Separate Culture Ministry Needed

Prem Khatry

 

There is a wise saying: the word “Impossible” can be found in the dictionary of the fools. The writer will argue why the long name “Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) seems obsolete while still in use. There are international tradition to be mentioned, there are domestic reason pointing to the history and the current crisis at MoCTCA especially not felt in side but looming largely if seen from the outside.
Last week the PM called a meeting to hear from the ministries representing the government of Nepal the progress made during the current fiscal year. According to the news (Naya Patrika daily, 27th Asar, 2076) the PM was told in the briefing of ministries that MoCTCA had three achievements, namely: a) 68 km of guerilla and yarsa trail, b) 60 per cent work on the expansion of TIA runway, and c) 73 per cent and 42 per cent progress recorded on the Gautam Buddha and Pokhara airports.
There is nothing much to add since the government is going digital; the PM himself is in the digital world. A detailed description perhaps was not the agenda and was not possible in a ‘briefing’. For the writer, the concern was the dismal picture of progress made at MoCTCA. Only a small picture in tangible aspect was shown whereas there have been noteworthy activities in the intangible aspect. There could also be some progress made in the field of Tourism since the Visit Nepal, 2020 is approaching and preparation is on. Since the ministry has three major components, a balanced reporting from each could be expected. But in the final month of the fiscal year, symmetry and reason wouldn’t work whether on the road or other projects.
Having spent several years in MoCTCA doing few chores here and there, the scribe has few observations to be ventilated. One, for years the ministry was hung as a tail of some other components. A nation proud of its culture gave a miserable space in the structure. Now there is a Ministry of Culture with three horns. But as the situation explains Culture is in the back bench. Two, the government has signed the 2003 UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention in the year 2010. But several pertinent and urgent actions have been taking place. Third, the priority disappears in the implementation of projects designed in the beginning of the fiscal year. Thus, expected cooperation from relevant sections within the ministry itself is not always timely and up to the mark.
Since the sad and ultimately demise of Rabindra Adhikary, the post of the minister is falling vacant. PM has taken the portfolio himself. Regular communication and reporting has not been possible, seen from outside, that is. A State Minister is sitting quietly in his office without ministerial responsibility. This may sound unusual but the minister himself sounds unwilling to stand up to the responsibility in the absence of a cabinet minister. One can imagine the state of ‘limbo’ in decision making process. Nobody pays attention to this crucial state of affairs related to culture. Two other segments – Tourism and Civil Aviation seem relatively on the move compared to Culture. In a crowd of MPs in the 2/3rd majority house, there couldn’t be dearth of individuals to lead the ministry. What would stop this process of nomination of one individual from among the crowd to facilitate the activities at the ministry?
With the list of activities designed and planned to be completed this year including construction of airports, organisation of host of activities leading to a successful Visit Nepal Year, completion of ICH related activities in different parts of Nepal, collaborating with UNESCO, other agencies, policy level actions are essential. The PM has to find time to think the serious nature of these actions so a new face enters the ministerial chamber sooner than later.
The writer missed the ever smiling face of late Rabindra Adhikari, one time student of TU Kirtipur campus. It was a day of celebration organised to award the Pratibha honor and awards to 42 recipients from all the seven provinces including national level for culture, literature, performing arts and fine arts. As a member of the recommendation committee, the writer felt proud to be a part in the process. There were recipients aged 20+ to 90 plus. There was also an excellent representation from several ethnic groups, faiths and regions. Minister Adhikari had played an excellent host in the last year’s ceremony.
PM Oli, addressing the audience as the Chief Guest on the occasion hoped that the scholars and genius coming from different areas of their expertise would spare no time and effort to work for the nation. Prof Jibendra Deo Giri, speaking on behalf of all the 42 recipients thanked the PM and the government of Nepal for the awards and honors. He expressed his feeling that the awards had offered them encouragement and an increased sense of responsibility to do more for the nation. He appreciated the hard effort of the PM to work towards prosperity of the nation and happiness of the Nepali people.
This is now time, the country needs a separate Ministry of Culture to do justice to a colorful combination of culture and their collected effort to work for the prosperity of the nation. Culture is an effective tool to promote this country’s tourism through its colorful features embodied both in Tangible and Intangible aspects. There is so much an independent ministry can achieve in collaboration with friendly nations and organisations like UNESCO.
Finally, the writer likes to argue that it is a common trend in culturally rich nations to have a separate ministry of Culture. A full-fledged documentation and preservation activities need to be speeded up, institutions like museums and research centers have to be created. Culture education from school level itself is the strongly felt urgent need. Culture cannot afford to be in the back bench for long. It is not just the identity of Nepal; it is the backbone for the nation and people’s just as well as balanced development.
(Former Dean of Humanities & Social Sciences, TU and Fulbright scholar from University of California, Khatry writes on cultural issues) 

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