The present facilities and security and their levels need to be reviewed on sound principles, not just to favour some holders of high office

Certain people, particularly those who have held high State positions in the past, are given certain facilities to enable them to live according to the dignity of their positions.

Besides, certain dignitaries are provided with security by the State realizing that they are likely to feel threats to their life from whatsoever quarters. All these matters are regulated by law where good governance prevails which specifies exactly what is to be given to whom.

The status and need of the past or present holders of high government office are the main factors in determining the facilities and the security for them.

When these things are done according to certain well thought out criteria, without putting unnecessary burden on the State coffers, these matters do not become matters of public criticism because the public understand that those dignitaries deserve the facilities and security provided.

But in Nepal where these things are distributed without a law governing them and often without proper regard to the status and need of such persons, the provision of such facilities and security are subjected to public criticism.

A sub-panel of Parliamentary Good Governance and Monitoring Committee on Tuesday presented a preliminary report on the facilities and security being provided to former VIPs and dignitaries to the main panel.

The report states that the facilities and security are being provided haphazardly and should therefore be regulated and made more scientifically based. As a result, the report says, a large amount of money is being spent out of the State coffers for these purposes without any sound criteria.

There are strange cases in which even some people who do not hold such high office or have not held it in the past are also being provided with facilities such as a vehicle and security guards as a matter of special favour.

No government has wanted to change this state of affairs for obvious reasons. It does not want to lose its discretionary power.

Figures are discouraging. More than 7,000 police personnel (or ten per cent strength of the Nepal Police) have been deployed at the residences of these dignitaries to provide them with services.

Speaking in round figures, up to Rs. 40 lakh is reported to be spent on the facilities and security of each of these dignitaries.

The Supreme Court had repeatedly directed the government to make a law on these matters, but these things are still decided by Cabinet decisions, as well as the occasional decisions of ministers, ad-hoc or customary practices of the government agency concerned.

Although the home ministry had registered such Bill twice, the government withdrew them under pressure and protests from the powerful persons likely to be affected by the legislation.

A Bill to that effect needs to be introduced soon and the political parties and parliamentarians should support, and indeed put pressure on the government to do this as soon as possible.

They should rise above their petty perks. The present facilities and security and their levels need to be reviewed on sound principles, not just to favour some holders of high office, and allow status and need guide these matters.

The feeling that has developed among the general public is that though the monarchy has ended, the tendency of the political leadership has not changed with the changed times.

Tobacco use

There is a desperate need to discourage the use of tobacco products for they cause numerous non-communicable diseases like cancer and heart diseases.

In Nepal it is estimated that there are 10,000 new cases of cancer every year. Worldwide millions of deaths are caused by cancer and heart diseases from smoking.

Attractive packaging entices more people to use tobacco products as they are advertised to make them feel smoking is  glamorous.

In Nepal, now pictorial warnings should cover  90 per cent in the packaging of the tobacco products, up from the existing 75 per cent.

To reduce the use of the tobacco products plain tobacco packaging is being mooted and Australia has already implemented this provision.

The manufacturers of such products must print only the brand name up to the prescribed size and font on the pack making it look unattractive. This would prove effective in discouraging smokers.

Considering the enormous health risks of the use of tobacco products, experts believe that plain tobacco packaging would be successful in the campaign against their use.