Disparities galore

Nepal’s history can be best written in disparity. Differences, inconsistencies, class divisions, socio-economic stratification, haves and have-nots, all have existed in Nepal for a long time. As in any other society, there thrived the well-to-do circuit in the capital city long before the Ranas relinquished power while the common masses led a hand-to-mouth life. The script thereafter, however well-phrased, has not changed. After the multi-party democracy was ushered in the nineties, the disparities have stayed, only to thrive. If anything, the divisions have only deepened. The Nepal that exists inside the Valley today comprises of decadence and abundance, however bogged down the government may be due to poverty, resource crunch, and of late, insurgency-driven inequities. An outsider will only have to venture to the fringes of the city to know that Nepal is home to a large number of people who earn less than a dollar a day, if they have jobs, that is. With economic liberalisation and WTO regime sweeping the globe, one would like to believe that the benefits of free-market reforms percolated down to all levels of the society. But that has not been the case. It remains to be seen when these reforms will actually shape the lives of Chepangs, Rautes, Kusundas and whole bunch of indigenous groups.

So much has been said about the disadvantaged Chepangs. Help is being extended by the government, several INGOs and NGOs to the members of this and other communities. But they have not survived without foraging food in the forests. Some 10,000 of them in Dhading are now staring at starvation since the last week of December. The people of Bumrang, Yarbang, and Bhanja VDCs are among the most affected. But little aid has reached them, nor is there any in the pipeline. If the Nepalis are passionate about uniting for a cause, as witnessed through the generosity shown towards helping the tsunami victims, they are also a lot who become immune to hardship. There are victims of floods, landslides and insurgency whose need for relief and State assistance is no less than, say, the tsunami victims or those of the Bam quake in Iran. But these dejected lot have stared at the never arriving aid for years now and the number of Nepalis who donate for them is dwindling. In other words, the victims of internal tsunamis are overlooked in Nepal. It is for the government to initiate relief work for Chepangs at the earliest. But long-term development projects, unlike the ineffective Praja Development Programme that was launched in 1978, need to be undertaken. Identifying the immediate areas of concern and empowering them before trying to send their hungry children to school will only yield results. That is when disparity will begin to disappear.