But the cost to the country's economy, its development, the service delivery to people is incalculable. You can't put a rupee and paisa price on all the patients who died because they couldn't be taken to hospital because the budget to repair the road was plundered by a mafia composed of district office-bearers of the three parties.
Smelling weakness, everyone with a grievance is on warpath, punishing the people with strikes and extortion to get back at a feckless state. Eighty per cent of industries in this country have closed down, the latest this week is Surya Nepal's Rs 700 million apparrel export factory in Biratnagar. In the absence of a state, extortionists are masquerading as legitimate labour unions .
When elected leaders abdicate their governance role to indulge in endless intrigue and back-stabbing, the leadership vacuum is filled by lawless gangs. Political parties that supposedly believe in the rule of law and peaceful democratic politics are coddling crooks. Gangsters have now become richer and more powerful than the party bosses who created them.
In the Maoist party, militant union chiefs have now amassed so much ill-gotten wealth that the party hierarchy is powerless to pull them up. The UML copied the Maoists, and it was Jhalanath Khanal who set up the Youth Force. Later it was renamed the Yuba Sangh Nepal, but call it what you want, it was still up to its neck in crime. The little puppies have become snarling rottweilers.
The UML youth wing is now a powerful nationwide network of organised crime to complement the YCL. In many places, like in eastern Nepal, the two are partners in crime. It is only when there is disagreement about the division of the spoils that they carve each other up with khukuris. Then the media sometimes gets caught in the middle as happened to the Biratnagar correspondent of Nagarik newspaper two months ago.
Khilanath Dhakal was forced to undergo a near-death experience when he reported on UML goons beating up a rival gangster inside a courtroom. The UML youth wing has since taken strong exception to Nagarik's exposes on the range of its criminal activities in eastern Nepal. It all culminated this week in the mother party closing down Biratnagar for two days and the youth wing's boss Mahesh Basnet threatening to jail Nagarik editor Narayan Wagle, shutting down his newspaper and threatening the Morang police chief and his family with bodily harm.
This has now gone beyond being just a threat to journalists and police, it is a direct challenge to the country's interim constitution its guarantees of basic human rights and a democratic polity. And yet, the UML is so scared of the monster it created the party can't even condemn Basnet for continued catch-me-if-you-can defiance.
All this got wide media play because a journalist was involved, but organised crime, local outlaws and gangsters have been abducting children, maiming, raping nuns and murdering citizens with impunity. The state's inability or unwillingness to stop this has emboldened crooks who are protected by their political bosses. Saying this is normal in a state of political transition is no excuse.
There is only one way to address Nepal's descent into dystopia: re-establish a stable state, eradicate impunity and decriminalize political parties by agreeing on a unity government ASAP.
All for one, one for all, KIRAN NEPAL
Taking the people for granted, JYOTI MALHOTRA
Just because Anna Hazare can't challenge an elected government, doesn't mean Delhi can dismiss the anti-corruption activist