Unscrupulous Elements Reigning Supreme : Narayan Upadhyay
Non-performance and abuse of authority by government officials have reached serious proportions in our nation in the recent times. The nation is still passing through a difficult phase, but the very people responsible for resolving the crisis are often blamed for creating the anomalies gripping the society.
It appears that any misfortune that hits the nation as hard as it can itself becomes a way to make a fortune for many. Recently, when India imposed its unofficial embargo of essential goods on Nepal, many found this an opportune moment to make merry at the expense of the common people. The acute shortage of goods became an easy way to rake in a fast buck for those involved in the delivery and supply of these essential items.
It soon became apparent that petroleum dealers and refilling stations were involved in all kinds of malpractices to cheat the people hit by the shortages. Several officials at the national oil monopoly, Nepal Oil Corporation, were accused of working closely with the rogue petrol stations that manipulated their refilling machines by installing special devices.
Likewise, NOC officials looking after various government oil depots were blamed for cheating their own department by manipulating the amount of petroleum products delivered through a nexus with the tanker operators.
The malpractice is not limited to junior level NOC officials or tanker operators or petrol pump owners. Top level officials have also come under fire for abusing their authority. With the nation facing an acute shortage of petroleum products, some NOC bosses even decided to award the right to import fuel to private importers. But it surprised everyone when the NOC chose an importer who had already faced government action for its deceitful past activities.
The same importer who won the right to import fuel was later found cheating the government and consumers when it sold the fuel to the consumers directly from the tankers, compelling the police administration to put a curb on such practices by impounding the tankers and arresting the people involved in it. Not surprisingly, the powerful NOC boss who exercised his right to select the importer has now come under the scanner of the nation's anti-graft body.
There is a common belief that petrol pump owners are protected by the NOC officials. These refilling stations have been found deceiving the consumers time and again, and it is common knowledge that many of them engage in cheating the public more blatantly when there is a fuel crisis. But the consumers will not complain even if the petrol pumps give them less amount than the price paid for.
The Nepalese citizens have suffered not only from a shortage of fuel due to a nexus between the unscrupulous NOC staff and some refilling stations, but also from a shortage of cooking gas in the kitchen. As soon as there was a shortage of cooking gas in the market, the dealers started selling gas cylinders at a higher price. The hoarders of cooking gas flourished overnight as hapless people were forced to pay exorbitant prices for a cylinder. This prevails till date, even though the government authorities are cognizant of the ituation.
The present crisis, undoubtedly, is not the making of the authorities. The blockade by India and the devastating earthquake that hit the nation ten months ago have rattled the nation and hurt the people beyond anyone's imagination. Even in such a critical time, the people have failed to get a feeling that our authorities, ministries and the government are doing something to mitigate their tribulations. The government authorities have no clue about how to control the rampant black marketeering and other anomalies that are taking place in the country. The hoarders and black marketeers pose a great challenge, but our authorities are yet to come up with solid measures to stop these elements from cheating the common people.
The present crisis is actually an outcome of our authorities' failure to develop a foolproof system to tackle such eventualities. Our authorities have totally failed to put in place a strong supply system through various measures during a time of crisis and emergency. This failure to build such a system has indeed allowed the hoarders, black marketeers, profiteers as well persons having improper agendas to grow and take control of the supply of essential goods. Ironically, some government officials and ministers even seemed to praise the blackmarketeers for keeping the nation's commerce and economy afloat during such a bad time.
It is true that such a situation has emerged in the nation because of the growing nexus between government officials and black marketeers and profiteers who see any crisis as an occasion to mint money. The unscrupulous elements are very pert in greasing the palms of our venal government staff and others.
It is often joked that when a profiteer or black marketeer falls in a police net, it is because some dissatisfied government official is angry at not getting his share of "kickbacks" from the erring business person. Once the kickbacks are paid, the unscrupulous elements are allowed to walk free and resume their business without any hurdle.
These are some instances that shed light on the fact that even during a time of crisis, the common folks of our country are far from getting any succour from the concerned authority. Rather, they are made victims of a heinous nexus prevalent between unscrupulous business persons and officials. This practice has been in vogue for the past several decades and has come to haunt us more after the devastating earthquake and unofficial Indian blockade.