Playing numbers

The UCPN (M) is always in the news for one thing or the other. Now, the focus has shifted to the former Maoist combatants in the cantonments, after the task of the disqualified fighters being discharged was completed a few days back. That is a part and parcel of the overall peace process which all the sides have to agree on as per the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Maoists and the then seven party alliance. The terms of reference have not changed, it is only the mindset of the UCPN (M) that has gone a sea change in the nine months that the country was administered by the Maoist-led government. The UCPN (M), as the largest single party represented in the Constituent Assembly (CA), were given their due to lead the country but, unfortunately, they made a sad exit. And, when not in power, they want a national government to be formed under their leadership. This is, of course, not taken as their cup of tea by the coalition partners. On a different approach, the Maoists have thrown their weight behind the High Level Political Mechanism (HLPM) all in the hope of getting it to endorse the UCPN (M) to head the next government. Of course, the HLPM does not in any way have the authority to do so, but the gathering of the three top leaders of the major parties does make a point. And, the major coalition partners will not, however, want the Maoists back in the helm of affairs at the moment.

The backdrop itself may be a subtle hint at why the Maoists are creating furore that the statute be first drafted, and then only the integration and rehabilitation of the qualified and verified Maoist fighters in the cantonments. On the other hand, the government is for action regarding the former Maoist soldiers before the promulgation of the new all-inclusive democratic constitution. The Maoists' whistle blowing on the issue goes to suggest that the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) verified number of combatants in cantonments might have been highly inflated. This might be the reason why even Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, who wants the integration completed prior to the statute finalization, has indicated that the actual number of Maoist fighters are far lower than the around 19,000 that UNMIN has come up with. For UNMIN, which off and on has been in controversy, the task will not be easy because of fresh allegations that the increase had been for the financial benefits that would come from the government. Even now, of the total disqualified Maoist fighters, only 2394 were officially discharged while the rest of the registered 4008 had left the cantonments of their own accord, yet the allowances of those were regularly disbursed by the government. UNMIN must have some answer in this regard.

To add to the argument, Nepali Congress (NC) President Girija Prasad Koirala has come up with the revelation that post-CPA in November 2006, he and Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal had agreed on the adjustment or integration of between 3000-5000 combatants. And, reasoning arrives at that figure to be the actual Maoist fighters who should be dealt with in the manner as deemed by the agreement regarding their integration and rehabilitation.

Well read

The first round of literacy campaign, as per government claims, succeeded in making 1.3 million people literate. That has been the basis for the second one being launched. According to government statistics, there are still six million illiterate people in Nepal. So the drive to eventually make all Nepalese literate is by no means going to be an easy task. Anyway, the second National Literacy Campaign-2006 was kicked off Saturday with the ambitious goal. Meeting the target is a cherished goal, not on paper only, but in reality. If a few months of effort can change the scenario, well and good. But, our past track records go nowhere to prove that this can happen at this moment of time.

As for the running literacy campaign, it will encompass males and females between the ages of 15 and 60. Due encouragement should be provided to those actively involved in the campaign with the participation of all the concerned stakeholders. Setting targets is convenient, and meeting them in the real sense is what should matter. However, the second time around with the literacy campaign, there is experience to bank on for the thrust this time to do away with illiteracy to the desired extent.