No swan song

The government finally made peace with the protesting civil servants by hiking their salaries. The civil servants had been optimistic about a significant raise in their salaries but when the budget failed to mention it they were up in arms. The various unions of the employees affiliated with various political parties resorted to strikes going to the extent of halting and posing obstacles to their services to pressurize the government to give in to their demands for increased pay. This was quite unfortunate as their

absence from the service delivery positions inconvenienced the people in general for almost five painful days. Airing of genuine grievances are justified but not to the extent of making the common man suffer. Under the new pay scale, the salaries of gazzetted and non-gazzetted employees have been raised by four and six per cent respectively. Furthermore, it has been decided to provide a dearness allowance of Rs. 1,200 per month. It must be acknowledged that the pay hike is modest by all means yet all that adds a further liability of Rs. 7 billion to the government.

The disgruntlement of the civil servants cannot

be sidelined in times when the rising market prices has substantially led to severe reduction in the purchasing power of the consumers. It not only concerns the government employees but the Nepali people as a whole. It also reflects the inability of the government to get its available mechanism working to rein in the unbridled inflation rate. The continuing political instability has had a role to play in the price of essential commodities skyrocketing, but the story has further been complicated by government inaction. Pay hikes cannot bring down the inflated prices, rather it may fuel further increases in the market as has been customary. Then there are those who argue that if the market prices were controlled then there would be no need to

hike the salaries of the government employees. However, in order to make government services more attractive and in order to acquire the best talent in the long term it would be recommended that they be provided with competitive salaries.

Now that the government has increased the salaries of its employees, there are rumblings in the private sector regarding similar raise for their employees. There are many such institutions, like schools, which pay a pittance in comparison to

what the teachers and staff of government schools are paid. Moreover, now with the raise in the salaries of the government employees the common man

expects to be hit by spiraling market prices. The government must not rest on the laurels of having struck the deal with its employees, it has to go beyond the limited confines and think in the broader perspective of the whole citizenry. If necessary, it should not hesitate from intervening in the market to bring relief for the people. As for the civil servants, they should have settled the issue through peaceful negotiations and not by bringing the

government machinery to a grinding halt. That the people are most important must be recognised by both the government and the civil servants.

Sharper teeth?

Apart from the corrupt himself/herself, everyone else driven with a sense of moral value would

like to get hold of those who fleece the rest of us.

The tentacles of corruption are deeply embedded, and it might only be exceptions that some of us

have not been a party to paying bribes to get some or the other work done. This has to be admitted in a rather ashamed manner to our own humiliation. Yet, the hold of the corrupt has not diminished despite the umpteen attempts in various years through rhetoric to get it out. The emergence of CIAA to get the anti-corruption drive going at high speed was welcome but it has been a painful and slow process. It makes headlines occasionally for the right reasons, it is victorious a number of times, failures too does not leave its sides.

The CIAA through a newly developed strategy

of "deploying plainclothes sleuths" hopes to corner the corrupt officials in the act. It is quite encouraging that CIAA is always for ways and means to come down heavily on corruption. A recent one was of

certain groups of TIA workers to have pocketless uniforms. The steps to some extent are praiseworthy but the hapless service seekers want CIAA with sharper teeth to get the corrupt running for their lives.