Criticism of the government does not mean people are against the democratic system for which they fought for decades
our democratic system will sustain only when the ruling party, with almost a two-thirds majority, delivers goods and services to the people, controls corruption and ensures good governance to the minimum satisfaction of the general people, and also takes the opposition and civil society into confidence in every step it takes, either in the Parliament or at the executive level. People start looking for an option to the very system they had helped establish if the government fails to deliver as per their expectation. In the age of information technology, even an ordinary person can air his or her disenchantment through powerful social media, prompting others to react instantly. Nothing goes unnoticed from the public domain. When a leader in power makes a statement on any issue, it instantly draws public attention, be it for good or bad. Every word uttered by a leader counts, and the people take his/her statement seriously. A responsible leader is he who makes only balanced views aiming to bring the nation together for a common cause.
Sad to say, we lack such political etiquette, especially from the ruling party leaders. Nepal Communist Party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal is no exception to this. He has often landed himself and his party in controversy for making one comment after another on political or diplomatic issues, such as the ones related to Venezuela and the recent Indo-Pacific Strategy promoted by the USA. And on Monday, while addressing a function at the NCP headquarters, Dahal said reactionary forces were making a bid to nip the democratic republic system in the bud, and urged the students and youths of his party to ‘counter’ them. This is not the first time he and Prime Minister KP Oli, have made such highly offensive statements. A few months ago, PM Oli had also called upon his party cadres to attack the opposition as a ‘swarm of hornets’ do, a statement termed “uncivilised” even by other leaders of his party.
Dahal did not elaborate how the democratic system was under threat from the reactionary forces or who such forces were. Before his departure for Singapore for a second health check-up on August 22, the PM had called an all-party meeting, where he had urged all the parties to stand united for safeguarding the hard-earned democracy. If there is really a threat from the so-called ‘reactionary forces’, the government should let the people know. Instead, the ruling party is accused of setting off on a wild goose chase to cover up its failure on all fronts, from achieving economic growth to providing good governance. Many believe if there is any threat to the republican set-up, it is from bad governance, impunity and anarchy spread by the state, which is hell bent on muzzling dissident voices. Healthy criticism from the civil society and the media should not be defined as a threat to the system. The ruling party leaders must use decent language and have the courage to listen to dissenting voices, and they must try their best to improve their performance in governance. Criticism of the government does not mean people are against the democratic system, for which the Nepali people have fought for the last 70 years. If the government fails to deliver, the people will definitely look for ways to air their voices through one or the other means.
Give a clean look
sanitation and cleanliness have never been our forte. And it is not without reason that visitors, while relishing the scenic grandeur that this country has to offer, often complain about the poor sanitation, with muck and garbage strewn everywhere one goes. Bhedetar, a major tourist destination in Province 1, is now said to be stinking as garbage has not been collected by the rural municipality for the past six weeks for lack of a dumping site. And it is unlikely that it will be collected before the Tihar festival, which is nearly as many weeks away.
At a time when the country has embarked on a campaign to bring in two million tourists next year during Visit Nepal 2020, perhaps the authorities should give a thought to the sanitation aspect so that they return home with a good impression of the country. Sanitation is important not only for tourism but for our health, too. Past experience has shown that the local authorities are unable to maintain cleanliness in the towns and cities. So it might be wise to hand over the job to the private sector by giving it enough power to collect fees from households and businesses and levy fines on those who litter.
A version of this article appears in print on September 18, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.