Little Things Making Big Impacts
Are we a small nation, very small? Do we have an inferiority complex regarding our size? Hasn’t this ‘small’ syndrome been counter-productive for us in our efforts to gradually evolve as a nation of self determination and self dependence over the decades and the most recent past? These questions have relevance at the moment.
Just the other day, PM Oli while addressing a gathering in town, was sending a strong message to his audience and through them, to a large audience, the countrymen that, after all Nepal is not a ‘very small’ nation; it is a mid-size one. And there are plenty of such nations in the world, he said and added, ‘We might think Nepal as a small nation only because we seem to be comparing Nepal keeping two giant neighbours on our north and the south into consideration. In terms of this comparison this is indeed true.
But today a nation is not judged by its physical size alone. There are several other factors that need to be considered. Vatican is a very small territory, but its spiritual personality is unfathomable. Israel sits at the centre of several Muslim nations and cultures, but it is able to create never ending awe among its Arab neighbours.
With the two world’s top ranking economies on both sides of the border, Nepal has very little or no choice than remain calm, quiet and non-committed when it comes to observing the two big neighbours sometimes locking their horns or doing a business deal. When it comes to enjoying friendship with our giant neighbours, there are often blames that Nepal wants to play the ‘China Card’ with our southern neighbour. The card is taken as a mild threat. But experts and students of diplomacy say this is not true. Nepal often has to opt for one or more choices available to lead a normal and development-oriented course of life. Every nation does this in times of need.
Recently, a well-known development expert and retired Prof. of Tribhuvan University, Dr Pitamber Sharma, said Nepal always plays and has to play the ‘Nepal Card’, that is, nobody has the right to name the card and its use according to their wild interpretation. In fact, Nepal suffers such undue and unjust interpretation when Nepal looks to any third country seeking opportunities for strengthening diplomatic relations. This was so during late King Mahendra’s time, and this is so during KP Oli’s.
Every Nepali now knows the impact of the tough pain borne by the Nepalese people recently during the unofficial blockade of goods entering from the South. Naturally, it is high time Nepal also sought other possible routes for the partial but uninterrupted supply of such goods as long as it cannot produce such goods itself. And, as a good neighbour, India has let the flow resume at the normal level. Nepalese people have always appreciated such gestures of our neighbours. Thus, there is no reason why some people have to be extra cautious of PM Oli’s visit to the north and Nepal’s decision to sign a few friendly memoranda to boost the economy and promote business.
This is also the time for Nepal to look for small projects to make life easier. The news that China may accept Nepal’s proposal to expand the 27+ km-long Ring Road and upgrade its carrying capacity has brought cheers in people’s faces. But the duration to do so - ten long years - is not practical. Lots of things can happen in ten long years. Given the current trend, it appears that the growth of the urban population around the Ring Road will skyrocket in ten years’ time. The existing Ring Road by then will be insufficient to carry the load, and another, outer ring road, may be a necessity.
Technically, ten years for upgrading the existing road is a laughable matter in itself, especially when we think of the Chinese style of workmanship we have experienced in the past. Three years will be more than sufficient for this work if the government takes care of the local problems in terms of supply of materials and employing trade-union free workers. In fact, trade unionism has been a powerful termite in Nepal’s offices and factories.
The second small need is building cross-over bridges in Kathmandu’s busy crossroads. Often times it is heard that the Department of Roads has a plan to construct such bridges in the city. One or two like the one at Ratna Park’s east appear also. But there are plenty of such chowks where bridges have been urgently needed. When it comes to constructing them, the government contemplates in terms of ‘mega’ bridges. We have two such bridges at Kalanki and the Balaju bus park. Both of them are not only huge and bulky, but also serving the footpath vendors instead of the panicking pedestrians. There are hundreds of shops and ever-standing street watchers hanging there, disturbing the pedestrians. Readers here may remember how a genuine litigation to undo the process of such mega construction at Kalanki was unjustly aborted.
At this time, pedestrians at several places like Maharajgunj, Chabahil, Gaushala, Koteshwar, Baneshwar, Singhadurbar, Satdobato, Babarnahal, among other sites, face problems from reckless drivers and unending movement of vehicles. Such a danger has been highly minimised on the Kathmandu-Suryabinayak Highway through the ‘small’ but very much needed and used overhead bridges. Why cannot the government design more of such bridges to facilitate the easy movement of pedestrians? This is perhaps because we have the tendency of thinking mega - mega hydro, mega roads, mega hospitals.
Finally, for a country like ‘middle-size’ Nepal, according to our PM, we need ‘small’ suspension bridges that take no time to fit, small hydro projects to see light in every Nepali home, and small bridges in the city centres to save people’s lives. Mega bridges have been eyesores and rendered useless as people find it easier to cross the road underneath risking life instead of climbing the bridges to be pushed by shoppers and pickpockets. Experience thus says: Do something practical, doable and lasting never minding its ‘smallness’.