EDITORIAL: Towering question

Without an idea of the cost, how much money does the government want to collect from the public?

The decision makers of the country, whichever party may be in power or whoever may hold the key positions, tend to take decisions without much study of the problem, without weighing the pros and cons of the proposed decisions, without the objectives or the rationale properly established. The latest one is the question of the rebuilding of Dharahara, also called Bhimshen Stambh or Tower. Government leaders seem to be enthusiastic about it, as they have decided to collect donations from the public, and they have already asked the people to contribute whatever they can to the Dharahara reconstruction effort. This decision to collect public money has been inspired by the message it might give of national unity, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli said at a programme held in the capital on Tuesday when the government had also decided that the Prime Minister and all members of the Council of Ministers would contribute one month’s salary for the reconstruction of Dharahara.

But Dharahara is not the only historical monument, which needs to be built anew. According to the Department of Archaeology, 753 heritage sites suffered damage during the major earthquakes of April and May, including UNESCO listed World Heritage Sites. Some of such cultural monuments which need to be reconstructed include Kasthamandap, Hanuman Dhoka Durbar, Boudhanath Stupa, Swoyambhunath Stupa, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur Durbar Squares. It is puzzling how the government came to ask the public to share the cost of rebuilding Dharahara, and not other ancient monuments of historical, political, cultural and religious importance. And it is equally hard to understand how the government came to think that if Dharahara was reconstructed without public contributions of money, they would feel any less sense of pride in this national monument. Does that mean that it is not necessary that the Nepali people feel a sense of ownership or pride in the other ancient national monuments to be reconstructed?

The government has not given a fair idea of what the reconstructed Dharahara may look like – how many stories it may have, the blueprint of the structure, whether the structure will be more or less a copy of the original or it will be something else, whether the rebuilt structure will continue to remind the future its historical roots or it will be a modern structure erected with a predominantly commercial view. And what will the estimated cost of the reconstruction be? Without an idea of the cost, how much money does the government want to collect from the public? What about the offers by some moneyed people to reconstruct certain portions of Dharahara with their money? The National Authority for Reconstruction has decided to launch a three-month campaign entitled “I will rebuild Dharahara”. The financial loss inflicted by the earthquakes because of the damage or destruction of the cultural sites has been put at over 19 billion rupees. The government has received aid commitments of over four billion rupees from development partners for the post-quake reconstruction. Such campaigns may generate publicity but what is more important is that the damaged cultural and historical sites should be reconstructed soon and well without any lopsided view.

Illegal schools

The Kailali District Administration Office has formed a panel to investigate illegally operating schools, tuition centres, coaching centres, child-care centres and Montessori in the district. According to the Kailali District Education Office, 82 schools out of the total 308 private ones are operating without registration. Eighteen others were shut during this fiscal after they were found to be illegal. The committee has recently decided to make public the list of the illegal schools.

Operating any kind of educational institution illegally is a crime. Such educational institutions will not only fleece the hard-earned money of parents but also spoil the future of children studying there. Persons found to be running such schools and other educational institutions must be punished and the District Education Office should also warn the people against enrolling their children at such institutions. There must be a proper national policy regarding the operation of schools, tuition, educational consultancy services and coaching centres.