Hardship multiplied

The Industrial Security Group (ISG) and the European Union (EU) have denounced the Maoists for their recent attacks and threats of violence against business enterprises. According to ISG, such attacks result in the violation of workers’ rights and cause great damage to the livelihood of workers and their families as well as to the economy as a whole. The Maoists’ claim that they uphold workers’ interests amounts to a ‘pretext for extortion and an illegitimate means to achieve political ends,’ says the press communique, issued on Wednesday by the US embassy on behalf of ISG, a consortium of the chambers of commerce and industry of five democratic countries — the US, Britain, India, Germany, and France — which also includes the representatives of their embassies and a delegation from the uropean Commission. It also says closure of firms, including foreign joint ventures, will hurt the commercial interests of foreign investors and hit future investment in Nepal.

In the past, too, ISG had condemned attacks on industries. In July and August alone, such industries as Colgate Palmolive, Reliance Spinning Mills, tea gardens, Unilever Nepal, and Jyoti Spinning Mills have been attacked, with Unilever shutting down last week. The points raised by ISG are valid. At a time of deterioating economic performance, attacks on businesses will only accelerate this process further, throwing more and more Nepalis out of work, with its multiplier effects falling not only on economic but also on social and political life of the country.

On the other hand, it is not possible to separate sectoral problems, like the attacks on businesses, from the larger issue of Maoist insurgency that has plagued the country for a decade. In 2004, when the Maoists had shut down several dozen business firms, ISG had issued a similar statement calling upon the rebels to end “their criminal extortions” and “rejoin legitimate Nepali politics.” These exhortations are not enough whatever their merit. Unless the bigger issue is successfully tackled, smaller issues will continue to dog the Nepalis. With almost everybody realising that there is no military solution to the Maoist insurgency, it is sad to see that no serious efforts have been made towards that end, not as yet.