The head of the state needs special security and state honours; but this does not mean one needs to cling on to the royal culture
Nepal is connected with the rest of the world through the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), which is the country’s only international airport. It cannot be disrupted even for a minute no matter what. Around 400 domestic and international flights operate every day from the TIA on different routes within and outside the country, and a slight disruption here at any time causes huge inconvenience to the passengers. The disruption affects especially international passengers who have connecting flights to reach their home countries. Managing all the scheduled flights during the departure and arrival of VVIPs, while embarking on an official foreign visit, is a challenging task for the airport authorities due to the traffic congestion at the TIA, which has only one runway and also doubles as a domestic airport. Despite knowing that such a visit would cause huge difficulty to the passengers and airline operators, the concerned authorities have often failed to find a way out to avoid such trouble by making suitable arrangements to ensure the smooth operation of flights.
A number of foreigners, who had embarked on mountain flights Wednesday morning and were reportedly scheduled to leave the country soon after, missed their flights here and also the connecting flights due to the arrival of President Bidhya Devi Bhandari from her more than a week-long visit to China. All the flights from the TIA were disrupted or kept on hold in the air for an hour from 10:00 am to 11:00 am. President Bhandari, who was scheduled to arrive on Thursday, cut short her visit by one day after she suffered from high altitude sickness while in Tibet. The airport authorities did not allow other flights to land at the TIA during the President’s arrival time. The TIA had also witnessed flight congestion, and many international flights were also affected during her departure to the northern neighbour on April 24. Many regular and mountain flights were diverted to Biratnagar or Pokhara after the TIA issued a ‘Notice to Airmen’ for an hour for her arrival.
The concerned authorities’ assertion that law allows them to reschedule flight operations during a VVIP’s movement is merely an excuse. This is not the only problem people face every time a VVIP embarks on an official foreign visit. The movement of public vehicles also gets disrupted when the motorcade is passing on the road. What is even more disturbing is that whenever a foreign dignitary visits the country, the government declares a public holiday to manage security and the traffic. We must learn from our neighbours on how they manage their airport(s) and streets whenever a foreign dignitary pays a visit there. There is no doubt that the head of the state must be accorded special security and state honours during his/her visit to a foreign country. However, the question people are raising, especially after the country has adopted the republican setup, is why is the head of the state embracing the royal culture, bringing public life to a grinding halt for hours? The President’s movement can be made more secure and dignified without giving much trouble to the public. It can find a way if the concerned authorities were to heed the people’s concerns.
Jobs for youths
Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Security has said that the government was committed to creating 150,000 more jobs next fiscal in a bid to gradually put an end to the situation where Nepalis are compelled to seek jobs abroad. He made the remark on the occasion of Labour Day on Wednesday. This might be easier said than done, but given the caliber of the minister, we put trust in his word. It is good to hear that the government has thought of providing employment to those entering the labour market every year because this country has never felt any pressure to create jobs because India and the Gulf states have served as safety valves for the millions of unemployed youths.
Actually, one could earn more in Nepal, living and working in better conditions, than in many Gulf countries. The construction sector relies on imported labour as it faces a perennial shortage of workers – from masons and plumbers to electricians and carpenters. Foreign employment should only be for high-paying jobs or to learn a skill so that Nepal can earn more through the export of minimal labour. This will help balance labour requirements back home while benefitting from the huge remittances.
A version of this article appears in print on May 03, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.