Nepal has had too many bandhs, strikes and blockades over the last decade. This trend has increased in the last couple of years. The Nepalis seem to have taken these things in their stride so much so that there have been several bandhs and strikes fed by rumours. In the immediate past, the two-day general strike organised by the agitating five parties was closely followed by the three-day Maoist bandh. And now the countryâ€™s educational insitutions face an indefinite strike at the hands of the All Nepal National Independent Students Union-Revolutionary (ANNISU-R) starting on June 6, barely two weeks away. This Maoist-affiliated student body says its action seeks the immediate implementation of the agreement it had reached earlier with the government and the school owners.
Its programme of action includes a week-long promotional campaign beginning on May 23, followed by another week of actions against the â€œcorruptâ€ officials violating the agreement lasting until June 6, when the nationwide strike is to commence. The ANNISU-R and the private school owners had agreed to slash the fees by up to 29 per cent. The government had agreed to provide free education up to the secondary level and the Higher Secondary Education Board, to reduce 25 per cent fees. The ANNISU-R has said it is compelled to go ahead with the protests after its ultimatum has passed.
There is also pressure from other seven student organisations affliated to various political parties for reducing fees and other charges. Nine months ago, the government had appointed a committee consisting of various representatives to look into the matter. The negotiations among the government, the student organisations and the private school owners had taken place just a few days ago, but several sticking points remain. Indeed, it is the successive governments, including those of the Panchayat period, that failed to regulate the mushrooming private schools properly. While the laws and regulations, or the lack of them, tended to favour private school owners, rather than the students, the parents and the staff, the government neglected the public schools. Another problem has arisen because governments often reached agreements without intending to carry them out. Thirdly, the triangular political confrontation has contributed to an escalation of protests by students who stand at the forefront of the political agitations. Hardly any solutions to the increasing protests, agitations, violence and demonstrations appear on the horizon unless credible steps are taken towards peace and political settlement. How long the Nepalis will have to live like this will, therefore, depend on the kind of role the countryâ€™s major political forces decide to play.