Rule Of Anarchy
A few days back, three people were killed in Lalitpur when a cooking gas cylinder exploded. The concerned company of the gas cylinder refused to provide compensation to the victim’s family. Pressure was exerted on the government to look into the issue. As punishment, the government decided to prohibit the negligent company from importing cooking gas. No sooner did the government take the decision than the association of gas companies threatened to stop importing cooking gas, threatening to invite another cooking gas crisis.
The gas companies blamed the government for taking the unilateral decision without consulting them. The gas companies stood with the wrong-doer, HP gas company, as if the government should not have taken any punitive measures to prevent such accidents in the future.
The way the concerned gas company refused to provide the compensation to the victim’s family until the government intervened and the way the private gas companies threatened to disrupt gas imports only show that there is the rule of anarchy in the country. Furthermore, it is not the first time that private companies have shown such a tendency.
Let’s reflect on some past incidents. A few years back, the concerned government agencies, including the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, raided gold and jewelry shops in the capital on suspicion that they were cheating the consumers on the scale or measurement. Tax evasion by the gold entrepreneurs was also the issue. However, the entrepreneurs or their association protested by shutting down gold and jewelry shops across the country, and the government had to back away.
Just a few months back, the concerned government agency took action against some 13 manpower companies for their involvement in human trafficking. The association of manpower companies protested and closed their business for a few days until their demand was met. The manpower companies had also protested against the government decision on free visa and free ticket to those going abroad for employment.
Recently, the government amended the traffic rules by increasing the fine for violators. But the association of public transport companies protested and imposed a vehicular strike across the country on May 26. Fortunately, the government did not step back, and the implementation of the rule is in full swing.
The syndicate is the main problem in Nepal’s public transport system. No single company can operate vehicles on its own way without being a member of the so-called associations and following their decision. Recently, public vehicles of a newcomer transport company were vandalised by members of the old association in Gorkha and Dang. Even in Kathmandu, Mahanagar Bus company, a new transport company which started ‘luxury’ public buses, faced a lot of difficulty, and some of its public buses were vandalised in broad daylight.
Very recently, the Central Intelligence Bureau (CIB) of the Nepal Police raided some hospitals and clinics to investigate into doctors holding fake documents. In the beginning, some hospitals protested against the raid without understanding the real reasons. The CIB that worked in coordination with the Nepal Medical Council (NMC) arrested dozens of doctors with fake certificates.
We have had instances of hospitals being vandalised by the family members and relatives of the patients (after the death of the patient) blaming the doctors for negligence. Most of us frowned upon the families, but we now understand why this happened. We never suspected there could be doctors with fake certificates working in hospitals, but the police investigations have made it clear that there are ‘fake doctors’ or doctors with fake certificates in hospitals!
Such recent or past incidents show that the government has found it difficult to implement its rules and regulations, especially those related to private companies, including the private boarding schools which take hefty fees from students under various pretexts. Even the companies related to the most essential goods and services dare time and again to go on strike.
The Act related to essential goods and services includes 18 services and 35 goods, and states that anyone obstructing their supply can be arrested, sued in court, their registration cancelled or sentenced to prison for up to 14 years. But despite the strikes mentioned above, nobody has been brought to court. Clearly, with the strength of associations or committees, many private companies, even those that are providing essential goods or services, have brought the government on its knees and created anarchy.
We all love the rule of law. We want everyone including the government to act according to the law. We also want the private or public companies to follow the law and the government to ensure the implementation of the law. But incidents show that the government is being checked when it tries to implement the laws.
There is a misunderstanding. The private companies think that any raid by the government agencies puts a stigma on their business. It is quite the contrary. If they come clean after the raid or investigation, they will have greater consumer trust. Instead of standing against the investigation, monitoring, supervision or inspection by the government authorities, they had better exert pressure on the government to continue such activities so that the public trust on them increases, and they have the opportunity to maintain their quality and standard of goods and services.
Those companies that want the rule of law should defy unnecessary instructions from their association or committees. Although, lately, the government authorities have started not to bow down to the unwarranted pressure of the associations, they must take lessons from the past incidents and initiate market monitoring for quality and prices so that public confidence in the government becomes stronger. In the face of monopoly or anarchy by the private companies, the government has another option, that is, to strengthen the public/state-owned corporations so that private institutions think twice before they opt for unnecessary strikes.