EDITORIAL: Ad hoc plan

Heavy concentration of population in the arable and irrigable areas has shrunken the agriculture lands that used to be a food basket to feed millions of people round the year

Food and energy security are the two issues a country wants to be self-reliant and sustainable even during the period of crisis. Keeping this in mind Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, while addressing the nation after Tihar, had said that the energy crisis will be brought to an end within a year by harnessing solar energy as well as expediting the hydropower projects under construction. Now, Minister for Agriculture and Development Haribol Prasad Gajurel also unveiled a number of plans to boost the agriculture sector giving incentives to farmers. According to the plan, the 1,000 to 1,500 pocket areas will be identified for various types of agriculture and livestock farming, grants and subsidized loans will be given in a hassle-free manner; irrigation facilities, road network, access to finance will be developed and low customs duty will be levied on the import of agriculture tools. He has said the country will be self-reliant within two years. For this the minister has said that youth population will be attracted towards the agriculture sector. Private and cooperatives will be encouraged to make investment in agriculture.

A similar announcement was also made 27 years ago by the then Panchayet system when the country faced an economic embargo by India. The then government had also come up with a number of plans and policies to make good investment in the agriculture sector. But those plans and polices were shelved after the situation normalized with the restoration of democracy and no concrete actions were initiated afterwards. It may be recalled that the Nepal used to be a food exporting country about 40 years ago. The situation has now gone just opposite. As the country marched towards modernization and urbanization and developed better access to international trade and commerce the successive governments gave no priority to the food security by developing agriculture which contributes about 38 percent to the national GDP and generates about 64 percent employment opportunity.

A large number of youth – approximately 1,600 people a day – migrate to the Middle East and Malaysia for overseas jobs. A large area of land has gone fallow in the absence of human resources and modern technology to till them. Whatever remittances they send back home contributes only to keep the economy afloat and it has not contributed to sustain the agriculture ensuring food security, job opportunity and agro-based industries. The policy framework to be made by every government does not match with the ground reality and it also does not get continuation as a long-term strategy. Due to lack of clear land policy in the mountains, hills, valleys and Tarai most of the arable lands have been used for housing purposes giving further vulnerability and uncertainty to future food security. The heavy concentration of population in the arable and irrigable areas, particularly the Tarai and valleys in the hills, has shrunken the agriculture lands that used to be a food basket to feed millions of people round the year. In order to end those anomalies, the government needs to formulate a land policy and come up with a long-term plan of action to modernize the agriculture sector.

Sickening revelations

In a screening test carried out by the Nepal Medical Council in the capital Saturday, less than 50 per cent of them passed the exams. Altogether 510 students had appeared for the exams but only 252 managed to pass them. This raises the question as to whether they are imparted with the right education. Obviously studying medicine is not easy. It appears that most of the students are not studying hard as they are required to. Thus, they failed the exams.

The quality of education being imparted in many medical colleges, including those of other countries where Nepali students flock, is therefore lacking in standard. Since doctors handle health problems which often involve life and death questions, they should be competent and qualified. The medical

colleges should come under the scanner and those not meeting the standard should receive punishment, including even their closures. Another thing

is that in the screening exams taken two doctors were found sitting for the test for others. That such unethical practices are taking place is indeed a

serious matter which calls for thorough investigation and stern action.