When the Central Bureau of Statistics released the preliminary results of the 2011 census this week, many of us were pleasantly surprised that the country's runaway population growth rate has sunk dramatically to 1.4 percent per year. Nepal's population, which we all expected to touch 30 million this time was "only" 26.62 million.
But analysing the figures further and speaking with experts, we now see no reason to rejoice. Apart from some doubts about the accuracy of the numbers, there are unmistakable trends that point to a dangerous demographic imbalance.
The most serious of these is a rapid depopulation of the hills nationwide. Twenty-three districts have negative population growth, with most of the people moving to the capital Valley and plains. At no time in Nepal's history, not even during the state-sponsored transmigration from hills of Tanahu, Parbat, Kaski to Chitwan during the Mahendra years, has there been such a large scale movement of Nepalis within Nepal.
Manang has lost an astonishing one-third of its population in the last 10 years. Khotang, Terathum and Syangja are also suffering out migration of young men to the cities, to Malaysia and the Gulf. The mid-western hills have seen depopulation that hasn't abated since the conflict years.
Higher birth rates in the Tarai, and migration from the hills and from across the border, means that the population of the Tarai grew by 20 per cent in the last 10 years so that more than half the country's population now lives in the plains. It was induced migration due to conflict, or distress migration because of hardships of subsistence farming in the hills.
All this puts tremendous pressure on the land and resources of the Tarai. Meantime, with few young men left, the hills are full of fallow fields. The CBS admits there are nearly two million Nepalis "missing" in the census, because those who have been away for more than six months were not counted. Our guess is that the actual total is nearly double that, if one counts seasonal migrants to India. Which means the real population of Nepal is probably closer to the 30 million we had projected all along.
But even if the population growth rate is not 1.4 per cent, it has probably fallen considerably from the 2.25 per cent high in 2001. A more indicative figure would be the fertility rate. Falling birth rates and death rates will bring population growth down further in future. But what will our demographic transition mean for our democratic transition?
The baby boomer generation has created a huge youth bulge, adding 400,000 people to the labour force every year. Most are moving away from agriculture. Only half of them migrate every year for jobs abroad, what is the other half going to do?
In New York last week, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai committed himself to a "Marshall Plan" for decentralised job creation through massive investments in infrastructure. It is a noble thought, and probably the only way to go.
But no prime minister of Nepal, however visionary or honest, can work on these long-term plans if he is so beset with short-term threats to his government's survival. Prime Minister Bhattarai is on perpetual damage control mode, mostly trying to patch up the mess his colleagues in the coalition make every time they open their mouths.
We wish Bhattarai well this Dasain so he can address the twin challenges of keeping the country's demography and democracy on track, and keeping demagogues out.
1. who cares "But no prime minister of Nepal, however visionary or honest, can work on these long-term plans if he is so beset with short-term threats to his government's survival."
i will come to that after this govt. is gone.
30 SEPT 2011 | 1:50 PM NST
Seeing Nepali polï¿½tics, I would like to illustrate a case with your kind permission which I tried to put in another newspaper that was not published finally. Well, theirs is the story of narrow-minded conservatism and waste of money of their sahu-mahajan.May be those media owners have too much money to let them flow in the dirty Bagmati river without cleaning it first. Doing punya-karma just for the sake of doing it. Perhaps it may give them some kind of satisfactions, religious or human. Now, I go to the main-point:
I remember those barking dogs gatheredwithout masters, whom we call bhusiya kukur (not because we feel pity for them!) on my night-walks through out Kathmandu's streets (galli) when I walked by. Those animals protected space that I had no intention of invading. Theirs was, therefore, a waste of energy unnecessarily. Who won, those faithful dogs of those suburbisor me? I guess nobody. Or both. WheneverI had wanted to follow the path, I had got it. If the dogs had wanted to get away from what they stood for, apparently, would have also succeeded, as I used to spent long standing next to them. Each played a role. There was no winner. Neither dogs nor I were wrong. We progressists, we analyse situations through conscious and unconscious association of ideas and this comment is one of those. The dogs were barking patience, and I used to keep myself silent. The dogs would have been wronghad they jumped over me, and I would have been mistaken had I wanted to enter someone's homes or kick them san mercy.
In Nepali politics, something strange happens although habitually. One can get/stuck/win power without doing anything, without barking ideas enough that their "forefathers" had some contributions in the past or enough that he/she had suffered some kinds of jail-term because of "their fight to Democracy",enough that they repeat the very touching phrase: I'll die before surrendering to injustice(something like that) or enough that you heat the streets or you killl people in name of social justice. It is the art of success without risk. The success that can be obtained with pure patience(?) is now in the blood of nepali politicos'activity. It's a style that can't be practiced anywhere(in civilised countries) excepte in Nepal:without doing anything, you can gain points, If you risk, you could lose.
The editorial sounds an out and out professional optimism on Baburam's ability ï¿½perhaps being his fella-, however I'm(like many others) not. You know why? Because I think he has transfered all those duties to his own office that upto now were the obligations of CDOs and public administrations. An ignorant intend to save the jobs of others' or cheap populism? He loves to swim on the sympathy of poorly educated mass and ignorantly despotized media houses whereas I(like many others) prefer to demonstrate things as they are. I(like many others) share and aware of responsibilities whereas he invades others'.
30 SEPT 2011 | 4:14 PM NST
Ho you manage to be so patronising at the end of all your editorials is a bit of a mystery to me. We wish Bhattarai well this Dasain so he can address the twin challenges of keeping the country's demography and democracy on track, and keeping demagogues out. A demagogue is a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.
Your demagogue is already in, how do you propose the PM keep himself out?
