Nepali Times
Guest Column
Charting our own path


After February First, many bilateral and multi-lateral donors were convinced that suspending aid would force the country back to status quo ante. This meant having the country ruled once again by unelected politicians-the possibility of election having been wrecked during their own stewardship.

Almost three months later, the aid suspension has barely created a ripple. This calls for some serious introspection by donors themselves. Has their tax payers' money been only of peripheral consequence for Nepal? Conversely and more seriously, how come the aid, much of it spanning over five decades, failed to prevent Nepal from sinking into the present morass, and more precipitously so, after 1990?

This failure is most telling in the case of the United States, whose 11 Congressmen wrote to King Gyanendra recently calling for 'peaceful reversion to democratic reforms in Nepal'. In the 1970s-90s period, USAID presided over the 'integrated development' of Rapti Zone, the region which emerged as the epicentre of the Maoist insurgency.

Meanwhile, the 'five party alliance', otherwise a loose ensemble of opportunistic politicians, came together again recently recovering from its disarray since last July when the UML deserted them to join the Deuba government. However, when its cadres went back to street protests recently there were scores of spectators watching in amusement and only a few courting arrest. This was a very embarrassing display of lack of public support for the agitation.

Junior politicians sent to the street frontlines are aware that the image of their parties is tarnished. So, in the NC at least, pressures have mounted for 'reorganising along democratic lines' and 'getting rid of the corrupt' from the party. These calls were, as usual, brushed aside by party president, Girija Koirala.

Tarnished by the Dhamija and Lauda scandals, Girijababu would never commit political suicide by agreeing. His corrupt cohorts, too, wouldn't like to be sidelined even as he continues to grace the party throne. The wily politician has wriggled out of the predicament once again under the alibi that it is no time to cause conflict in the party.

The paradox is that at a time of such crisis, America, Britain and India lead the donor pack to make common cause with such politicians at a time when common citizens are actually breathing a sigh of relief to have got rid of them. The double-standards are breathtaking: these same countries have tolerated dictatorships and emergency rule everywhere else in the world.

The more-Catholic-than-the Pope diehards in the donor community should know by now that widespread poverty and illiteracy force politicians to buy votes in elections. They then use this as an open license to plunder while in office, wrecking governance in the process.

This has been the crux of the problem in our practice of Westminister style democracy. In contrast, where authority is devolved to the users themselves, transparency of management and accountability of leaders, have prevailed. Such devolution has made Nepal the world leader in community forestry. At this level, illiteracy is no hindrance for people to define their problems nor is poverty a deterrence in participation in solving them.

Devolution is the key not only to promote genuine democracy and development but also to end the insurgency once and for all. So, Nepal's foremost need today is to re-engineer its democracy so that the disadvantaged majority get to effectively participate in decisions that concern them. Restoring the corrupt man's democracy will amount to letting down the people once again.

Finally, there is India. It made peace with Pakistan 'irreversible' last week, now it should prevent Nepali Maoists from operating from its soil and help repatriate Bhutani refugees who, having been shoved into Nepal over its territory more than a decade ago, have since been denied return.

Bihari Krishna Shrestha is a freelance writer on development issues and politics.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)