Editorial: Apathy everywhere
While the earthquake victims are crying out for relief materials to improve their pitiable living conditions, it is ironic that the relief materials worth millions of rupees are rotting in the open yard of Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA). The materials have been lying there for more than a month, and the airport yard has started stinking of decaying matter. Yet nothing has been done to get rid of the stuffs that have gone bad and utilize those that are still good for the benefit of earthquake victims. The argument given for the official apathy is that no one has come yet to claim the materials. But this appears to be a poor excuse for doing nothing. It is reported that the customs office cannot handle the materials until 90 days expire after the arrival of the goods. The addressees were reported not to be ready to pay the customs duty, nor were they willing to hand over the materials to the central warehouse.
Issues of customs delays and taxation on aid were raised by some of the relief agencies or people engaged in relief work. These issues should have been resolved well on time because they obstructed relief distribution in the quake-affected areas. Higher authorities could have taken a timely decision to clear the consignments, as they had reportedly been informed in time. But this non-action is not surprising, though. It is only symptomatic of general official apathy that can be seen almost everywhere, including in the failure to constitute the post-earthquake reconstruction authority and hold its first meeting, whereas the announcement of the decision to constitute such an authority had come just before the donors’ conference organized recently in order to give them the impression that the government was serious about rebuilding and rehabilitating the victims.
These issues should have been resolved well on time because they obstructed relief distribution in the quake affected areas
Apathy is evident in failing to use the budget on time, and when it comes close to be frozen at the end of the fiscal year they go on a spending binge, without caring for the quality of work. This happens year in and year out, including the fiscal just out. This has happened to the road expansion drive or to the reconstruction of the roads dug up for laying the Melamchi project pipes. This has happened to most of the government’s promises, and to the responsibility government officials and civil servants have to discharge for the general public. This has happened to most government projects and programmes, and as a result, many of them do not get off the ground, at least in time, and even if they do, they are not completed in time, and the quality of the work becomes another matter for investigation. Apathy towards one’s duty and responsibility has been a built-in feature of our personality, and that is why we always talk of our rights, irrespective of whether those rights are fair or whether such demands come in the way of the legitimate rights of others, or whether they are in the interests of the nation, as is happening when we hear of the clamour of the various groups for the inclusion of their ‘rights’ and demands in the new Constitution. But there is often a sure-fire cure for official apathy — when something to be done offers a considerable personal or partisan benefit.
The presidential pardon granted to Pradeep Jung Pandey Mondey, accused and jailed and fined for corruption has raised the eyebrows of many. Pandey was the immediate past president of the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI). Apparently, as far we can make out the pardon was granted because of the lobbying done by some members the FNCCI. The decision to free Pandey and 20 others who remain unidentified was made by the Council of Ministers. The concerned ministries were not aware about what was going on, even as the decision was taken by the Ministers. This has indeed set a bad precedent, because the law of the country prohibits pardoning of those involved in serious crimes, including corruption.
The government should face the blame and consequences for their decision that cannot be taken lightly. Pandey had been fined for three years and slapped a fine of Rs. 5,000 for corruption charges almost three decades ago during which the Panchayat system was in force. The pardon can be seen as being wrong in the technicality, legality and the philosophy of justice considering the severity of the crime.