State and People: A Country and Its Diasporas

Published in: NepalNews.com | NRN.nepalko.info

Healthy discontent is the prelude to progress. M.K. Gandhi

I: Who are NRN?

“Who are Non-resident Nepalese (NRN)?” I thought that the answer to this seemingly innocent question was obvious. But after spending a month in Nepal traveling as well as attending a weeklong conference of the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA), I was compelled to think otherwise. Being among the thousand delegates and observers in the largest of conference in NRNA history, listening to the President and Prime Minister of Nepal to “who is who” of Nepalese politics, businesses and diasporas from over 50 countries, and interacting with common people in the cities, towns and villages, made me realize that NRN is a well heard but poorly understood term. Consequently, instead of writing a report on the conference, I am pondering on above question with the context that made me rethink. This article is written with a hope to divert some of the intellectual energy currently expended in anchoring divisive thoughts onto healthy debate on NRN identity.

The history of migration of Nepalese in South Asia would be older than Nepal itself. However, we are concerned here with what is known in the world as Nepal, and Nepali, on the present context. Taking their distinct languages and cultures with them, Nepalese people migrated along the Himalayas and the environs, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Sikkim, Bhutan, Burma, Bangladesh and Tibet, for long. The rate of international migration increased in the last few decades and started to span into countries of all continents. According to the United Nations, 3.2% of Nepal’s population has become international migrant in recent times [1]. Although cause of migrations of all times is mainly the interests of individuals, migrations of earlier times had not caught much attention of the Nepalese state, which saw no opportunity for stimulating knowledge, innovation, trade, and investment on the foundation of those migrations. The migration of the last few decades has, however, caught the attention of the state as well as the general populace. This may be because of the outflow of people and inflow of remittance ($3.1 billion in the last year [2]) at an unprecedented rate and also due to efforts of the NRNA. Continue reading

State and People: Who is Socialist?

Published in: INSN.org | NepalNews.com | NepalCAPortal.org | NepaliPost.com | Nepalipress.com | PrabasiNepali.com | SouthAsianMedia.net

Every politician in Nepal seems to be a fierce socialist these days! In the last few days, two Nepali Congress (NC) leaders told us that they are the true socialists as opposed the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (CPNM), which also claims to be a socialist. And there are myriads of other parties in between them – also socialists. NC President GP Koirala said, “The fusion of democracy and communism is socialism, which Nepali Congress has adhered to” [1] and asked us to be fearful of the fusion of democracy and communism talked by Prime Minister Prachanda. NC Vice-President Gopal Man Shrestha said, “Maoists have not given any new program to the people. Their policies and programs look like the old wine in a new bottle”[2]. I wonder why NC and CPNM perpetuated a decade long armed conflict if both stood for the same principles. This begs a little investigation on what these politicians were doing all these years to advance socialism, which they proclaim to believe in. Continue reading

State and People: Media and the Society

Presented at National Press Club of Canada in interaction program titled Media in post-conflict states

It is not the function of our government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error. Robert H. Jackson, US Supreme Court Justice

There are many ways of looking at the media, especially the mass media. And when it comes to an ordinary observer like me, the perspectives become more personal and may not represent a societal view that could be found by someone who does systemic research in this field. Nevertheless, even an ordinary observer can see that the mass media has excessively shaped our individual and societal psyche, and we are not short of opinions about them. Personally speaking, I have more questions than answers on the role of the media in society, although I firmly embrace it as part of our collective identity.

