2-8 March 2018 #899

Kissing ashes


Drastic situations need drastic remedies. And if there is one thing we have learnt since Nepal shed the Rana yolk, it is that our rulers need to be kept under constant surveillance so we the people can figure out where they are and what they are up to.

Since the election results were known three months ago and before the new government took over last week, however, bureaucrats had suddenly become hard to find. The reason we can’t find them is because they are stalking us.

They blend into the undergrowth, hunt nocturnally and sleep in the daytime, making a killing every day: they avoid contact with other humans, and stay hidden in the urban jungle where they put our money where their mouth is.

There are two ways to track down the location of the servants of the people. One is to make it mandatory for all gazetted officers henceforth and hereinafter to be radio-collared so that their whereabouts can be tracked by satellite telemetry. Some hefty section officers have put on added girth as their careers progressed, so it may not be easy to wrestle them to the ground and hold still long enough to strap on the radio collar. In such cases, it may be necessary to dart them with a tranquiliser gun before attaching the locator device on to the individual.

An easier way may be to embed new state-of-the-art microchips subcutaneously into the tissue behind their ears. These come with inbuilt SIM cards allowing the officer in question to be GPS tracked through satellite telemetry.

It is during political transitions between two governments that the civil service embarks on its annual migration. One way to trace their whereabouts is to install camera traps that will be triggered by motion detectors along routes that they frequent. For example, one bureaucrat who was supposed to be on an inspection of Province 7 has been camera trapped on Soi 9 in Bangkok.

For example, earlier this month the Secretary of the Ministry of Constructive Corruption disappeared from radar screens. Luckily, he had just been radio-collared so we could trace his migratory route to Australia. Earlier, the well-known head of a constitutional organ was tracked by a GPS locator on an intercontinental migration to Canada via Mauritius and Monaco. This is a record for the longest migration undertaken by a Nepali mammal.

Meanwhile, reports are coming in of satellite-tracked civilian servants persuading fellow Nepalis to spontaneously part with their cash out of their own free will. These donations could be voluntary (and we have no reason to believe they are not) in which case they must be part of the instructions Mr. Zedong left for his proteges in his last will and testament (“Go forth and kiss their ashes, but give me my cut”).

There is actually nothing new in all the give-and-take that is going on in broad daylight hours and in full view of the law enforcement agencies, even as we speak. In fact, extortion has been a national revenue-generation technique in this country ever since Manjushree was told he could not slash Chobhar Hill in two unless he first paid baksheesh to unconcerned authorities, and slip another wad of elephants to higher up authoritarians. Good thing Manjushree had brought along plenty of small yuan bills for just such a contingency, otherwise we might still have been under water.

Squeezing fellow citizens dry is a quaint Nepali custom that has been passed down from one generation of Nepalis to the next, right up to the present day. It works on the very simple socialist principle of taking from everyone according to her ability and giving to anyone according to his or her greed. This levels the playing field, spreads the wealth around and enables us, as a nation in the throes of development, to make rapid advances towards utopia.

Nepal is way ahead of other countries in the region when it comes to extraction and extortion. But there is no room for complacency. We have to ask ourselves: is there a Darbar Square still untaxed, a peak still permit-less, a tourist still ungouged? Are there businesses that have still not been shaken down? The long and short answer to these questions is: you bet. Devolution to the provinces opens up infinite possibilities for larceny and plunder.

comments powered by Disqus