Uneasy Questions

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When Member of Parliament Rabindra Adhikari requested me to put my views on the release of his book at this Literature Festival, I could not say no as I had also written a preface to his book. But I was really clueless about what I should say, I still am.

I have to begin by saying two things. First, this is not an intellectual address. I'm not going to present the findings from a serious research conducted on a particular subject. Second, what I'm going to say will not follow a sequential order; rather, it will be just like the time we live, like the unexpected - many times down and lesser times up - bends our development and politics has taken, like the gap between our speech and our acts, like the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. It might, however, be a sequence of contradictions.

What is a contradiction? It is simply a bundle of questions fighting to get out of the narrow opening of feelings and experiences. The boon of contradiction is that questions are, or could themselves be answers. And it's not necessary for me to be saying what its curse entails - we all live it every day.

Another reason that I'm present before you with all my weaknesses is Pokhara. If this festival was not organized in Pokhara, I would not have come here or participated. For me, Pokhara is a city of excitement and longing.

About 59 years ago, when I was a little boy, my grandfather had taken me to Kathmandu from here by Dacota DC-3 plane, which is known as the remnant of the Second World War. Since then, every year I landed at Pokhara from Kathmandu during winter vacation and passed through Fusre Khola, Kuvinde Bhanjyang, Seti Dovan and Karkineta to reach my village Phalebas, Parbat. After the vacation, I returned the same way to Kathmandu. All through my student life, Pokhara always embodied a beautiful girl who I longed for but who always remained a mystery to me. Still today whenever I come to Pokhara, I feel the same adolescent feeling of excitement and longing.

There are two aspects of Pokhara that both attract and make restless the observer of Nepal's development. First is its spectacular natural beauty which attracts over 300,000 foreign tourists or 40 percent of Nepal's annual tourists' arrival. There are many beautiful tourist destinations in the world. But where else lies a magical place like Pokhara where you can sit by the banks of Fewa Laka situated at an altitude of a mere 793 meters from the sea level and get an unrestricted view of mountains over 8,000 meters and standing just 28 kilometers away?

Where is another place where, in the words of poet Bhupi Sherchan, Mt. Machapuchhre "merges its black and white cap of original Dhaka with the Fewa Lake" (Machapuchhre le 'ekabihanai milaucha Fewama aafno seto-kalo topi sakkali Dhaka ko') and seeks the meaning of its own being?

There are two Pokharas - one that comprises of western tourists roaming around Fewa Lake and Pardi and the other of locals and migrants of Mahendra Pul, Chipledhunga and Bagar areas. Achieving an easy amalgamation of these two Pokharas is the major challenge of Pokhara. Yet, as a tourist destination, I always find Pokhara mesmerizing, just like Seti River and Pokhara Valley are humbled by the serenity and height of Annapurna Mountain ranges.

Second problem is the terrifying urbanization of Pokhara. According to 2011 census, Pokhara is one among Nepal's largest cities with over 250,000 population. It is also the second largest city of Nepal with a population of 805,000 after Kathmandu (975,000). After Kathmandu valley, Pokhara is also the largest city providing education, health and financial services in hilly areas of Nepal.

One out of two persons in Pokhara is below 24 years of age. And one of three is a student. Pokhara is also the most linked city with Kathmandu in terms of transportation. In Nepal's hilly areas, Pokhara is the only city that has its own explicit economic influence over specific areas. This city provides services and facilities to seven surrounding districts.

Going back to 2011 census, Pokhara also has the fastest annual population growth rate of 5.5 percent. Due to increasing and uncontrolled urbanization, the wider roads have got narrower; pasture land and meadows have been completely destroyed. Probably, Pokhara is also the city that has the most encroachment of public land.