A number of questions come to my mind when I think about the media. Whom are they serving? Individuals, society, owners, corporations, or someone else? Who owns them? What value do they bring to me? Are they coaching me to be an insatiable consumer of toys, cereal, and gizmos? Are they the sources of tangible information to inspire the innovation and thinking? Or, are they simply entertaining me? Continue reading

State and People: Age Demography and Issues of Inequalities

Source: CFFN.ca | Archived Version January 09, 2008

Solution to problems of injustices in a society starts with an awareness of the need of its people and the dynamics of interaction between its demographic segments. Because every person in a society is an embodiment of a body and spirit, fulfillment of both physical and spiritual (i.e. energy of mind related to consciousness and happiness) need of a person should be considered when finding lasting solutions to societal problems. Treating an individual individually, however, makes the problem of finding the solution extremely complex. In this pursuit, it is useful to assume that people of different age, abilities and aspirations make up unique demographic layers possessing broadly understandable and collective needs. Consequently, it should be possible to develop endeavors of social transformation and prosperity could be built differently for different demographic layers so that their unique beliefs, values and knowledge could be respected and utilized. The dream of building a prosperous and egalitarian society would come to fruition when all groups could successfully adapt to the changing dynamics of local circumstances and that of the world, to emerging vision of a new society, and to the availability of internal resources.


 

Children

The most potent builders of tomorrow – the children – are also the most vulnerable people of today. They are important not only for themselves but also for the generation that holds its sway in the country today. What children know and what they value could be largely influenced by subjecting them into positive human experiences. Children get immensely affected by their natural surrounding and, at the same time, they are most adaptive to new situations compared to anyone else. Their own responsibilities are far and a few and they are more prone to be conditioned by their surroundings.

Behavioral researchers have established that children learn to trust or mistrust by the age of one and a half years; experience autonomy or shame by the age of three and a half; and take initiative or experience guilt by the age of 6. Until this age they only learn from society. But from then on to just before reaching teen, they learn to either the industry or the inferiority. Then during the adolescent years a person either finds his or her role in the society or begins to experience role confusion. They then learn to relate to the society through peer groups.

However, at present these children only appear to be having insatiable needs and drain on the treasury of a household and the treasury of a nation. But whether or not the society could fulfill their physiological and cognitive needs depends on the psychological, philosophical, intellectual and monetary capacity available in the society. Unfortunately, in present Nepal, such opportunities are not available to all children and neither does a will among the wealthy and successful to correct this. The generous spirit of the elites of Nepal has died since the segregation of their children from the poor through the introduction of so called “boarding schools.” The irony of the fact is that every policy maker in Nepal dreams of rapid progress but is unwilling to sacrifice the special lot built for the children of people like them to build a fair and equitable system for all children of Nepal.

Studies point that treating everyone equally without recognizing inherent inequalities ends up perpetuating inequality. Extension to this is that just opening schools and saying that every citizen has equal rights to enroll in those schools would not treat all children fairly. But in reality, substantive physical and emotional care is required from early on for producing children with great potential for building the future of a society. Therefore, one giant step towards building a just and inclusive society begins with raising children in an environment where they experience inclusion, equality, respect, love, sharing and industry. For this to happen need of children must be children must be looked after since the time they still reside in their mothers’ womb and needs of parents incapable of providing for their children must be looked after by the society for that purpose. All undertakings must recognize the interconnectedness of the poverty, exclusion and suffering of a child with those of adults who look after them.

Young Adults

They are the dreamers of a future society where anything is possible to build. They are eager for change and willing to do anything to bring that change, and they love to be able to make their own decisions. They want opportunities for everyone to participate in nation building: whether in education, in politics or in economic activities. They are hungry for knowledge an experience on one hand and the acceptance and intimacy on the other. And they want to master the art of being able to stand independently and to build their capacity to contribute towards the continuance of the society. Money, material, and glamour are either highly important or not important at all to the people of this group.

The greatest care the society should give in creating of an environment where these people would experience minimal isolation and maximal intimacy. They would find maximal self-worth in being able to learn new skills, compete and carve a role in the society and in the endeavors of livelihood and prosperity. Trades skills, higher education, and any exploration of new frontiers would build the self-worth of this group.

This group can be best served by a leadership at grassroots level who can understand higher philosophies and policies and formulate programs and actions that can engage them in learning new knowledge and skills. They must constantly be able to experience that what they are doing today will make their life better than the one lived by their predecessors. The tools and techniques they are using are better than those used in the past. And, they are now part of a system that has built-in feature for continuous monitoring and improvement, which is an indicator of progress, prosperity and optimism.

