As minister, Bhattarai must show responsible behaviour, and not be a party to another row in the making
Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai is very much in the news, but apparently for the wrong reason. An apology on Facebook, which carried a tinge of politics instead of genuinely feeling sorry for having delayed a Kathmandu-bound flight from Nepalgunj on Saturday evening, has drawn nasty comments on the social media. The Buddha Air flight, scheduled to take off at 6:41, did so only at 7:06 pm, as it had been put on hold at the request of the tourism minister who was caught up in the Dolphin Festival nearby. It was wrong of him to delay the flight, which naturally enraged the passengers who arrived in the capital late in the evening and had to catch a bargaining taxi to take them home. Despite being chastised by the passengers on the plane, he had stayed calm, and the episode would have died down were it not for the comment he posted on Facebook the following day, while being apologetic for the inconvenience caused to the passengers. Taking a clean swipe at one of the passengers who had confronted him – anti-corruption campaigner Gyanendra Shahi – Bhattarai tried to politicise the issue. And the developments that have followed have only drawn Bhattarai into more controversy.
Shahi on Sunday was prevented from holding a press conference to brief the press about the passengers’ unruly behaviour. Why it was necessary for the police to round up Shahi from the venue of the press meet is anyone’s guess. The police explanation is that this was done for his safety as cadres close to the minister had infiltrated the venue. If this was the case, they should have taken the cadres and goons into custody, not Shahi, whose right to express his grievances in public has been violated. If this was not enough, now the Kaski chapter of the youth wing of the ruling Nepal Communist Party has through a statement banned Gyanendra Shahi from entering the district for chiding Minister Bhattarai. The ban on Shahi comes in the wake of NCP chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s instruction to students and youths on Monday to “retaliate against anarchic and reactionary tendencies directed against the democratic republic”. This is nothing but a violation of the fundamental right laid down in the constitution, which allows Nepali citizens to travel freely within the country, and is likely to invite direct confrontation between forces that are hostile to each other.
These recent developments could suck Bhattarai, his government and party into a vortex of controversy, which will only tarnish their image. The people have pinned great hope in our young leaders, like Bhattarai, to take the country forward, and they should lead by example, not be involved in the politics of intimidation. The old generation leadership may not have done much to economically uplift the country, but they spent years in jail to fight against autocratic regimes and introduce democracy in the country. The young generation leaders, who are better educated and well exposed to the outside world, thus, have the onus to perform much better, especially on the economic front. As minister, Bhattarai must show responsible behaviour, and not be a party to another row in the making.
Abide by law
There is a tendency among the house owners in the urban areas to charge more from the tenants for a unit of electricity consumed than fixed by Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). This is illegal. NEA has now issued a warning to the house owners against charging more than the price fixed by it. At a press conference held on Sunday, NEA Managing Director Kul Man Ghising said electricity tariffs had remained unchanged since he assumed office in 2016. He also warned that he would take legal action against those who collect extra money from the tenants.
In recent times, tenants have asked NEA to sort out this problem. A unit of electricity costs between Rs 3 and Rs 13 for domestic use. But the house owners charge more than that from the tenants for no reason. But the tenants fear to lodge a formal complaint by identifying their names for fear of reprisal from the landlords. There is no reason to collect more money from the tenants as it does not cost the landlord anything extra while paying the electricity bill. NEA must take legal action against the erring landlords if the tenants lodge complaints against those who flout the law.
A version of this article appears in print on September 17, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.