EDITORIAL: History is created

Fate had in store more for her than the life of a housewife to which she would have been destined her whole life had not an accident taken away the top UML leader’s life

The election of Bidya Devi Bhandari as President of Nepal marks a historic event in that she has become the first woman President and second President of the country. Indeed, since the dissolved parliament under the 1990 Constitution was restored about a decade ago, Nepal has given many firsts in its political history and some of them probably in world history, for better or for worse. Just a few days ago, another history was created when Onsari Gharti Magar was elected the first Speaker of Parliament in Nepal. Since the political transition began, Nepal has taken huge strides in several directions, including proportionate representation and inclusiveness of people of various castes, communities, ethnic groups and genders. These principles are now enshrined in the new Constitution. Now a woman, Janajatis and a Madhesi share the posts of President, Vice President (the election will be held in two days), Speaker and Deputy Speaker. In terms of proportionate representation and inclusive principles, Nepal’s new Constitution is clearly way ahead of the Constitution of any of the South Asian countries and it surely compares well with the Constitution of any country of the world.

The responsibility of the highest office of the country has fallen on Bhandari’s shoulders by default. If the Nepali Congress had abided by the “gentleman’s agreement” in the course of signing the 16-point agreement, the post would have gone to any of its nominees. Though Bhandari had become involved in student politics and party activities in initial years, after her marriage to the charismatic CPN-UML general secretary Madan Bhandari, she had become a full-fledged housewife. But after her husband’s death in a mysterious motor accident at Dasdhunga in 1993, she was fielded as CPN-UML’s candidate in the Kathmandu Constituency-1 vacated by the death of the UML chief, and she shot to fame by beating the Nepali Congress’s heavyweight candidate Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, who was Congress president and former prime minister, the man who had also lost to her husband. After that she did not look back, becoming a Cabinet minister twice and being elected one of the Vice Chairpersons of the UML twice, and holding the women’s organization of the party till now. By that token, her credentials do not look less impressive than those of the outgoing occupant of Sheetal Niwas. It is another matter that fate had in store much more for her than the life of a housewife to which she would have been destined her whole life had not an accident taken away the top UML leader’s life.

Bhandari has said that she will truly protect the Constitution as required of her office and uphold the dignity of the Office of the President. Indeed, on this criterion her performance as the First Citizen of the Country will be judged. She will have to avoid controversial statements and conduct that will not behoove her constitutional position. And she will have to keep off all undue influences that may be exerted on her from various powerful quarters to sway her from her constitutional duty and her impartiality. On this count, the outgoing President has left a lot to be desired in the eyes of many people.

Farmers jubilant

A cold store has been built in Bajura district to store apples. The locals are very happy about this because in the past apples rotted as they failed to reach the market. Now with a cold store in place the apples can be sold in other districts as well. So far, most of the rotten apples and those that could not be sold were used as food for cattle as well as making hooch. The cold store will facilitate the farmers who would be able to find new markets for their apples. However, many villages in Bajura lack access to roads to sell their produce. Such, roads too need to be built in the districts.

Meanwhile, at present a lot of apples are wasted. The Bajura folks are happy especially as this year’s production of apples was more than that of previous years. Should the apples reach the market on time before they rot and are wasted, the Bajura people would prosper thereby improving their living standards. Therefore, it is necessary to build more modern cold stores in other parts of the country as well. The farmers would benefit as their products would reach the market.