Friday, May 15, 2015

"Is this country a loktantra, prajatantra or going to be an Ektantra?"

Bihari Krishna Shrestha

Dear Ravi Raj jee,

Your querry in the NNSD forum today, "Is this country a loktantra,
prajatantra or going to be an Ektantra?" is a very apt and timely one,
particularly in view of the fact that even after three long weeks of
the Great Earthquake of April 25 followed a week later by another
great one, the government has not been able to put its act together.
In the meantime, media reports abound as to the disarray in the
government and political system. For instance, the Chief Secretary who
has been one of the finest leaders in the nation's bureaucracy and had
initially put in his effort as the main coordinator in the government
in rescue and relief, has since been sidelined with individual
sectoral organisations asserting to act on their own that was bound to
add chaos to the inaction and lack of organisation. The heart-rending
TV visuals are sufficient testimony to the incompentence and lack of
sense of accountability on the part of the political leaders in the
government in particular.Besides, this is not a recent phenomenon.
Expressing her indignation at the politically-correct suggestion that
all donations should go to the PM's Disaster Relief Fund, a
distinguished social worker and reformer, Dr. Aruna Uprety has
recently written about the pathetic situation even in nearby places
like Bhaktpur and Lalitpur where, according to her, there has been
"very few government effort" and where no political leader has even
bothered to go to comfort the victims. She further went on to remind
the readers about the established incompetence of the PM's Fund by
drawing attention to the fact that even after years of suffering, "the
flood victims of Dang and Surkhet" continue to live "under tent
without having any proper livelihood " The point here is that the
government's capacity to deliver has been tardy historically with
boundless corruption and blatant lack of sense of accountability to go
with it. Bhagbanda politics has been the rule of the game which has
already shown its disruptive effect in what little the government has
tried to do to deliver aid to the districts. Besides,as reminded by
Kanak Mani Dixit jee earlier in the NNSD forum, the government alone
"does not have the monopoly" over corruption. We know that the NGOs
too could be obscenely corrupt irrespective of the fact that they may
be led of highly educated and very wealthy people who, however, dare
to cotninue to masquerade as scholars and do-gooders in the society
and more so in front of the patently gullible donor officials.

The critical issue is accountability and it is basically a structural
problem. Despite our country remaining "desperately poor"--a term
widel used lately to denote it in international dispatches for quake
reporting--and "least developed" in the world, Nepal has distinguished
herself in two areas: restoration of Nepal's forest wealth through
Forest User Groups (now numbering 18000) and getting to the top of the
table in world ranking in meeting MDGs in child survival and maternal
mortality reduction through Mothers' Groups, now numbering 52,000 all
across the country. Their distinctive features that makes
accountability so very compelling have been that all users participate
in the decision-making of the groups that ensures transparency of
management that, in turn, assures accountability of leaders. Thus, it
is the structure of the organisations that have assrured good
governance conditions in them. Besides, once the users themselves have
been organised to manage their own programmes, then, whether it be
foestry development or promotion of mothers' and child health, it can
happen all over the country at the same time. Empowering the
communities makes simultaneous development possible all over the
country. It is this factor that has helped Nepal excell other
countries in the world in those two areas..

However, Nepal has been even without elected local bodies for the last
decade and half which otherwise are the institutions that are mandated
by law to manage disasters at the local level. So much for the
country's disaster-preparedness, and the utility of support of the
large multitude of donor agencies that have spent hundreds of millions
organising seminars in luxury hotels in Kathmandu on the subject.

Therefore, if the government and donor agencies mean well about
organising the relief and rehab initiative in support of the million
of quake victims with necessary sincerity of purpose and sense of
urgency, then, the endeavour should be characterised by the following
three essential features.

Firstly, in order to depoliticise the whole initiative--that would
otherwise subject it to Bhagbanda and all the distortions that
accompany it--the President of the country should be requested to take
over the programme.

Secondly, the Nepal army, assisted by other security wings, is the
only organisation that has the demonstrated capability to bring relief
and rehab support to all the affected areas timely and effectively.
The programme therefore should be implemented on war-footing under the
command of the Nepal army.

Thirdly, the relief and rehab supports needed for the victims in
different parts of  the country are location and individual-specific
in nature. Therefore in order to customise the support package to the
needs of specific individuals and communities, the victims themselves
should be organised into user groups and put in charge of planning and
implementing their own relief and rehab initiatives in an effective,
inclusive and sustainable manner.

The donors must transfer funds to a common pool that would be managed
by the Nepal army for the purpose.

I hope this makes sense to you all.

Bihari Krishna Shrestha

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