Worries over Pokhara's urbanization are not limited to this. Pokhara is the most geo-sensitive of Nepal's cities. Fast, uncontrolled and unmanaged urbanization has exacerbated this risk. In one way, Pokhara is waiting for a big disaster to strike. And, just like they do in other sectors, the government, political leaders, civil society, intellectuals are waiting passively and silently with assuming that things will be accomplished after the disaster. As if accomplishments happen spontaneously, like magic. Is Pokhara's and our fate destined to this misfortune?

I beg your permission to raise in this speech a few such uneasy questions that have been haunting me for some time now. These questions arose out of some small or big events and processes. Although some events were overshadowed, the burden of the questions they raised is same. I think it is relevant to raise such questions in literature festivals like this that has congregated thinkers. It is said the literature should raise questions.

Uneasy Questions:

1. Modi mesmerizes Constituent Assembly

In August 2014, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi visited Nepal and this became the most talked about visit of the year. Many guessed that Narendra Damodar Modi who had just been elected as the 14th Prime Minister with huge popular mandate, should have come with some new messages. The most significant part of that visit became his address to Nepal's Constituent Assembly. No Indian Prime Minister had ever before presented him/her so vocally and generously in Nepal.

Modi's speech managed to touch upon all the aspects that delight Nepali leaders and people. He praised Nepal as the land of Buddha's birthplace; reminisced about visiting Nepal as a young ascetic; described about deep traditional, religious and cultural ties between Nepal and India; emotionally elaborated the unanimity of Bishwanath and Pashupatinath. Modi explained to us Nepal's potential just like Jaambawan reminds Hanuman of his capability in the Ramayana. He elaborated about the herbs of the Mountain, water resources of the hills, agriculture of Terai, cultural heritages of Lumbini and Janakpur and the economic benefit that can be accrued from all these resources. He talks also dwelled on the expansion of transmission lines to increasing the number of tourists. He recalled Gurkhalis' sacrifice for India's security. In a manner as if Nepal is a donor and India a recipient, he talked about potential of electricity produced in Nepal to eliminate India's darkness.

Careful not to leave any room for skepticism, he said that India will buy Nepal's electricity, not take it for free. He gave a 'HIT' formula to transform Nepal through the development of Highways, Information ways and Transmission lines. He also promised line of credit worth one billion dollar. He also urged for 'Rishiman' (the ascetic's virtue) to accommodate all voices in making the constitution in such a way as if he himself is an ascetic, free of wants and desires. As if he hopes for nothing except everybody's happiness.

In brief, Modi presented himself so intimately as if there are no obstacles, intolerances, misunderstanding between the two countries. The members of our Constituent Assembly became delighted. Probably, no other proceedings in the Constituent Assembly had earned as much applause as Modi's address.

The delight was most visible when Modi mentioned about Nepal's independence and sovereignty. Everyone from the executive head of the government to the leader of opposition applauded with smiles they could not hide. It seemed as if even the Speaker would have clapped similarly had he not been in that role.

I, as a citizen of this small country, felt ashamed of the behavior of sovereign country's parliamentarians who, on television channels, express pride on Nepal never being colonized. Never before was such stark inferiority expressed in the history of Nepal. Are we not convinced about our own independence?

Even with India, reflection of our independence and sovereignty was recognized 91 years ago on December 21, 1923 when friendship treaty was signed between Nepal and Britain. In the views of Indian leaders, had this treaty not recognized Nepal as independent and sovereign nation and had not the socialist China risen in the north, Nepal's annexation to India would not have been impossible.

In this context, how should we understand the reaction of our leaders and parliamentarians to Modi's speech? Shall we understand it as the happiness over India's renewed recognition after 91 years? What type of independence and sovereignty is this that always requires other's assurance? As Bhupi Serchan said, have we lost our ability to walk ahead and should be constantly pushed like coins of carom board need striker to move? Have we lost our speed and are controlled by a striker?

