Musing On Martyrs’ Day
Following the tradition, Marty's Day this year was marked on Magh 16 of the Nepali month, Jan 29, realising the contribution of those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the nation and the people and refreshing one's commitment to translate the dreams of the martyrs into reality. In school textbook, we are taught that the martyrs fought for democracy, equality, peace and prosperity in the country. This teaching has been going for nearly seven decades. From four martyrs in 1940s who were killed by the Rana regime, by this time when we have republican federal system we have thousands of martyrs since democracy was introduced in the country, and all of them made self-sacrifice for the same objective -- democracy, equality, peace and prosperity. It seems the objectives have been always elusive otherwise we would not have so many martyrs. There was no peace even after democracy was reintroduced in 1990 and there has not been peace as such even after the establishment of federal republican polity. This should have been the day for the political leaders to make self-analysis because martyrs had sacrificed themselves obviously for a political cause. But no political party has come up with such an analysis except for issuing message to mark the day.
In course of the promulgation of the new federal republican constitution, or during the period of the People's Movement II in 2006 which was launched as a joint action of the then seven-party alliance (SPA) and the CPN-Maoist, the people were told that a period of peace, prosperity, equality and real democracy would herald with the new constitution in place. Much in discussion was the term economic development or prosperity. But, even after a year of the new constitution, there are no signs that economic development would trigger any sooner. Given the grievances related to the constitution and equality, political peace or stability still looks very far away. Democratic practices have been extended to the society, but in absence of local level election for nearly two decades, only powerful societal, political or community elites are exercising the democratic power.
Of course, living conditions of the people have improved. But this improvement is on a very shaky ground. It may collapse once the demand for workers in the Gulf countries diminishes. Because of the remittance sent by the migrant workers, urbanization geared up. But, on the other hand, total agricultural production did not increase at par with the population and we have been importing even food grains for years. Once there is no demand for workers abroad, we will not have money to import foods, and we have not implemented any of the plans to grow enough food for nearly 30 million of us. By the money sent by those working abroad, we built houses in city areas and changed our lifestyles with modern gadgets. The government did not bring any plan and programmes to utilize the hard-earned money for both the industrial and agricultural development. And we did not bother to find better ways to use the remittances. We did not think for tomorrow.
Even then, there is an encouraging sign this regard. An inspiring plan has been brought forth by the Energy Ministry for tapping national resources including the remittances for hydro-power development. As per the programme, one can invest in power sector through shares with the government as a guarantee. This makes is clear that one's investment is secured. It is not like investing in any private company which may turn bankrupt and your money is gone. Although this approach has been taken very late, it is likely to be highly successful and inspire other sectors and ministries about how to move ahead for development.
It is obvious that most of the government income is dependent on import related customs tax and duties. Our trade deficit is so huge that what we sell in a year cannot even buy what we buy a day. This is our economic condition, and this is terrible. The government has announced pocket areas for agricultural production, but the pocket areas will take a long time to be really producing area even if more incentives are provided for developing them as targeted. It is certain, without sufficient irrigation facility combined with timely availability of improved seeds and fertilizers along with incentives in the southern plains called the Terai Madhes, we are not going to be self-reliant on food production. To talk of food sovereignty without doing this little will be waste of time.
No country can be self-sufficient on everything, but a country which is dependent on others on almost everything is bound to move on begging. Nepal has been going on like this for some decades now. Last year's blockade also seems to have failed to open eyes of the leaders as a whole. Otherwise, plans and projects to have railways link with China would have been expedited. Reports say detailed project report of the east-west railway is being prepared, but there are no processes about the Rasuwa-Kathmandu-Pokhara-Lumbini railway. Sole dependency on one neighbor will cost us much, and the sooner the leaders realise it and act accordingly, the better will be for the country.
Presently, political dispute over local level polls is going on. Arguing for equality, the Madhesi leaders have been demanding amendment to the constitution. But the opposition parties have been opposing the constitution amendment bill and the government or the ruling parties have yet to take the opposition and the Madhesi parties into confidence before announcing the local poll date. Given this, real respect to martyrs would be ensuring that all the three levels of election are held within a year as per the constitutional provision and steering the country to real democracy, equality, peace and prosperity. But for all this to happen both the Madhesi parties and the main opposition CPN-UML should be flexible and give up their rigid and stubborn attitude. Or else in the name of movement, we will be adding to the number of martyrs.