The govt must honour only those who have made contributions to the nation from outside public office

The government conferred medals to as many as 903 persons on Constitution Day that fell on September 19 this year. The Chief Justice and three others justices of the Supreme Court, former prime minister JN Khanal and late prime minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and Sita Dahal, the wife of CPN-Maoist Centre Pushpa Kamal Dahal, are among those who have been awarded with medals and titles for, what the government said, their 'contribution to the nation'.

Some mediapersons have also been awarded with medals, but a few of them have publicly rejected them, saying the medals were conferred to those without merit basis. What is interesting to note is that the government has honoured those justices who had played a role in delivering justice in favour of the coalition partners led by NC President and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba. It is a mockery of democracy to distribute awards to sitting justices and politicians who have at times received millions of rupees from the state coffer for health treatment by going against the criteria set by the government itself.

Following the unhealthy tradition of the then Royal regime, the democratic government has also awarded the medals based on bhagbanda (sharing) to those who are close to the powers that be. The medals and titles were doled out to those people by violating the medal recommendation criteria set by the Oli-led government.

It is the Ministry of Home Affairs which takes a final call on whom to distribute the medals of various categories. However, Home Ministry spokesperson Phadinra Mani Pokharel declined to make any comment on the medal recommendations.

The medals will be distributed by the President on the second week of April, or Baishakh 1. Almost all the politicians (living or dead) from the ruling partners have been recommended for various categories of medals to be conferred by the President. More than 100 medals or awards have been recommended to sports persons, singers, musicians and health workers and doctors, who had made big contributions in their field and in the fight against the coronavirus. Some lawyers who had pleaded against the House dissolution have also been selected for the medals.

It may be recalled that the government had last year made an amendment to the Decorations Rules-2065 and decided to honour only 100 people (50 for titles and 50 for decorations) every year. However, the Deuba-led government did not follow the rules. The government should have a stated policy to honour only those from outside the public office who have made noticeable contribution to the society and the nation. There are many persons who have made great contributions to the society with their innovative ideas and lifetime dedication for the well-being of the society from their respective fields.

As per the Decorations Act-2065, such awards or titles are conferred to those who have made outstanding contributions to national life. The value of decorations, titles and awards to be conferred by the state to individuals will fade away if the government continues to distribute them to undeserving people, especially those who are in power. It is an insult to the titles and decorations themselves.

Don't be reckless

The colourful festival of Indra Jatra began on Saturday, and the revelry will last for a week, with the greatly entertaining mask and pulukisi (white elephant) dances, acrobatics and traditional bands being performed in the streets. The highlight of the festival is, however, the chariot processions of Goddess Kumari and Lords Ganesh and Bhairav. The Indra Jatra festival was a low key affair last year due to the pandemic. This year, however, with the relaxation of the prohibitory orders, the inhabitants of the capital are celebrating the festival with gay abandon.

The chariots of the gods and goddesses are pulled along separate routes on three different days, and the first day on Sunday saw the President and Prime Minister, among other dignitaries, attend the ceremony being held in the midst of a large crowd of people at Basantapur. It seemed the people had thrown caution to the wind, with many of them not even wearing a mask, not to speak of maintaining physical distancing. The virus hasn't been defeated yet, and such large gatherings could be just the venue for the fast spread of COVID-19. The people themselves must realise that following the health protocols is for their own good.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 21 2021, of The Himalayan Times.