The official neglect in extending development services to the Karnali zone has been so long and profound that it will take unprecedented official will to engage in development work for the region to join the national development mainstream. The remoteness of the region aside, other geographical features such as unequal ratio between population density and cultivable land have been blamed for tardiness in tackling poverty, inequality and acute shortage of basic essential services. But the fact remains that services like health facilities, sufficient food stock, good schools and trained teachers, among others, without which nothing much could be changed in people’s attitudes and lifestyle are sorely lacking. It is a pity that even all the rhetoric about development, decentralisation, self-governance, donations and loans that pour in to Nepal in the name of the poor have failed to reach the real needy in Karnali.
It is not as if Karnali has not featured in the priority list of the State’s fiscal strategies and budgetary speeches. The major crippling factor in the region’s five districts has been the lack of roads. It has the lowest of the literacy rate in the country and highest infant, maternal and adult mortality. Only four female students from Karnali have enrolled for post-graduation this year, a fact that education planners need to seriously think about and do something to reach out to the far flung areas of the country. The abject poverty that persists despite sustained plea made to the centre as many think is one of the reasons behind negative sentiments among the populace. In the face of it all, it is difficult to believe how constitutional amendment or revamping of the National Planning Commission as desired by some will benefit the people in Karnali. Paucity of educated manpower is already a huge handicap for the locals. Severing development agenda with the centre, on that account, is unlikely to yield results as the expertise and resources can only be pumped in by the centre.
Even if localised development plans were to be approved, no overnight changes are likely to come into the lives of the people in Karnali. There is no guarantee that the locals will mobilise funds and resources for public welfare or that they will not misuse it. But the need is there for a long-term planning which would stimulate the development in this region. If a single troupe’s entry into the district while shooting Eric Valli’s Caravan helped people in Dolpa to at least tell the world their problems and mustered them enough resources to send children to school, there are so many similar things the government could actually do to help the people there. Continued isolation of the region will further propel the Karnali towards darkness.