Generative Adults

They play a role of builders and sustainers of the systems and the society. They are concerned with how to meet physical necessities of self and the dependents and how to secure their own future wellbeing. Their pride is primarily derived from the product of their reproduction and wealth or progress generated from their own perseverance. Their self-esteem would be hurt in presence of stagnation.

This group of population can derive self satisfaction through one or more positive happenings from among being able to give better opportunities to their children compared to themselves, in augmenting personal wealth, in augmenting personal status, progress in work and multitudes of other factors. To engage this generation in a creative work, give a sense of stewardship of the society, and an ability to maintain the livelihood of the self and the family would be paramount for strengthening the sense of their positive self-perceptions.

In a country like Nepal, where a vast population lives under poverty and mostly in rural agricultural setting, tremendous sense of empowerment could be built by demonstrating that they could improve their livelihood by organizing the human, material and natural resources available in their own communities. Improved livelihood could have come from enhancements in any possible fronts such as agriculture, health, sanitation, and improved trade of goods or services. The essence here is that these are not one time endeavors but one that could be achieved and improved upon year after year through the mobilization of available internal resources. They must feel that they themselves have the power to improve their own destiny.

Elderly

On one hand, elderly people begin to develop increasingly higher level of dependency on others for their functioning. On the other hand, they carry increasingly larger volume of knowledge, experience, and wisdom to be worthy consultants for the younger generation. They have learnt to tolerate social differences, injustices and would stand for retaining old values and dislike changes made in their comfort zone. Therefore, this demographic layer poses the greatest resistance against the reforming gender, caste and cultural hierarchies practiced institutionally or through entrenched informal networks, behavioral norms and expectations. Small indicators would have profound impact on them, and, for that reason, they prefer small and incremental changes and oppose large social transformations.

By this age many would have derived pleasure from their past endeavors and begun to experience the integrity of their self-esteem. Whereas there would be a big block of others beginning to experience despair due to reasons of declining health, declining mobility, declining life prospects, and other experiences of failures. Similarly, by now, each of them would have established their role in the society either as a leader or a follower.

The easiest way to give sense of empowerment to this population may be in giving voice and in finding ways by which individuals could continue finding appropriate role in the family, community and social surroundings through which they could develop positive internal self-perception. They should also feel assured that their role would be rewarded with fulfillment of their physical necessities and emotional needs.

Summary

A successful country should always develop four sets of plans, policies and programs to address the unique need and harness the unique potential of its children, young adult, adult, and the elderly people. When programs and policies are intoned to the dynamics of the demographic needs of the concerned people, their success are highly likely.

State and People: Where Are the Priorities?

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. – George Washington Carver

A society is an assembly of people where each person is an embodiment of body and spirit. Accordingly the social and economic progress of a society is reflected in the level of fulfillment of physical needs and happiness of its people. In this light, a nation founded on the basis of justice, equal rights, equal opportunities, mutual respect, and co-existence can come close to meeting the social, psychological and spiritual needs of its citizens. And a nation founded on the basis of competition, competency, expediency, and efficiency can come close to meeting the physical, technological, and economic needs of its people. But in building fair and prosperous societies, we find that the forces of society and economy compete for the same finite resources endowed to the state. This calls for proper vision and wisdom when setting our policy priorities.

The value of setting right policy priorities is evident from the fact that some societies make more progress with the same resources than others. The successful ones seem to develop policies guided by a long term vision and unite people behind it. The rest seem to meet impasse in policy making due to lack of united vision between the professional policy makers, their political policy bosses, and the policy bearers – the people. Being fragmented, everyone seems to be occupied on short term gains and achieve progress neither socially nor economically. Continue reading

