Nepali Times
"This is not in national interest"

Rajendra Khetan is the president of the Nepal-Britain Chamber of Commerce and the executive director of the Khetan Group. He spoke to Nepali Times about the repercussions of the Maoists' threats to close down 35 more industries.

Nepali Times: What is the economic impact of the closures of businesses?
Rajendra Khetan:
Almost 46 business houses have been forced to close. This will in turn directly affect hundreds of industries like transport and the supply chain. It will have a direct impact on 100,000 employees, and the nqation will have to bear loss of Rs 8 billion in revenues every year. I don't feel that it is right to use the commercial sector as an instrument to pressurise the government into peace talks. It is completely counter-productive for the Maoists and for the country. There will be more chaos once the employees lose their jobs and come to the streets. It is a big mistake. We urge the Maoist trade union to withdraw the strike and allow us to run our industries. We shouldn't be made the scapegoats.

Are the Maoist demands labour-related or political?
It is political but the labour issue has also emerged in their protest. We are ready to rectify any shortcomings on our part vis-?-vis worker's rights, but the political issues have to be tackled at a political level.

What is the business community doing to address the issue?
We have been appealing through human rights activists like Padma Ratna Tuladhar and others. It is time for the activists to play a mediation role and find a way out so we can run our businesses. The solution is for the activists to convince the Maoists and government to enter dialogue. The rights organisations are pressing the government to make this happen.

And what should the government do?
The government should open up dialogue with the Maoists immediately. The Information Minister said on Tuesday that the government is not ready to talk with Maoist sister organisations, but how are you going to resolve the problem if you don't maintain a channel of communication?

Is the government taking this issue seriously enough?
It is not being serious to the extent it should be. The government should be forming a high level task force and make contact with representatives of the private sector. Instead, we are the ones going to the government, warning them over and over again that the situation is going out of control and it will affect the government in the long run. A closure of industries will cut revenue sources, and in addition you will have the fallout right across the economic spectrum.

What other repercussions will the closures have?
There could be a shortage of domestic goods in the market, prices will grow and then we may have to import from other countries. There will be absolute chaos. The Maoists must think: what are they really going to achieve with these closures? Is this in the national interest? I fail to understand how this helps the Maoist strategy.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)