Owing to a classic case of lack of coordination between different government agencies concerned, computers slated to arrive in Nepal long before the Net Day on Saturday are still stuck at the Tribhuvan International Airport. The cargo section at the TIA refused to release the 50 used laptops that a fellow well-wisher from Japan brought to Nepal with help from the Royal Nepal Airlines that waived the cargo fee on those laptops. The Net Day programme is spearheaded by members of the Nepal AOTS Alumni Association, a body of Japan-returned Nepali students, to equip five state-run schools with an Internet connection. It is unfortunate that according to the spokesperson of the Association an official at the Ministry of Environment and Population allegedly demanded a bribe of two laptops to release the computers. If Prakash Suwal’s allegation is true, nothing could be more unfortunate than a civil servant holding the progress of a concept to ransom, conceived by people who thought could bring a change in the academic climes for the poor.

It is anybody’s guess that in most cases it gets awfully long for the Nepali bureaucratic machinery to creak into action, including in times of urgency. And what Suwal witnessed is a problem that citizens have long been made to face at almost every office. Unpardonable as underperforming or procrastinating work on the part of an official is, equally disgraceful is the act by a civil servant to grind to halt a programme conceived, funded and launched for the sole benefit of the needy. While the constraints the cargo section might have faced owing to existing regulations is understandable, those at the the ministry who could have released the computers with a single letter must share the blame for the project’s failure to take off. For those with strings to pull, no hurdle is big enough while for those without any political patronage and other bureaucratic links, even the noblest of causes have been rendered ineffective partly because of official bungling of one kind or another.

There is no making bones about the underfunded government schools. They face lack of infrastructure, trained teachers, textbooks and facilities otherwise vital for education, leave alone computers or an Internet connection. Instead of being grateful for someone ready to offer Internet experience to students who might not have come across a computer, sparing the inhuman face to those funding that project was the last thing the official at responsible position could have done. The concerned Ministry and the officials at the cargo division at the TIA must collaborate and release the computers without further delay. A single officer’s greed should not be allowed to stymie such a novel cause.