Cosmetic stroke

The resignation of State Minister for Home Affairs Mohammad Rizwan Ansari and its quick approval by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal gives a subtle hint of what the under currents of the present day Nepalese politics is. The matter of a state minister resigning could be a matter to be taken with not much ado at any other time. But, the current situation is more volatile than can be imagined with very little inputs being made on improving the security in the country. It can be said that one man going out of the cabinet will not make much of a difference. It is only the circumstances under which it happened that can merit scrutiny. Going back, it was a education minister that faced the axe with corruption charges which have not been proved as yet. For that the donors’ screw worked. But, the present case is more complicated in that Ansari is reported to have publicly mentioned about resigning if the security situation did not improve and presenting a deadline. True to his words only a few days after he had to submit his resignation from the post. Superficially the prime minister seems to prove to his detractors that he can act when the need arises, albeit this one may be a case of appeasing the more powerful.

In this context, the recent killings of two media entrepreneurs within less than a month’s span had created doubts about the ability of the home minister to get the demand for security met in his capacity. Of course, the home minister is a well-known CPN-UML figure and his handling of the ministry have become topics of wider discussion. Of course, the head of the government knows the people who he must bank on. And, in this case, the junior minister had to make way. It does not, however, prove that this government is now going to tackle the problem of law and order with an iron fist. In fact, the scapegoat for any blame from the government as such has been the UCPN (M), who through their tactics and strategies, led to much disturbance in the society. Blame alone with no substantial work on the part of the government cannot be justified. A change of guards is not a solution, but the present government has to show that things are under control, and it can deliver. The biggest support in favour of PM Nepal is that only a little over two months remain for the promulgation of the constitution under construction, and a little success in discharging the disqualified former Maoist combatants.

A review of the last nine months of the UML-led government does not boast of any bright lining.

The government may try to prove itself clean for the delay in the statute drafting task because it is the Constituent Assembly that has the responsibility. But, where does UML, a major coalition partner, stand about bringing the discontented Maoists into the fold or dissuading them from creating road blocks preventing the smooth drafting of the constitution. Teething problems may not be the right term to use for this government because both UML and Nepali Congress are supposed to be seasoned political parties, but the will seems to have gone dry now. The people want firm-footed action not superficial cosmetic touch to alleviate the socio-political miseries of the people.

A concession

The record of the implementation of the court verdicts leaves room for deep contemplation. The majority of the jail terms and the fine imposed on convicted criminals have not been adhered to. There is a huge backlog of these since 1950 when the judiciary was modernized. If the court decisions are not implemented then it is making a mockery of them. Figures show that during the fiscal year 2008/10 the process of jailing the criminals was a paltry 14.43 per cent and the collection of fine a dismal 5.34 per cent. This shows that there are discrepancies and the court verdicts are not being enforced for the majority of crimes. Now, that the Supreme Court has come up with a novel idea to give incentives to convicted criminals who give themselves in thereby assisting in the court verdicts should make some headway in seeing that they are heeded.

The criminals would see a concession on their prison term and fine under the new arrangement. Of course, this sort of incentive would not apply to those committing crimes of a serious nature like kidnappings, rape, human trafficking and dacoity, among others. The days ahead will show if the idea works.