Changing Slogans Time And Again
TO accomplish cherished goals, it is imperative to set criteria and a modus operandi and work hard towards that direction. Likewise, it is also prudent to use slogans of one kind or the other and direct efforts at materialising the slogans, which are otherwise called catchphrases. The present government has set the slogan ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’ as a mantra for developing the country. This resolution has also been encapsulated in the policy and programmes for the current fiscal year. Seen thus, the government seems to be serious about the slogan.
Back to Village
Even during the Panchayat regime, slogans like ‘Back to Village’ and ‘Raising Standard of Living by Asian Standards’ gained currency. However, these resolutions could not be successful. Likewise, after the Panchayat regime was abolished in the early 1990s, slogans like ‘Making Nepal Singapore’ and ‘New Nepal’ were introduced by the successive governments. But nothing was practically done towards materialising such slogans, when the new slogan Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali was adopted.
We are now in the stage of implementing the federal structure. For this, the three-tier elections for federal, provincial and local governments have been held and these governments are at work. The Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) swept the elections, forming the federal government and six out of seven provincial governments, with dominance over the local bodies as well. The current government is considered the strongest government since the restoration of a multi-party democracy in the 1990s. With a two-thirds majority, the government is expected to run a full term, thus putting the kibosh on political instability.
The government has resolved to make the country prosperous by initiating various infrastructure development programmes. There are several ambitious development projects on the agenda. Railways, metros, monorails and airports top the list of ambitious development plans. Work has begun in some of the above projects.
However, the government is under fire for giving short shrift to basic amenities. The people are suffering from insufficiency of civic amenities like transportation, drinking water and healthcare, when the government is indulging in tall talks. The government is talking about good governance, when there are irregularities galore in national pride projects like the Sikta Irrigation Project and other development projects and when corruption has raised its ugly head virtually on an unprecedented scale. The government is talking about justice, when the justice delivery system has gone haywire. The government is talking about infrastructure development, when development activities such as roads have proved nothing more than a patchwork.
The slogan ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’ sounds very snazzy but it is very difficult under the present circumstances to make it a reality. There are defects here and there in the system itself. Funds earmarked for development works are highly misused. Use of inferior materials, defective surveys and desultory working methods tend to make huge investments go down the tube.
To make a success of the slogan ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepal’, the government needs to put a bold face on its development activities. There are many irons in the fire that are staring at the government. Such activities range from basic needs to ambitious projects. As long as such ‘pending works’ are completed, it will not make sense to make prosperity happen in the country.
It seems the government should start its work from scratch. Everything seems to be in a shambles. First of all, roads should be in ‘working order’. The prevailing trend is that roads are repaired in such a desultory manner that the roads fall back into disrepair within one or two months. The roads are repaired time and again, thus wasting a lot of state coffers. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Misuse of state funds in the name of development works is rampant. As long as development funds are not properly used, the possibility of the country undergoing a sea change in terms of development is very slim.
The state apparatus should be strong enough to curb corruption and other financial irregularities that have become the order of the day. The CIAA, which acts as ombudsman, is there but it is also accused of catching only small fry, not big fish. In fact, corruption is rife from top to bottom. Curbing corruption becomes all the more difficult when powers that be are involved in corrupt practices. So it is necessary to make sweeping administrative reforms by way of, for example, making provision for harsher punishment for the perpetrators irrespective of who they are.
It is also essential to diversify development activities by taking them to every nook and cranny of the country. Concentrating development works in the capital city has made development lopsided. That is why the people living outside the Kathmandu Valley or in remote areas are compelled to come to Kathmandu for medical treatment for even minor ailments. With uncontrolled urban sprawls, especially in the Kathmandu Valley, the back-to-the village campaign as adopted during the Panchayat regime has been all the more urgent. A change in the political system from a unitary dispensation to a multiparty dispensation has stoked a migration of a large number of people from rural to urban areas, especially the Kathmandu Valley, thus leaving the rural areas high and dry. This is one of the major incongruities seen in the development perspective of the country.
It is not necessary to uplift the standard of living of the people by Singaporean or European standards. Neither is it necessary to make Nepal Singapore. It is just verbiage that is used by the successive governments to pull the wool over the eyes of the people. There is no stopping the present government, which is armed with a two-thirds majority, from improving basic amenities and pressing on with fulfilling its prosperity goal. If the government works in the present style characterised by more talk and less action, it is certain that its goal will remain far from being attained for years to come and the standard of living of the vast majority of people will be at rock bottom.
Cost of living
If anything, the cost of living of the people will keep rising at the cost of their standard of living. Unless their standard of living is uplifted, the people cannot be happy. So to do justice to the slogan ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’, the people must be made happy by raising their standard of living, which is not impossible if the government works in earnest with a strong will. After all, just changing development slogans from time to time will not lead the country anywhere.