After Modi's speech, I followed major newspapers for a few days to see if it is being referred to anywhere. However, except for a very few, neither did they question the motive of Modi's generosity nor mentioned about the expression of our inferiority. Modi is the proponent of neo-liberal economic policies. His economic growth centered on Gujarat model of development is in the rhetoric of many of our economists. Is there any place for abstract notions like independence and sovereignty in market economy? Or is this also a class question – whose independence? Whose sovereignty? Whose inferiority complex?

2. Post earthquake

When the 'Gorkha earthquake' of April 25 hit, I was walking just near Pokhara, in Dhampus. I was on my way to Ghandruk. We had just reached a chautari above a forest and wanted to take some rest. The hills shook for a few minutes, all birds flew. Only after some time, I was able to contact families in Kathmandu. By then, the fall of Dharahara had already become viral on internet. As I was in open space, I did not feel the tremor as in the cities. I returned to Pokhara. Roads and planes were all closed. It took a few days to return to Kathmandu.

Earthquake is not a new thing in Nepal. Earthquake risk is in the DNA of Himalayas; ingrained in its composition and structure. According to geologists, Himalaya Mountain ranges were formed after huge and destructive earthquake 400 to 450 million years ago. As long as the Himalayas stand, the risk of earthquake will remain. Like death, the prediction of earthquake – when, where and how - is still beyond human knowledge. However, we can be prepared for it as we do to postpone and prepare for death - like following the rules of eating and work out, consuming required medicines and building a dignified society.

The earthquake and incidents after that proved some of our assumptions, they destroyed some of our beliefs and clarified some doubts. We learnt that we have not had an established system and tradition of collecting and interpreting local information during the time of disasters. Our preparation for earthquake was totally insufficient. The institutional structures from national to local level were merely in paper, weak and unreliable. The tradition of mobilizing human and other resources was still non-existent at all levels. Local bodies had remained without elected representatives for one and a half decade. One generation had grown without knowing local representatives. The political parties, bent on fulfilling political motives in the pretext of the lack of elected representativeness, had destroyed the foundation of local information collection and monitoring. The professional preparedness for rescue was limited and almost non-existent. Our capacity to deliver relief materials and its mobilization, coordination, distribution and monitoring had not developed. We had not developed a coordination system for information dissemination for rescue and relief distribution. We had not embraced any established hierarchies.

Despite having larger than required bureaucracy, we were miles away from developing realistic short, mid and long term thoughts on managing disasters. We were poorer on thoughts than on resources. Most sensitive is that the state was totally unaccountable towards that group, class and section of the society (poor, women, Dalits, senior citizens, children) which requires state's support during disasters. That many families are still clueless, homeless and helpless even after nine months of the earthquake, is continuously corroborating this.

Many in Nepal were confident that a big disaster would give a new course to the politics. They firmly believed that after the disaster, wider interest would prevail over political interests. That political collaboration would start. That all forces would come together for national reconstruction. Yes, the disaster pushed political bickering for some time. But that didn't last long. The most important thing is that the spontaneous political collaboration didn't even start at local level in Nepal. This didn't fall in the priority of any political parties. Our hope that the parties will compete to win the hearts and minds of earthquake-affected people in remote areas through relief and reconstruction remained was not fulfilled to the least.

Nowhere could we come across views that state agencies, in coordination with other organizations, should provide basic services and facilities, temporary shelter and livelihoods opportunities to lower levels. As the affected population didn't get identification opportunity, many marginalized and poor families had to keep moving in search of relief support. Some of them are still wandering. Our belief that big disaster would make greater unity was shattered. The political leadership focused on securing its own areas. No wonder, many leaders who reached door to door for votes didn’t find it necessary to share the griefs of the quake affected. Few leaders who reached villages with relief materials posed for photographs along with relief goods in such a way that they were giving away these goods from their own pockets. The disaster did not end the politics of mutual sharing, it only institutionalized it. The political feud and delay in the formation of Reconstruction Authority were not only manifestations of prejudices of one or another political party; it was the result of irresponsible and unaccountable political culture which is hostile towards system building.

