Editorial: All eyes on PM

The PM should unequivocally ask the police to launch an inquiry even if Shahi does not file an FIR against Mahara and refuses to undergo medical tests

The rise and fall of Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who stepped down from office on Tuesday, a day after Roshani Shahi, a staffer at the Parliament Secretariat, levelled allegations of rape against him, has proved that politics should not be a dirty game as most people think it is. Mahara’s fall over the rape charge has also taught us a lesson that only those people with a clean image in society should join politics to provide service to the nation, not for personal gains by abusing public office. The free media have also played a vital role in exposing such people who have abused power and authority. Had it not been for the free media, the rape case in which Mahara was involved would not have come to light so quickly with public outrage. The ruling party, especially Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and another co-chair of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Pushpa Kamal Dahal, had no option other than to take prompt action against Mahara, who was elected Speaker on a NCP ticket one-and-a-half years ago, for his amorous advances to Shahi. Both the PM and Dahal deserve a pat on the back for taking swift action against Mahara, who not only betrayed his office but also denigrated the very image of his party by indulging in moral turpitude.

No sooner had Mahara put in his papers on charges of sexual assault than the victim, Shahi, made a volte-face, disowning her earlier version that Mahara raped her in her rented apartment Sunday evening. In a second video tape, Shahi seems to claim that the previous media report was not “true” and that she had never been raped by Mahara, one of the most trusted hands of Dahal. What we can construe from her latest statement is that she must have been coerced into changing her statement by Mahara himself and his henchmen so that he could avoid investigation on the alleged rape case that has cost him his political career. On the other hand, police also made a blunder by not making a first deed of inquiry of her apartment. It is obvious that Mahara wants to avoid a criminal investigation even though he has had to quit the post of Speaker.

However, the saga of sexual assault should not end here simply because Shahi has changed her statement. The law enforcement agency should collect evidences to see if Mahara did go to her apartment and sexually assaulted her on that fateful evening. As the ruling party has already told him to resign even as lawmaker for his wrongdoing, it is the legal duty of the PM to ask the police to launch a thorough inquiry against Mahara. Otherwise, he might use his political clout to obstruct the inquiry and justice. It is not necessary to wait for an FIR to probe into cases related to rape allegations. The PM, therefore, should unequivocally ask the police to launch an inquiry even if Shahi does not file an FIR against Mahara and refuses to undergo medical tests. As this is a case involving a high-profile politician, the law should be allowed to take its own course. Mahara also must be ready to stand trial to prove his innocence. This is the most opportune time for the PM to boost his image in the eyes of the public by encouraging the police to take this case to a logical conclusion.

Village technicians

The government’s bid to continue with the ‘one village, one technician’ project is welcome in that this will help tide over a shortage of veterinary manpower in the rural areas. Begun in 2015, the project was, however, scrapped in September this year. Agriculture cannot foster on the strength of irrigation, quality seeds and good animal breeds alone. Only agro-technicians can help the farmers switch from traditional farming methods to modern applications. Different types of technicians are needed to resolve the problems facing the farmers.

Veterinary technicians have a big role to play in improving the quality of animal breeds in rural Nepal, with the country striving to become self-sufficient in meat and dairy products, among others. This Dashain, it is good to know that about 40-45 per cent of the animals being sold for meat have been raised in the country. Until last year, it was only 20 per cent. Nepal’s mid-hills are particularly suitable for animal husbandry, and self-sufficiency in meat and milk products would mean big savings on the billions that go into importing them. To station technicians in the rural areas, it is imperative that they be given a decent salary and other incentives where possible.