Only an apolitical, competent and pro-public civil service will serve the interest of the country and the people
The Civil Servants Bill, which has just been registered in the Parliament, is intended to bring discipline in the civil servants and prevent the dereliction of their duty. The new bill proposes prohibiting civil servants from taking part in protests, strikes, sit-ins, programmes to exert pressure on the government, pen-down strike and hunger strike or inciting others to engage it against the government. In the past three decades, civil servants have been in the streets for different reasons. They joined political rallies to usher in democracy in 1990 and 2006, bringing the country to a complete halt and coercing the then governments to step down. But once too often, they have been found engaging in anti-government protests to get their demands fulfilled or at the behest of a party to create trouble for the government. More recently, they took to the streets to oppose the Civil Servants Adjustment Ordinance. While a democracy allows for the freedom to speak or protest against the government and use different methods to do so, it is an irony that the civil servants, who are employed in public service on behalf of a government department or agency, are themselves out in the streets.
Some of the provisions of the new bill have already not gone down well with the civil servants, and voices are already being raised against them. The head of the Nepal Civil Service Employees’ Association has made it clear that the provision that prohibits them from resorting to pressure tactics such as strikes and agitation were against their trade union rights. Protests by the civil servants might not have been much of an issue if they had not been politically tainted. Civil servants are affiliated to one or the other trade unions, based on their political leaning. And this influences the performance of the civil service. With the civil servants strongly divided along party lines, lack of teamwork and collaboration among the different trade unions ultimately hampers the government’s performance. Unaccountability and corruption have flourished in the public offices, largely aided and abetted by the powerful trade unions. That is why in the fight against corruption, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) has suggested to the government that the high-handedness of the trade unions affiliated to various political parties be stopped immediately, and punished if they obstruct the regular administrative business of the government.
Hence, the bill’s intention to bar civil servants from taking part in political activities and seeking membership of any political party or organisation is most welcome. The bill, however, should not be seen as being restrictive on the civil servants. If they cannot spill over to the streets, there must be plenty of room in the laws to allow them to vent their grievances and frustrations. Lawmakers, from both the ruling and opposition parties, must cooperate to see this bill through the Parliament. Whatever discussion is held on the bill should be from the standpoint of the country’s overall interest. Only an apolitical, competent and pro-public civil service will serve the interest of the country and deliver quality service to the people. If the parties are truly for such a civil service, then they should begin by dissociating themselves from the trade unions.
The mandamus issued by the Supreme Court on Monday in favour of farm animals is most welcome in view of the cruelty meted out to them. The court has directed the government to implement the Animal Health and Livestock Services Regulation effectively to ensure that farm animals are transported in a humane manner. Hundreds of buffaloes, goats, pigs and fowl are transported to Kathmandu daily to meet the demand for meat. However, not many people know how they are transported to the city and then to the slaughterhouse.
The regulation to make the transport of farm animals more humane has been around for quite awhile. However, the authorities seem to falter when it comes to implementing it. Apart from their transportation, it is equally important that the animals are slaughtered without pain. The cold slaughterhouses or abattoirs look more like a torture chamber. The smell, the offal and the animal waste lying around are also a hazard to human health. An understanding that animals also have feelings could lead to their welfare and management.
A version of this article appears in print on February 13, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.