Some incidents after the earthquake, however, have helped us to remove some doubts. The doubt that the contemporary urban young generation is detached from social reality was removed. Thousands of young men and women collected as much as they could from friends, family and relatives and worked for rescue and relief. This injected new hopes in Nepali society. It could be that this devotion towards society and the country was merely a fad, but that has certainly opened avenues for new possibilities. Some urban middle class youths, for the first time, saw and realized the poverty, scarcity and deprivation of rural Nepal. And realized, which they had never before done, their duty towards society; learned that they have to engage with the society. Even the youth of Nepali diaspora participated in relief efforts by donating money. We also understood that if we can make them accountable, many works can be done through the non-government organizations too. Remarkable social harmony was seen in the villages and the cities. Although in small quantity, people of Terai-Madhesis also expressed their solidarity in the pain of the hills. At a time when politics was inciting communal discrimination, it was the symbolic demonstration of national unity. Such incidents showed that the foundation of this nation is not that weak. The police and army also did commendable job in rescue and relief. In some sense, they proved their relevance very well.

The greater responsibility post-quake still remains; we're yet to begin the reconstruction of the damaged houses, settlements and socio-economic infrastructures, the relocation of the settlements at risk, repair of the livelihoods and rebuilding of socio-economic relations, and those tasks impart the message of new, progressive meaning. What can we expect from state organs that could do nothing in nine months? Who will take the responsibility of considering and locating the houses in relation to infrastructure and settlements? Who will ensure the implementation of the established standards? Who will facilitate the access to tools and skills for those without them? Where and who will ensure that the lessons learnt from this disaster is put into use when similar disasters strike in the future? Who and how will these lessons be transformed into organizations and processes? Who will engage the citizens of all rungs and expand the scope of their capacities? Who will start the political process of civic engagement? [National Reconstruction] Authority? Government and bureaucracy? Or Parliament? Do political problems have technical solutions?

If mismanagement, scarcity and incongruity correspond to our conception of what constitutes normal, then we don’t have to wait for any disaster to strike. Because then, disaster is happening every day, all the time. Who will understand and make others understand this?

3. The Suffocation of Federalism:

Whatever arguments were put for or against federalism, or are still being espoused point us to one conclusion - that there is no uniform understanding about federalism in the context of Nepal. Some understood and pretended not to understand, many didn't want to understand, some didn't understand at all and others didn't want make others understand.

The first understanding about federalism in Nepal is centered on identity. The political parties and various caste/ethnic and religious groups that are protesting against historical discrimination only understood federalism as a means to claim their part in power exercise on the basis of identity based on caste, cultural, lingual and historical inhabitances. The goal of federalism according to this belief is that it is linked to complete autonomy, right to self-determination and special privileges to ethnic groups. Some see federalism as a means to materialize the provision of ILO 169. But the interpretation of ILO 169 provision is itself not clear and undisputed. Nevertheless, this line of thought clearly perceives that identity is the foundation of development and development that simplifies identity is meaningless.

However, is identity permanent, constant and independent? Or is it the expression of social and political power at a particular period of time? And, what constitutes the lowest unit of identity? These dilemmas of this perception towards federalism are inherent in the understanding of identity. Another dilemma of identity is that identity itself is curse to Nepal's most discriminated and excluded group – the Dalits. There was a reason why Dr. Ambedkar of India called for the 'Annihilation of Caste'.

The second view on the purpose of federalism only sees it as administrative reorganization and restructuring. What type of federalism would keep the social and political status quo intact? How to develop situations such that those groups and social classes that are benefitting in the status quo are not deprived of these benefits? How can federalism be easily managed? This understanding of federalism delves around questions like these.

