The Maoist-led government seems to have a keen inclination for demolition. There may be a good side to such acts, the outcome of which may be visualised to be on the gain side. It all started with the invocation of the 1976 law outlining the width of the various categories of roads in the country. That is what formed the basis of identifying the illegal structures, and a strict diktat for the demolition drive for a start in the Kathmandu valley. It is true that widening the roads was a dire need for a sprawling metropolis like Kathmandu, but without a master plan being made the whole work started on a stop gap manner, which is not the way that the state implements its decisions. Yet, the demolition continues even today. Tuesday saw the government’s desire to evacuate the squatters living in illegally built structures along the Bagmati River in Thapathali materialise, albeit with a huge play of force. Altogether 297 huts and houses built illegally there were demolished using bulldozers and a backup force of some 3,000 security personnel. The scene replete with the wailing and helpless stance of the illegal settlers rent the air but that was of no avail against the high-handed manner that was openly displayed on behalf of the government.
The public lands belong to the state and no one has the right to build illegal structures or use the same for personal gains. But, that happened many years ago, and the squatters were not warned against staying there, and no action was taken against them for full six years. Of course, the squatters are also on the wrong side of the law, and should bow down to the law. It is also true that they had been informed earlier to vacate the land concerned, but they did not heed the call. Moreover, the government had some soft corner for the genuine squatters and asked them to register with the designated authority to qualify for a Rs. 15,000 immediate relief so that they would be able to pay the rent for three months after being evicted. But they wanted to be resettled for leaving that area. That stalemate finally saw the security force descend suddenly on them to vacate the area.
The squatters are also Nepali citizens, and it is the government’s duty to see to their welfare. It is the state that is bound to arrange for the basic needs of the people by generating employment opportunities. However, this government as well as the previous ones utterly failed on this front. When the government has failed in its obligations, it cannot be justified in telling others to adhere to the laws and rules, while it goes about flouting all of them. What is more important is that there should have been some amount of patience in the holders of power. When the squatters had lived there for so long, maybe trying to make them understand the need to vacate the area could have taken a few more months, which would not see the emotional and other impacts on the evacuated lot. Moreover, if an evacuation plan, including their resettlement, had been drawn up earlier, the necessity to use brutal force for demolition of the illegal structures would have been avoided. It points to the fact that force ought to be used when all other means of persuasion fail. Maybe, the government will be more careful in the future.
The protracted strike in the far-west is hitting the people hard. The people suffer due to the lack of essential commodities. There is also shortage of medicines in the far-western districts. The hospitals also report scarcity of medicines and oxygen for patients. Because the transport services have been brought to a virtual standstill patients who need immediate medical attention suffer. One woman who was pregnant and needed treatment lost her life because she could not receive it timely. Again, there are many pregnant women who need to be taken to hospitals so that their live can be saved. The problem is that the transport facilities are unavailable. And, ambulances charge a hefty amount to transport the patients if they can, which the impoverished people can ill-afford. Among those who are suffering are daily wage workers. As they are unable to earn on a day-to-day basis they cannot provide the essentials for themselves and their families. The strike in the far west is getting prolonged and with the passage of every day of the bandh the people there are undergoing immense hardships.