State and People: The Economy of Scale

Published in: Concern Nepal | Solidarity Monthly

As I pondered the economic state of my mountain village in Nepal after a visit this summer, I noticed a number of anomalies. While someone from almost every household is working in a foreign country and has been sending money back for years, I could not find much improvement in the material or spiritual wealth of the village. I could not find the remittance money working for the betterment of the villagers. Obviously the village has changed in many ways as the thatch roofs are replaced by tin roofs, ropes are made not of babiyo (Eulaliopsis binata) but of plastic; containers are made of not copper or wood but of aluminum; and polyester and nylon have replaced cotton. There is reduced diversity of crops and reduced production of food, but virtually unchanged poverty and hardship. A Dalit man had committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree the night I reached there, and many had done similar deeds in the recent years – an emerging but tragic phenomenon in the village. Adult men are in search of foreign jobs, and the village is inhabited by children, the elderly, and women. Most students in the village school will never pass Grade 5, let alone Grade 10 or 12. The remittance – which earns more hard currency for Nepal than all exports, tourism and foreign aid combined [1] – stays largely on the hands of manpower companies and moneylenders living in the cities. Slogans of prosperity have been sung by a few in the cities while the rural economy is being hollowed out and is being sustained precariously on “leftover remittance”. Continue reading

State and People: Inclusive Education – Teach How You Preach

Published in: NepalHorizons.com | NepaliPress.com | NepalNews.com | INSN.org | PrabasiNepali.com | Dalit Solidarity Vol 8 Issue 3 | KiratiSaathi.com | DCNepal.com

The word “inclusion” was not in the Nepali language’s vocabulary when I left my village of Sarkuwa in Baglung District, Nepal, some three decade ago. This time around, however, I found my village to be a different place. People are much more conscious of their rights compared to ever before, and inclusion has become a buzzword among the literates. Marginalized groups want to be included in the mainstream. Yet, as I tried to look beneath the surface, I feared that my villagers are not any nearer to an inclusive society today than they were three decades ago. In fact, all indicators seem to say that the New Nepal may very well be founded on the principles of the most profound of exclusions while inclusion buzzwords are ringing on the slogans of the political parties.

There was only one secondary school in the whole of southern belt of Baglung District when I was a young lad. Everyone had only one choice of school whether they were poor, rich, Sarki, Brahmin, or Magar. Although I do not remember any of my Dalit friends attending school beyond Grade 3, at least the founders of that school had no provisions for either excluding children of the poor households, or sending them off to an inferior school. There were other profound socio-economic barriers in front of poor and Dalit children but those exclusions were not the byproduct of the education system. And, I am talking of a time when there was no presence of central government in our village and the whole system was run by the local efforts of our villagers. Continue reading

State and People: The Issues of State Restructuring

Published in: Kantipur TV | Kantipur (Nepali) | Himalayan Times | Solidarity Monthly

The following is the synopsis of the interaction program titled “The Issues of State Restructuring” organized by Solidarity Monthly with an objective of facilitating the political parties that are committed to the restructuring of the state as part of the roadmap of New Nepal.

Presenters:

  • Dr. Pramod Dhakal, Canada Forum for Nepal (Feature Presentation)
  • Dr. Prakash Sharan Mahat, Nepali Congress (Democratic)
  • Mr. Chakra Bastola, Nepali Congress
  • Mr. CP Gajurel, Nepal Communist Party (Maoist)
  • Mr. Shankar Pokharel, Communist Party of Nepal (UML)
  • Dr. Krishnahari Nepal, Former Ambassador to Japan, Intellectual
  • Dr. Durga Dutta Poudel, Professor, Louisiana State University, USA

Continue reading

State and People: Background Information on Post-1990 Nepal

Brief Look at Pre-1990 Nepal

Nepal has not seen a fully democratic system throughout its history; most of the time the monarchy has usurped the legislative, executive and judicial powers. In 1951, and amidst an armed rebellion led by Nepali Congress (NC) and backed by India, a treaty was signed in New Delhi between Tribhuvan (hereditary king), Ranas (hereditary premiers, generals and courtiers) and the rebels (who wanted to establish democracy). Through this treaty, the century-old system of rule by hereditary premiers was ended. A cabinet system of government inducted the rebel leaders in the government. However, sovereignty remained in the king who expelled and appointed these commoner prime ministers at will. After being inducted in the government, the rebels and the other power brokers called the system a “democracy” although they were never elected but only appointed by the king.