There is another understanding of federalism that sees it as a means of total provincial development. This is the notion of integrated development based on three watersheds (Koshi, Gandaki and Karnali) and three north-south ecological zones (Mountain, Hills and Terai) proposed by the Fourth Plan. The three ecological zones of Nepal have their own characteristics and complement each other. Bio-diversity, adventure tourism and water resources are the characteristics of Mountain Region while cultural eco-tourism, vast water resources, bio-diversity and special type of agro-products are the features of Hilly Region. This understanding espouses that north-south federalism is the pro-development, easiest and scientific. The Development Regions were the result of such understanding or thoughts in Panchayat era.

There is yet another understanding of federalism. That is, federalism in the context of Nepal has to be understood in all three aspects of identity, inclusive development and devolution of state power; this perspective says that federalism cannot merely be considered from one angle.

The question of caste/ethnic and regional identity cannot be easily avoided. Identity is not merely an agency to formalize caste/ethnicity or regionalism. It is not sufficient just to say that Nepal is a country of various topography, caste/ethnic groups, languages, lifestyle and continuity of historical inhabitances. Respect towards this diversity should be reflected in the participation and representation in governance and values of the nation. Only then will Nepal's diversity be meaningful.

Has Nepal's identity embraced the identity of all caste/ethnicities, languages, culture and regions? Have our values adopted this diversity in symbolic forms at least? We don’t need to quote any statistics because for anybody wanting to see or understand the reality, the fact lies starkly clear before us. Now the question is how to turn federalism as a means to express embrace this diversity. Identity is not only about caste or ethnicity; this is also about ending the existing discriminations and inequalities. This is about establishing a tradition to be proud of the rich diversity. This is also about ending the rule of particular community, groups or regions in the name of diversity. This view is uneasy to some because it questions the existing social, political and economic status quo; it appeals to understand Nepal in a manner different from traditional notions.

Along with identity, the equitable and inclusive development is equally important. For this, we have to provide equal and equitable opportunities for all to participate in the economic and social development. On the other hand, we also have to create and mobilize natural and human resources for economic prosperity. Federalism is not only about identity, it also has to become the means of development. Therefore, identity has also to be seen in relation to available resources.

Another most important aspect of federalism is the decentralization and devolution of state power to the lowest level. There is an understanding in Nepal that sees decentralization as an alternative to federalism. However, the history and experience of decentralization in Nepal since the Sixth Plan has made it clear that without structural and constitutional obligations, the country that has centralized power for over two hundred years will not get rid of centralized and unitary mindset. The new tradition that federal provinces will develop the framework of their own development will not even start. And, the culture of devolution of power to lower levels and participatory democracy will not take off.

The suffocation of federalism that we are experiencing now is the result of the attempts by the major political parties and their main leaders to implement federalism as per their own understanding, convenience and interests. Federalism received legitimacy from the first Constituent Assembly as an exercise to transform socio-political realities of Nepal and restructure the state. The current suffocation is the result of just the opposite of that – to continue the prevailing status quo.

The crux of the problem is that the first Constituent Assembly became hostage of the identity-centric views of federalism and eventually failed. The Constitution promulgated by the second Constituent Assembly is revolving around second and third views on federalism. The first Constituent Assembly identified four basis of identity and five basis of viability. The second Constituent Assembly didn't establish any basis of federalism. In Nepal, particularly in Hilly and Mountainous areas, there is huge problem in the congruence between identity and viability. Neither was this problem ever mentioned, nor was it considered while carving out the provinces. Neither any principle was set out nor was realistic analysis of restructuring done. Consequently, six provinces became seven when there were voices of protest in Mid-West hills. The big parties in the second Constituent Assembly federated country according to their own convenience.

The hill-centric leaders of major parties failed to properly judge the strength of political groups of Terai because they measured it on traditional measures - on the basis of votes they received during the last Constituent Assembly Elections. The sympathy of the parties in power towards hills seemed antipathetic towards Terai-Madhes. Tharu and then later Madhes movement strengthened. Madhes movement sought support from neighboring India. Modi's ascetic heart got moved.  And as a result we have the the blockade. Now, federalism is no more the matter that directly matters only to us. Yet, we cannot go back; that is already past. Moving ahead looks suffocating but that is the only option.

