It’s not so simple
By inking an 11-point pact on Tuesday, the Birgunj Chambers of Commerce and Industries and the Maoist-aligned All Nepal Trade Union Federation (ANTUF) have buried their hatchet for now by resuming production in the industrial units of Bara and Parsa districts but what is worth acknowledging is the power of honest give-and-take that can help resolve even thorny and long-standing disputes. Sticking stubbornly to one’s own stance and refusing to see any sense whatsoever in the dissenting party’s view can only aggravate the crisis. The success of the deliberations, spanning over a period of three days, lies in the fact that it was able to hammer out an agreement concerning some vital issues like ending the workers’ contract system, issuing appointment letters and providing the minimum wage of Rs 100 per day. In addition, vacancies will now have to be advertised, any more time spent over normal eight hours of work will have to be considered as overtime for which workers will be entitled to 150 per cent of the basic salary, benefits and salary for the Jana Andolan period will be decided through discussion between the workers and managements, and industries will not be compelled to reinstate workers who quit after taking their salaries. Though the agreement’s terms and conditions will take 45 days to implement, it is hoped that the accord has finally and amicably resolved all controversies on a long-term basis.
Industrial progress is key to modernisation and any effort to harm the industrial infrastructure and stymie development projects will hardly ever achieve the desired results. Closure of firms, including joint ventures, will hurt the commercial interests of foreign investors and discourage potential investments in the future. Attacks on businesses will only accelerate economic downfall, throwing more Nepalis out of jobs, with its multiplier effects falling not only on the economic but also on socio-political front. The Maoist organisations would, therefore, do well to translate their leaders’ commitment to respect the people’s right to livelihoods into action. A word or two of caution though on Maoist leader Dinanath Sharma’s emphasis on “independent and self-reliant economy upholding national interests” should be in order. His thoughts are not in tune with the modern day reality of liberalised market economy. Without being seen to be justifying the multilateral agencies’ tendency to dictate terms, one must admit the world is turning into a global village. Can an LDC like Nepal, sandwiched as it is between two emergent economic giants — India and China — survive in isolation? For example, Nepal simply cannot overlook her obligations to WTO and regional free trade accord SAFTA. Sectoral problems cannot wholly be separated from the basic issue of the Maoist insurgency. Unless the larger issue is effectively tackled, the minor irritants will continue to plague Nepal.