those who are not in the least interested in politics?
The answer to all of that is yes, the reason why you have never explicitly and repeatedly hit out at all of that nonsense is because, to use your term, you lack the cohones to do that.
Instead, you want to tell Nepal that the people of this country bear impotent rage. You, sir, are a coward for saying that.√ā¬
The truth is that 90% of the high sounding and sacrosanct stuff delivered by the likes of you (all journalists and,ahem, intellectuals) is a load of nonsense.
Even you don't know what you mean.
Look at this article. Every teashop in this country hosts the same rant, I keep talking about the same thing. What insight are you offering? None
Yet, you must share with us the joy of bearing a sharp tongue.
22 JAN 2011 | 2:29 PM NST
5. Name (required)
What disgusts me time and time again is hearing INGO people admit to having to 'work' or 'partner' with the relevant gov department when they know the civil servants they work with are only self servants waiting to get their nose in the trough. Call it licence to operate, but it's not very dissimilar to paying protection money.¬†
Should I be sending details to the Centre for Investigative Journalism? Are they up to the task?
22 JAN 2011 | 4:26 PM NST
In Nepal we have two real options at the moment.
One party, that collectively endorced the use of violence, killings, intimidation, forced recruitment of child soldiers,voter intmidation,¬† demanding a cut of teachers wages, militant youth wings, corruption inorder to ultimately complete their insurgency for a one party state, no freedom of speech, destroying the opposition and also to make their leaders individually wealthy.
The other party, that strongly beileives in multy party democracy, freedom of speech, free and fair elections. However, is also riddled with corrupt, ineffectual leaders and has also lost it's political identity, losing touch with it's supporters.
So really, we have a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Not really much of a choice? or is there an alternative?! ¬†
22 JAN 2011 | 12:01 AM NST
7. Hamro Nepal Well said, Kamal ji,
"Corruption is a many-headed Ravana, cut one off and another will take its place".
After all, you cannot let a party die, can you?¬† No comments.¬†
23 JAN 2011 | 1:03 AM NST
Go on Slarti just say it we were better off with the King around and he could crush these annoying journalists, who seem to be causing all these problems with their words.
25 JAN 2011 | 5:12 PM NST
"8. jhankri Go on Slarti just say it we were better off with the King around and he could crush these annoying journalists, who seem to be causing all these problems with their words.¬†"