Where did we fail?

Was our understanding that constitution made through the highest form of democratic exercise – the constituent assembly – would be made from the uniform and synthesized views about fundamental issues wrong and unrealistic? In the heat of the experience since 1990, the Maoist conflict and the 2006 movement, did we overestimate the capabilities and maturity of the major political parties and their leaders? Or, were we unable to foresee the growing fissures in our social, economic and political life and realistically analyze and manage them? While trumpeting nationalism, did we fail to properly evaluate our independence and sovereignty? And, did not try to understand differences within us? Did we fail to see others and cared only about ourselves? Will the suffocation of our future moves be guided by the answers to these questions?

4. Blockade and stones

On July 3, 2000, a picture of Edward Said, Professor of Columbia University of the United States, literature critic from Palestine and theorist, became public in which he was throwing a small stone towards Israel across the 'Blue Line' – the border between Israel and Lebanon - during his visit to the Middle East. This was a symbolic protest against Israel's unitary moves to encroach neighboring countries' land. It was just a small stone thrown across the border. However, the picture received worldwide attention. The Israeli supporters saw this act of Said as a terrorist activity. The same move was seen by Palestine supporters as a symbol of happiness over the independence of South Lebanon from Israeli encroachment. Nobody remained oblivious to the act of politically aware and responsible person to throw stones across borders. The international border, symbolically and physically, separates the space between ours and theirs, the space that we can claim and not claim. This symbolizes our belief and capability. 

This event of 16 years ago came to my mind after the protesters pelted stones from India to Nepal in the Indo-Nepal border. The relevance and importance of the Madhes movement is at its own place. There are arguments and counter arguments. There are views for and against it. There could be own logic for not adopting Mahatma Gandhi's Satyagraha, the non-violence resistance within own country by mobilizing thousands. There could be their own logic for threatening millions of people's livelihoods and daily lives for months to put pressure on the governing parties. But the undisputed fact is that country's economy has become stagnant and is melting down. Both the government and protesters are alive with support from smugglers and black marketers. First time in Indo-Nepal relations, it is not only blockade but symbolically many things are happening with clear backing from Indian government.

All of us saw the visuals of pro-Madhes movement protesters throwing stones at Nepal Police from across the border. How should we understand this act happening in front of the police across the border, and at their tacit approval? How should this be interpreted? Shall we understand it as the boycott of Nepal? Shall we understand it as the protest against and prohibition of Nepal, of which the protesters are themselves the part? Or as distrust towards our own beliefs? Who will answer these questions?

5. Finance Minister of the Year and quake affected people

On January 5, The Banker Magazine of the UK announced that Global and Asia Pacific Finance Minister of the Year Award will be given to our own six time finance Minister Dr. Ramsharan Mahat. This award was in recognition of his leadership in garnering foreign aid after the April earthquake. The magazine also mentioned his contribution towards good governance, efficient government and also for keeping many economic indicators positive, despite earthquake and Madhes movement.

The advocacy of liberal economy was started in Nepal by Dr. Prakash Chandra Lohani during Panchayat era in 1984 in the name of structural adjustment. Dr. Mahat not only continued these policies but also projected himself as a leader with pro-liberal economy thoughts among international financial institutions. He played role in opening various sectors of economics like air services to the private sector. Many state owned corporations running in or towards loss were hurriedly privatized (for many commentators, for 'petty sum').

Dr. Mahat's tenure as Finance Minister is not very remarkable from the perspective of economic growth rate as he lacked clear vision, plan and priority for state's investment in roads, energy and social infrastructures. On the contrary, the backstage music of BP's democratic socialism within Nepali Congress became less and less audible. Although the capacity to collect revenue increased during some period, the capacity for capital expenditure could not increase remarkably and sustainably. The tradition to regard foreign aid commitment as the success of economic policy began during Dr. Mahat's term. Privatization took speed; dependence on the market increased. However, neither industries and trade could expand and become sustainable, nor was trade diversified. Current total dependence in India is a result of the policies propounded during Dr. Mahat's tenure as Finance Minister. This is not the criticism of liberal policies adopted by Dr. Mahat – it is only a glimpse of our tendency to portray symptom as diagnosis and diagnosis as cure.

