Nepali Times
By The Way
Not breaking news



SIRAHA -- While the media in Kathmandu can't get enough of behind-the-scenes intrigue about elections after the demise of the CA, here in dirt poor eastern Tarai, people don't have the luxury of discussing politics.

Aurhi in Siraha was ravaged by a devastating fire last month that rendered 600 families in two VDCs homeless. The prime minister visited the village while it was still smouldering and promised immediate relief and cash compensation for the victims. The media followed him around, and tv channels reported the visit live.

"I had never seen so many cars in our village, some with dish antennas on their roofs," recalled excited tenth grader, Prabhu Yadav. But when I visited the village this week, there were no outsiders except a few relief workers distributing construction materials, mosquito nets and plastic buckets to the families.

Scrabbling in the ashes was a family cooking half burnt grains of wheat salvaged from their charred home. Mehrun Khatun is living in the open with her five children, she asked me to relay this message to Kathmandu: "Can you tell the prime minister we need the money he promised now so that we can survive and rebuild our homes. When the rain comes there will be disease, and the children will be sick."

In nearby Shivanagar VDC, 137 homes were destroyed in another fire two weeks before Aurhi. That fire didn't get much media attention because the devastation wasn't big enough, and because neither the prime minister nor any high-profile public figure visited afterwards. Peasant families sold oxen and borrowed money to rebuild their homes, but none of that made it to the news.

The national media gave us a blow-by-blow account of the month-long protest in the Far West last month, and the smallest of political demonstrations in Kathmandu are classified as 'Breaking News', but it has no time for the personal tragedy of the poorest villages of Nepal's poorest districts.

"The prime minister's helicopter flew right over us and Miss Nepal probably does not even know the name of our village," Bishnu Dev Yadav, whose 12-member family is homeless and destitute after the fire, told me.

Media is centred on the centre. This is true not just in Nepal, but all over the world. The periphery doesn't sell, so the periphery isn't covered. Nepali journalists have struggled for press freedom, and for people's right to know, but who really decides what is news, who should get priority in coverage, and what influences these decisions?

The reason Aurhi and Shivanagar did not grab headlines for long could be that there was only one death. The media has moved on and will probably ignore the disease and deaths that will stalk survivors for years.

A fire in Siraha, or an epidemic in Dailekh, do not make it to 'Breaking News'. To make it to the headlines, the event has to be in or close to the capital, relatively well-off people should be affected, the number of victims should cross a certain threshold. And the prime minister or Miss Nepal should pay a visit, that will always get you a headline.

Read also:
Up in flames

Mother country

Stateless in new Nepal, GEORGE VARUGHESE and PEMA ABRAHAMS
Inclusion without citizenship is impossible

1. ushaft
It is indeed very sad situation. I wish we had a more empathic and responsive state. I read abt some calamity in one other part of Nepal yesterday. Can the citizens expect nothing from the state at times of trouble, and have to do by themselves all the time?

On a different note: what solution do you suggest Anurag? Do you agree that the people should take up arms and revolt against the inept regime of Baburam Bhattarai. After all, there's no sign that without a revolt against the current elites, the proletariat will get to see good days.

2. biku
i  feel for the newly crowned miss nepal; thats a lot of ^pressure already; 

poor girl, be easy on her will ya?  ;D

3. wannabe miss nepal
i understand Anurag's anger against the mainstream media and us regular nepalis and our leaders for not caring and ignoring events that take place outside Naubise, but i feel like you have too much expectations from Miss Nepal. she is supposed to show her face in places and go around 'supporting' different causes, but not really make deep, long-lasting changes. that's what beauty queens around the world do and she is no different

4. harka
This is not the first time that the center has NOT cared for the Far flung areas.  When we had a massive Earthquake a couple of Months back, many peoples houses and life were destroyed in eastern Nepal, yet the Center did not care and most of these victims are still suffering.  Unless and until we Do not decentralise the Power Center from Kathmandu, and give authority to people living close to the disaster, things will not change, hence regional authority makes the regional leaders more responsive to the needs of their constituents.....rather than being at the mercy of the 4 bahun leaders ( Dahal, Khanal, Nepal and Koirala) who do not give a hoot to the suffering of these unfortunate people. 

Now the question is will the 4 Supreme leader be willing to give up their vested interest, powers and egos. The simple answer is NO , because if they do give regional authority, their authority diminishes and the would just be ordinary leaders playing second fiddle. So as long as these idiots are around we Nepalese will continue to Suffer....           

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)