Of human security

Government leaders and army officials continue to claim that, since February 1, the overall security situation in the country has improved a lot. The promised municipal polls, for example, are being portrayed as a reflection of this. However, others give a completely different picture. Even statements from responsible quarters in such countries as India, the UK and the US, the main providers of military aid to Nepal, suggest that during these six months the security situation has not improved, to put it mildly. The official claims might have some merit only if the Kathmandu Valley were allowed to reflect the whole of the kingdom. But it is generally agreed that most of the countryside is still under Maoist threat or sway.

In Ilam the other day, several civil servants had been abducted, later released, because they happened to defy the Maoist orders for the highway bandh. Similarly, transport has come to a grinding halt after the rebels obstructed the road from the 24-mile-long stretch of the Tansen-Butwal section to Dovan of Siddhartha Highway, also affecting vehicular traffic on other roads leading to such places as Pokhara, Syangja, Gulmi, Arghakhanchi, Palpa, Rupandehi, Nepalgunj and Gulariya. In Jhapa and Ilam districts, 22 big and over 150 small tea gardens have not reopened since the Maoists, putting forward their 15-point demand, ordered them closed nearly three weeks ago. As a result, some 45, 000 workers face the problem of feeding themselves and their families. These examples give a fairly good idea of what the security situation may be like in the remote districts.

Blockades, bandhs, and other restrictions often hit the poor the hardest. All sides to the political or the military conflict need to be more sensitive to the consequences of their actions on the general people, if their claim to work for the people is to carry a semblance of credibility. The government should also realise that mere repetitions will not make the public believe its claims about security. If the government actually delivers, the public will feel it and trust it. But the problem with this non-party government is that few think it has done better than the political parties, despite huge curbs on fundamental freedoms and exercise of human rights.