The frequency with which mass demonstrations are being held in the capital by the rival factions of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) to prove their strength is starting to get on the nerves of the common man. Wednesday's mass protests held by the Madhav Nepal-Pushpa Kamal Dahal faction – the second such demonstration in a week, with the earlier one held by the faction headed by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli – brought Kathmandu's transport to a grinding halt, stranding people in the streets for hours on end and causing them great anguish. Protests and rallies for or against the dissolution of the House of Representatives (HoR) by different parties have been a daily occurrence in both Kathmandu and elsewhere since PM Oli dissolved the House on December 20. However, what is perturbing is the use of the massive show of strength, like the ones seen on December 29, February 5 and on Wednesday, to intimidate the Supreme Court justices and influence its verdict on the House dissolution. And if these were not enough, co-chair of the NCP, Dahal, at the mass rally on Wednesday, threatened to amass a million people in the capital in the future to encircle Singha Durbar and Baluwatar, the official residence of the prime minister.
Why is no one questioning from where the money is coming to organise the mass demonstrations and rallies?
The large turnout seen during the mass demonstrations would have been a plus point for the rival NCP factions in pushing their agenda forward, were it not for the fact that the demonstrators had to be trucked in from the adjoining districts of Kathmandu and the Tarai with promises of money, free meals and a darshan of the Pashupatinath Temple.
Many of the demonstrators have no idea why they are participating in the rallies. The common people are disillusioned with the antics of the political leaders and are indifferent to their cry for the protection of democracy, freedom and the constitution. It must be costing the NCP factions and other political parties quite a fortune to organise the agitations and rallies on a daily basis, but no one is questioning from where the money is coming. For sure, the money has not come from contributions from the party members.
While mass rallies and protests are nothing new to the people of this country, the leaders, including the Prime Minister, should have known better if this is an appropriate time to hold them. With the coronavirus still active in the country, the mass gatherings could be the perfect ground for the spread of the virus, ultimately leading to community transmission. But it seems everyone is throwing caution to the wind, making a mockery of the standard health guidelines to wear a mask at all times, sanitise frequently and maintain social distancing. It is natural for leaders to be emboldened on seeing a large turnout at a rally, regardless of how the demonstrators have been collected.
And Dahal is known for his loose tongue when he sees a large crowd. Quite a few times in the past, his utterings in public have caused enough trouble and embarrassment for his party and the country at large. Hopefully, his threat to muster a million people in the capital will remain merely a threat, no more.
Should things go wrong, the last thing we want is a political mishap in this country.
Although Israel is a desert country, it is not only self-sufficient in food but also exports large quantities of fruits and vegetables to other countries, thanks to the knowledge and technology it uses in the agriculture sector. Israel produces almost 90 per cent of the food it consumes every year. Israel has helped Nepal by providing on-the-job training in its modern greenhouse farms where hundreds of Nepalis have found employment.
Considering the huge potential that Nepal has in the agriculture sector, the Israel government has expressed its commitment to establishing an Agriculture Centre of Excellence (ACE). During a meeting with Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Development Padma Kumari Aryal the other day, Israeli Ambassador to Nepal Hanan Goder-Goldberger said his government would make ACE a success. Nepal can learn so many things from Israel when it comes to modernising the agriculture sector by using modern techniques and knowledge. But the Nepali government must be clear about the sector it wants to develop through Israeli support. We cannot modernise our agriculture by simply sending Nepali youths to Israeli farms. We must train our youths here in the use of modern agriculture technology.
A version of this article appears in the print on February 12, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.