An actual popular election was held in 1959, when King Mahendra announced a provision of elected parliament in a new constitution. The king had granted himself the authority to nullify the parliamentary system as and when he wanted. Nepali Congress (NC) was victorious with two-third majority and BP Koirala became the first elected Prime Minister of Nepal. But in 1960, the king staged a military coup and arrested the Prime Minister and some 700 NC members and leaders of other parties, dissolved parliament, declared all political parties illegal. Political parties regrouped and fomented movement against the regime but could not deliver a momentous blow until 1990. Continue reading

State and People: State Power, Monarchy and Girija

Published in: Kantipuronline.com

A heated debate is brewing in Nepal after PM Koirala said that the monarchy requires to be given a space in order to build democracy in Nepal. PM Koirala and his core supporters argue that the Maoists and other political parties are given space, which the palace also deserves. This argument would be valid if the space given to king Gyanandra is of the same nature and value as the space given to other political parties. However, what PM is proposing is dangerous and against the core values of democracy.

The fundamental premise of democracy is that a state should treat all its citizens as equal. All people ? millionaire, beggar, prime minister, peon, Olympian, and disabled – are given fundamental rights, including the right to vote, of equal value. By this principle, everyone, theoretically, receives an equal space for influencing how that country is governed. Therefore, in a democratic Nepal, every Nepalese, including Gyanendra, Prachanda, Girija, beggar, and blind, should deserve a space and equal space – not of different value or weight. Once the fundamental rights of equality are guaranteed, the country is governed as per the will of the majority of the population. The rule of democracy, however, guarantees that the ruling majority cannot take away the fundamental rights of the minority after coming into power. Continue reading

State and People: Democracy and 1990 Constitution of Nepal

Strengths and weaknesses of a country’s constitution are known only in the times of crisis. Slavery was constitutional in democratic-USA until people revolted and was brought to an end through a bloody civil war. Women were not considered citizens equal to men in Canada until women rose up for their rights. At a time United States was spreading “democracy” in the world, most Black Americans could not vote in its own soil. This practice was corrected only in 1964 after the Black Americans revolted against it. When a nation faces a monumental crisis of political nature, the loopholes and flaws of its constitution become apparent.

Most people in Nepal and around the world were in no mood to scrutinize the 1990 constitution of Nepal till the Maoist revolt broke loose in 1996 centering on the constitutional rights of the people who were marginalized for centuries. As the crisis has reached to its climax, and human-rights and human crisis are looming larger everyday, people are forced to review the flawed aspects of Nepal’s constitution and see how fundamental justices were denied to a vast population by a small minority who unfairly retained excessive power to themselves. Continue reading

State and People: Royal Coup and Looming Disaster in Nepal

By: Dr. Pramod Dhakal, Dr. Ram Acharya

More than two centuries of dynastical rule in Nepal from the palace had resulted in unchecked mismanagement and corruption by royalties, isolation of the country from the rest of the world, and oppression of the ordinary citizens. For long, Nepalese people are deprived of their fundamental rights. Brief encounters with democracies have also been squandered by the political plots of the palace and the ineptitudes of the political leaders who could not take the sides of the people in crucial times. Nepal has been failed miserably by its rulers and remains one of poorest countries in the world with shameful records on most measures. In all this, monarchy has been a source of poverty, betrayals, corruption, human rights violations, low morale, degeneration of ethics, and cultural degradation. The oppression to the ordinary people has intensified after the February 2005 coup staged by King Gyanengra. Since then, his administration has imposed the darkest rules on media and journalists. The army has been a constant fear to people whether they are in the city or in the remote villages. The power thrust of the palace with dictatorial attitudes and conspiracy against the Nepalese people is pushing Nepal at the brink of disaster. Continue reading