02 OCT 2011 | 10:39 AM NST
4. who cares
today i read in a paper that except for janakpur and rautahat, all other 20 districts were forests.
so, this can tell us who are nepalese and who are not?
those madeshis' citizenship, whose forefathers were not the dwellers of janakpur or rautahat, should be scrapped and sent back to their country or refugee camps in the third country.
a few million nepalese go to india for seasonal job every year, after sending illegal aliens back, those nepalese will get to replace them inside their own country.
only those who have been living in nepal for more than 250 yr are nepalese. others are not.
IDENTIFY REAL NEPALESE AND SAVE NEPAL.
02 OCT 2011 | 2:32 PM NST
# 3 Soni
But the NT's stated view is that the Maoists are the only party espousing positive change. The messiah of progress.
How quickly you have forgotten.
Demagogue? BRB has neve spoken a falsehood in his life. And you have NT's word on that.
03 OCT 2011 | 8:51 AM NST
#4, "only those who have been living in nepal for more than 250 yr are nepalese. others are not. IDENTIFY REAL NEPALESE AND SAVE NEPAL. ...."
Now I understand this commentator. He has been an undead zombie for 250 years!
03 OCT 2011 | 5:42 PM NST
7. who cares
you believe in zombie,
you believe in maoist,
you believe in maoist's propaganda.
what the hell are you? a well trained ape.
keep you eyes open while sleeping.
by the way, since maoist have clearly divided into two, which side do you now support?
03 OCT 2011 | 9:50 PM NST
why 250 year? why not 300 or 200?
seems your ancestors came by around 250 year, right? where were they before that? any idea?
03 OCT 2011 | 4:31 AM NST
9. who cares
around 250 years ago, that was the time when nepal was formed.
04 OCT 2011 | 11:29 AM NST
Maxwel's equations and Gauss Gradient lines may explain the redistribution of the population within Nepal. How?
Energy Gradient line (potential difference) always has -ve slope. Water flows from higher elevation to lower elevation, why? Energy Gradient line explains it. Human also migrate towards a place where the stability is higher. Water is not stable in higher elevation. People in higher elevation are not stable: there is no electricity, there is no road, there is no accessible drinking water, there is no accessible school for kids. It is natural Manang, Humla, Jumla, .... will not be stable place for people. Sooner or later, they have to move to more stable area. In the past, Malaria was the main reason that made the Terai as unstable for longer life, now Malaria is gone. It is not Mahendra who initiated the internal redistribution of population, it is science -medical science against Malaria --. Don't give credit to Mahendra, give it to science. If you are afraid to give credit to science, then you are running behind populism --by provoking people against Mahendra so that you can incite your based against dead monarchy--. As the science evolves, no one can stop human migration faster than ever.
Well, science has already forecast that there will be no pure gene (the pure in today's paradigm) in next 300 years. The Madheshi looking man, will have sherpa looking wife, and bahun looking daughter in next three hundred years from now, and the family will be laughing at us that these idiots were fighting against each other to separate us. Ignorance has no other medicine than education. Educate these purist, now.
Well, let me add to comment on BRB by Nirmal (in Nirmal's last paragraphs). BRB should read the story of Dog vs Ass vs the Dhobi. Dhobi does not given enough food (credit) to Dog, so dog does not do its job of barking in night in case a thief comes. Indeed one day, a thief comes, and dog just does not bark, but loyal Ass(Jack Ass) starts barking to inform the Dhobi that thief is in house. Then, the Dhobi wakes up and beats the ass very badly. Moral of the story: Do your job, don't try to do every job and the job that is not supposed to be done by you.
Well, for BRB, let us modify the above story.
Suppose the Dhobi is well educated Dhobi with MBA degree, and is smart enough. As the Dog does not work because he is not happy with the pays, then Ass does the job of Dog and barks in the night as thief tries to enter. The Dhobi wakes up, and tries to identify what went wrong because ass is not supposed to shout in night. He looks around, and finds that thief has entered. Then, does the research and gets the help of Ass why did he choose to shout, but why did not dog do the job. Then, they have a group discussion to resolve the issue. The Dhobi raises the pay to Dog, and Ass gets some bonus. In private, Dhobi calls Ass and asks him to keep watching the Dog in case he fails, and asks Ass to shout in future if Dog fails to do the job. He is offered special job in addition to regular job. The overachiever Ass is now under extra load of responsibility in addition to carrying heavy load in day time. Ass has become the symbol of modern day corporate employee who works 16 hours, and gets salary 10 years, and wants to be safe in this fluid environment.
Similarly, if BRB continues to do the job of Ass or does the job of modern educated Dhobi with MBA degree and offers appropriate reward for achievers and overachievers, and punishes underachievers. It all up to him. If he continues to do the job like in traditional uneducated Dhobi's house as Ass did, then he will be booted out very soon.
As the science evolve, and equipments get cheaper and cheaper, the Dhobi gets loan from bank, and puts Washing Machine, and hires more Ass to serve more clients, and fires the idiot and greedy dog, and hires a security company to put alarm in his house, and get rid of the dog. Well, before he gets rid of dog, make sure that he has a fool proof alarm system, and he had changed the doors, windows, and all openings, so that the dog who knew every loop hole in the house is not hired by thief, and used against the Dhobi himself. Period.
Have fun BRB. You are in trouble. The first trouble is your own wife, she is greedy, cunning, and has thuggish behavior and intentions. You have to follow character ethics, not just personality ethics. Well, the paradigm is changing in Nepal, and you may not understand the paradigm your wife is active. Anyway, you have not yet denounced the violence, so I personally don't believe in you. period.