But Is This General Serious To Uplift the Situation of Soldiers in Nepali Army or These Photos Are Part Of His Publicity Stunts?
Gyanendra Serves His Boss: Chief Of the Aarmy Staff General Rookmangad Katawal being served his lunch by Sipahi Gyanendra Karki and Sipahi Mansing Nepali at the NCO’s Mess (Jawan Bhanchha), Army HQ, last week.
By Dinesh Wagle
Photos and captions provided by Nepali Army DPR
In the last several days, just like at the time of conflict when the army was involved in fighting with the Maoists, we have been receiving press releases from the Directorate of the Public Relations (DPR) of the Nepali Army in our inbox along with many pictures that depict the visit of different barracks around the country by the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Rookmangad Katawal. But the pictures are focused on showing only one aspect of the visit: that General Katawal is having lunch with soldiers in the Soldiers’ Mess. These visits have been described as the first of these kinds by the army. On the 5th and 6th of Kartik, General Katawal visited the barracks in Morang, Jhapa, Ilam, Panchthar, Bhojpur, Taplejung, Sankhuwasabha, Terathum, and Sunsari districts. “This is the first time a COAS has visited soldiers in remote army barracks and security base on the occasion of Dipawali,” a release issued by the DPR states.
So far so good. But there are some critical issues that deserve immediate attention from the General. There is an old debate about the not so good situation of lower rank officials and soldiers in Nepali Army. They have been exploited, may say, especially in the earnings they make while participating in the UN peacekeeping missions abroad. The quality of food provided by the Army to the soldiers is always in question. They deserve better food is what many say. We are not told in the releases but anyone can guess that kitchen staffs must have prepared the best food ever in their career when their boss visited barracks and ate in Jawan Bhanchha. Maoists in the past have repeatedly raised the poor situation of the soldiers in Nepali Army to instigate the soldiers against the leadership.
General Katawal is not a foreign ambassador so his visit can’t be questioned but we are eagerly waiting to see what he does to make soldiers happy. And they will be happy only when their situation is uplifted. We are pretty much sure General Katawal konws what makes soldiers happy: Reforming the institution, that was always serving the interest of one man, in the favor of democracy. Is he really serious for that job? Can he do that? And that is slightly difficult than helicopting around the country.
Reporter Khim Ghale reports in today’s Kantipur about the reform efforts initiated within the army. 166 servants out of nearly 600 are being called back, language used by the officers to the soldiers will be made respectable. That is to say an officer will not speak to the soldier in the language that he uses to address a dog, probably. And the food disparity in the Army will be removed which is very important. Ghale reports that General Katawal’s lunch in Soldier’s Mess in Kartik 3 is the inauguration of sort. These things are understandable but there is yet another point in the reform agenda: Including soldier’s wives in the Officers’ Wife Club. Why do we need this Wives’ Club? Why General Katawal doesn’t simply abolish the provision of this Club altogether? There is no point in talking about improving the thing that is not necessary at all.
General Katawal eating with soldiers when he visited barracks outside Kathmandu in Dipawali.
Again, General Katawal must not forget that the most important issue is exercising democracy in the army and making this institution accountable to the parliament and the government of Nepal elected by the people. He should act quickly and efficiently in that direction.