At the initiative of Dr. Mahat, Post Disaster Needs Assessment Report was prepared within three months and on the basis of that, despite skepticism from many fronts, a donors' conference was successfully organized. The donors committed 400 billion rupees in the conference organized with huge fanfare. This was a positive achievement for any government. The conference concluded; they congratulated each other and left for their own destinations. Only the quake victims looked towards Kathmandu with anticipation of necessary relief, the framework of restructuring and the actual beginning fo reconstruction works. Monsoon came and it passed. So did festivals. Constitution was promulgated, and just simultaneously began the Madhes agitation. Upon the agitators' request and India's compassion, blockade was imposed to add pain to the troubles brought by the earthquake. Months after the donor conference, a new government replaced the government Dr. Mahat belonged to. Then came the government of the current Prime Minister - someone who is portrayed as an enlightened being like Buddha but without any penance, the right, honorable, dreamer Prime Minister. And in the mid-winter we got the news that Dr. Mahat will be awarded the Global and Asia Pacific Finance Minister of the Year.

Undoubtedly, this is a matter of great pleasure for the country, this was a great achievement. The Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Confederation of Nepali Industries, Bankers Association and Nepal's reputed senior economists and all those who understood economics praised the achievements of former Finance Minister. Only the quake victims didn’t understand. How would they, as they haven’t understood economics? What they have understood is the assurance they have been given of shelter, clothes, two square meals a day, school for children, medicine, next farming season and work to earn some money. Do these things have any importance in economics?

Regarding ongoing mess in Nepal, honored former finance minister has his own complaints. How can he be rendered accountable to the effects inflicted on the country's economy by the Maoist People's war? How else could he have done differently when there were strikes, bandas, agitations, blockade and political instability? What's his fault that the production of factories were lowered because of loadshedding? How is he responsibble if the marginal farmers could not benefit from expanded physical and financial infrastructures? To have strong presence in market economy, there has to be three things that market knows – capital, required skills and technology and valuable land. How can it be Finance Minister's fault if the poor Nepali people with unskilled labor and old technology cannot compete in the market? What is his fault if the tectonic plate collide in Gorkha? And the likes. 

We should be thankful to him that Nepali economy is still alive due to his policies. Undoubtedly, by rewarding our former finance Minister, by recognizing his extraordinary ability, The Banker has done us Nepalis a great favor.

Lastly, as I wrap up, I have a small recommendation. If the Banker Magazine has an additional award, it should be given to millions of Nepalis migrant workers in Gulf, Malaysia, Korea, and other countries. At this time of disaster, this country is surviving on the remittance sent by these absentees, the honorary Finance Ministers who, who earned their money with their sweats, without any fanfare or high rhetorical speeches or without pleading before anyone for anybody. Our economic indicators are healthy due to the saline of their sweats and tears. Are not those migrant workers - those anonymous Nepali citizens who are supporting Nepal's economy through their remittance - not eligible for the award for top Finance Minister of the year 2016? Had they not migrated for work, which Finance Minister would have taken the burden of creating employment to 4 million youths?

While telling this, I am remembering Pokhara's Bhupi Sherchan again after 55 years:

We are feet,

just feet

and only feet…

We come first in the race, our chest receives the medal...

But the chest that offers the medal belongs to somebody else…

We are just feet which stand, run and walk

Merely at the direction of someone else.

Just feet

and only feet.

(Bhupi Sherchan – We, 1960)

(Translated from Nepali by Indra Dhoj KshetriKey note address delivered by Dr. Pitambar Sharma at the opening of Nepal Literature Festival in Pokhara on January 29, 2015)

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