The government offices throughout the country remained shut on Tuesday, as the civil servants, led by their three unions, observed a one-day strike demanding security and the passage of the new Civil Service Act. The concern of the civil servants is well placed as, in recent weeks, one or the other armed outfit in the Tarai has targeted them, particularly of hilly stock, and several have been killed — whether they may have been deputed there from their ministries or they may be local Village Development Committee secretaries. It is reported that the offices of the foreign ministry and the Supreme Court remained closed for the first time in Nepali history. An idea has also been floated for the insurance of those civil servants working in those areas. In its place, the scheme has its importance. But it is the security that the government is expected to provide to its employees. Likewise to all citizens.
The security situation in the country is in an alarming state, particularly in the Tarai. This has easily been the biggest failure of the government on the domestic front since Jana Andolan-2. Admittedly, during the Maoist insurgency, the security situation was much worse. But now the Maoists have joined the peace process and are now part of the government. But the failure to deal properly with the various armed groups that have sprouted since then has put at risk whether the constituent assembly (CA) elections will be held on schedule. The government has not satisfied the various armed groups despite its attempts to resolve the issues they have raised, including through constitutional amendment. Nor has it been able to muster the courage to deal firmly with them. It is still in the process of engaging the various groups, trying to sort out matters with them. But the government has lost too much time in the process.
A government with resolve should have made clear long ago what it could do and what it could not do. Certainly, no government can compromise on the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation; nor can it compromise on the equality of all citizens, including their right to reside anywhere in the country and move from one part to another freely. The government seems to be still fumbling. The civil servants’ one-day strike should act as a reminder to it of its fundamental duty: to protect the life and property of its citizens. During the upcoming elections, all the civil servants from the centre to the grassroots level will have to be pressed into service. But if insecurity reigns, how can they provide their services to the nation, and how can voters cast their votes? The unions have set their programmes of protest for the coming days if their demands are not met. On the question of promulgating the new Civil Service Act, too, the government should make no further delay, as one year of administrative indecision and uncertainly has in no small measure had to do with this failure. Certainly, the government has tried to become populist by incorporating provisions like automatic promotion of employees without regard to their performance after 15 years of service. But the delay and inaction must end soon.