Nepal | September 20, 2019

EDITORIAL: Stop intimidation

The Himalayan Times

What the intimidation tactic has done is given those in the opposition and the angry commoner a platform to hit back at the government

That folk singer Pashupati Sharma was ‘intimidated’, allegedly by forces close to the establishment, into off-loading his satirical song from YouTube is highly objectionable. This is nothing short of violation of a person’s right to freedom of expression. The song, which raises voice against the misrule, corruption and extravagant expenditure of the government, had resonated with the people but apparently did not go down well with the youth wing of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). As was expected, political parties, ranging from the Nepali Congress and Bibeksheel Sajha Party, and the Human Rights Organisation have condemned the removal of the song from YouTube. And people gathered at the Maitighar Mandala on Sunday in protest against the intimidation tactics used against Sharma. Some of the lines and words used in the song have vexed those in the ruling party. The song portrays the country as the only nation where looters are free to plunder. The song calls the political cadres “dogs” and the government a “Yama” (God of Death).

Singer Sharma has said he has off-loaded his song from YouTube voluntarily, a statement not many people are willing to buy. He has apologised if the lyrics has hurt the feelings of any institution, political party or community, and said he would upload the song after revising it. Even without the intolerance shown by the Youth Association Nepal of the NCP, Sharma’s satirical song was already drawing flak from certain circles. While the song held mass appeal, some of the wordings were cheap, definitely not courteous. It seems the lyricist got carried away while writing the song. For example, there was no need to be dragging the president into controversy. This is not the first time that singers have had to remove their songs and revise them, although the contexts were different then. In many of these cases, certain wordings were not politically correct and certain communities took offence to them.

No one has come forward to claim they intimidated Sharma, neither the government nor the NCP’s youth wing, Youth Association Nepal. But the damage has been done, and the government has landed up in another controversy. A song which would otherwise have been enjoyed singly with a headphone has now spilled into the streets, and put the government in the dock for showing intolerance. The government and the ruling party would do well to stay away from predictable controversies when they already have more problems than they can handle. The new controversy comes hot on the heels of the storm generated by comments made on the Venezuelan crisis. What the intimidation tactic has done is given those in the opposition and the angry commoner one more platform to hit back at the government. The anomalies existing in the country are many, and they are the making of not just the ruling party but all the parties that have been formed till date. So what applies to the government and the ruling party is equally applicable to others as well. One has only to wait and see, if things don’t turn for the better, the wordings of Sharma’s song would be just as apt 20 years down the road as they are today.


Subsidy on interest

A joint secretary-led panel has recommended the government provide farmers subsidy on loan interest rather than other forms of subsidies or grants. The panel led by Tej Bahadur Subedi at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development found that distribution of grants and other subsidies did not help the farmers who need such help.

The study found that the farmers who had access to the corridors of power and had ties with the bureaucrats benefitted from the grants or subsidies, but did not help increase growth in agriculture. Others who did not have any political contact were deprived of the government support. Providing subsidy on interest would be the best option to the farmers who want to promote agriculture as a business, according to the study. The agriculture sector is receiving support from government and development partners. But such support has not reached the target group. In order to increase growth in the agriculture sector, the government and donor agencies must focus on providing subsidy on loan interest and technical support to those associated with cooperatives. The farmers should be familiar with modern concepts of farming in sectors where Nepal has a competitive edge.

 


A version of this article appears in print on February 19, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


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