Nepal | July 09, 2020

EDITORIAL: Home minister’s gaffe

The Himalayan Times
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To Nirmala’s parents who are seeking justice, such thoughtless comments from a minister only add insult to injury

It’s been a year since a teenager, Nirmala Panta, was raped and murdered in Kanchanpur in far west Nepal, but the perpetrator(s) of the heinous crime are yet to be identified, let alone tried and punished. It’s a crime that startled the country, and it seems even with the passing of time, it will continue to haunt the government for a long time to come. The people badly want an answer from the government as to why the investigation process was botched up from the very beginning. However, rather than apprise the people of what it was doing, Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa at a press meet the other day made light of Nirmala’s rape, which has boomeranged on him. The home minister’s assertion that Nirmala’s rape is nothing new as such incidents took place in the past, are happening in the present and will occur in the future is nothing but an inconsiderate and insensitive statement to say the least. To Nirmala’s parents who are seeking justice for the rape and murder of their daughter, such thoughtless comments, coming as they do from a minister who is accountable for maintaining law and order in the country, only add insult to injury.

Nirmala was found raped and murdered, with her body half submerged in a sugarcane field, near her home on July 26 last year, a day after she failed to return home from a visit to her friend’s house. People took to the streets of Kanchanpur and in other parts of the country to put pressure on the authorities to nab those involved in the incident. But the police seem to have tampered with the criminal evidence from the very beginning of the investigation process as if they were trying to shield the real culprit(s). In the course of the investigation over one year, more than 400 persons have been arrested and released. A mentally disturbed person was also framed. The DNA of 11 people was collected, but none matched Nirmala’s vaginal swab. Some have been tortured during questioning, while four police officers have lost their jobs for botching up the investigation. As things stand, the parents of Nirmala have lost all hope of a fair probe and bringing the guilty to book.

This is not the first time that the home minister’s gaffe has created brouhaha among the people. In October last year, he blamed capitalism, cyber porn and liquor for the growing incidents of rape in the country when he was summoned by the parliamentary State Affairs and Good Governance Committee to learn why violence against women was increasing. On another occasion that month, he had said he would take action against the guilty in Nirmala’s case within a week. Unfortunately, the people are still waiting to see who did it. Such reckless statements time and again put the government in an awkward position. It is best persons in position refrained from making comments at public forums that could be interpreted in multiple ways. It calls for tact to convey a message without hurting the sentiments of the people concerned. Political leaders would do well to take a cue from what Ali Ibn Ali Talib, the first cousin of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, had to say: Preserve your tongue as you do your gold and money. One word could bring disgrace and the termination of a bliss.

Many take no grant

The National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has removed the names of 62,849 beneficiaries who have failed to sign an agreement for a housing grant of Rs 300,000 within the deadline that expired on July 6. NRA said out of the total 826,933 identified beneficiaries for the grant, the deal was signed with 769,624 households only. Joint spokesperson for the NRA Manohar Ghimire said their names were removed from the list after they failed to claim even the first tranche. The NRA, responsible for carrying out reconstruction work of the damaged individual houses and public buildings, has been providing the grant in three tranches.

However, the NRA said it could provide the first tranche of the grant if a bona fide beneficiary, who has not inked an agreement for the housing grant, presented logical explanation for the delay in signing the deal. The NRA did not give any explanation why such a large number of beneficiaries opted not to sign the deal. The NRA should be able to identify the actual reasons for the beneficiaries’ refusal to take the NRA grant. This could be valuable information for the policymakers if the NRA were to reveal the facts for their staying away from the grant.


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