6-12 February 2015 #744

Rulers and the ruled

It is as if the political party leadership is living on a different planet from the people
Damakant Jayshi
Two recent surveys, one in this newspaper and another by Interdisciplinary Analysts (IDA), show the people’s responses that are a stinging rebuke to the political leadership of this country. Never in our recent history has there been such a disconnect as there is now between what the people want and what the political parties are concerned with.

The Himalmedia Public Opinion Survey 2015 conducted in Kathmandu two weeks before the 22 January constitution deadline demonstrates exactly that. While the people are worried about jobs, health, education, and inflation, the politicians are obsessed with getting to power and staying there. The Survey showed that the people are fully aware that the demands for federalism and identity are just a political ruse.

Both the Himalmedia and IDA surveys don’t make pleasant reading for politicians, but what do they care what the people think? More than 40% of those surveyed said they couldn’t be bothered about what kind a constitution is adopted. “Just get it over and done with,” seems to be their message.

Like in previous nationwide Himalmedia polls, this one also showed a gap between what politicians, commentators and analysts deem and think is important, and what matters most to the people. Inflation (64.3%), unemployment (42%) and corruption (36.3%) are top priorities for the people, just like in the past. After a quick glance at the flood of readers feedback in Nepali and English language newspapers one can add the poor service delivery and shortages of essentials to the long list of woes.

The government and the parties have not only missed delivering the statute on their self-imposed deadline of 22 January, they have also repeatedly missed providing basic services. A case in point is the current shortage of cooking gas, which by most accounts is artificial and caused by a politically-protected mafia that has its tentacles from the bureaucracy right down to the distributors.

Even Minister for Commerce and Supplies Sunil Bahadur Thapa has found it difficult to round up the crooks, but the buck stops at the Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s desk for this and other governance failures. In the far west, there is crippling shortage of petrol and diesel because tanker drivers are on strike demanding a raise.

The basic services, mostly absent, are not limited to fuel and cooking gas. The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has been cutting power more frequently than its revised load-shedding schedule, which keeps adding to the darkness. Here’s another example of dim-wittedness on the part of the government and the traffic police department. Under pressure from an alarming spike in the number of avoidable road accidents on highways and city streets, they came out with a code governing the drivers of public transport.

Again, the response demonstrated the disconnect between the rulers and the ruled. One laughable directive was not to carry an ‘overload’ of passengers. Do they even realise what kind of buses ply on highways, especially on local routes? Are those safe? More importantly, are there enough buses to cope with passengers? You can print codes of conduct but it’s not going to work because people will board the buses, tractors, trax, trucks, no matter how overloaded they are.

In the highways, if you miss a bus you don’t know when the next one will be coming. So, one has no choice but to take whatever is available. Drivers alone are not responsible for overcrowding. Reaching schools, colleges, health posts/hospitals or some other destination is important to all of us, not just those traveling on government vehicles which are bought from the taxes we pay in the first place. When it comes to city traffic, there are unworkable guidelines on overcrowding, all buses at all times are overcrowded during my daily commute. so am I breaking the law when I ride a bus?

The political leadership is breathtakingly out of touch with the people’s pulse. The final responsibility, however, rests right at the top. The people’s message to the rulers they elected is: don't waste too much time on the constitution, just govern well.

@damakant

Read Also:

Second thoughts about federalism, Om Astha Rai

Gas for president

Who cares about the constitution, Om Astha Rai

The people matter

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