By Gaury S Adhikary
Letter from Michigan
I just got back from Kathmandu yesterday (2 March). Here is my perspective on current Nepal and where we might be heading in future. Nepal has many positives in the making, for example:
1. Little more than 10 percents of youth are heading out of Nepal for better opportunities outside India. I met many of these young lads on the way to Doha . Many of them are working in semiskilled and unskilled works, Mostly they are in service industries. It looks like the market has matured and Nepali workforce in Middle east has adopted its new workplace.
2. Kathmandu is awash with money: Real or imagined. Valley is built up form pillar to post and there is no spare land within the center of the city. There are more than 200 large brick factory working on overdrive. Financial institutions are lending money as if there is no tomorrow. So much so, Karmachari Sancahya Kosh is worth 55 Billion rupees and still needs vehicle for investment. Every hill top around Kathmandu is built up with a monastery or private house.
Kathmandu rivers are thoroughly polluted and it shows that valley is at the phase of meteoric growth rate. Similarly, as Kathmandu grows out of being a small trading route town to big metropolis of 3 million inhabitants, it has its share of vices: gangs kidnapping people for ransom, dancing bars for brothel etc. etc.
Kathmandu Growth rate soon needs to be stabilized and consolidated. I suspect this will start soon as the roads out of valley will connect rest of Nepal in next phase of growth.
3. Service sector in Kahtmandu is exploding. Means of transportations are plenty. Microbus Rs 10 per trip, Safa tempo, and taxis are plenty. Motorbikes and cars are freely available for credit (unheard in the past). Hospitals, both public and private, schools and tourist center are flourishing and maturing in its services to public as we speak. Almost all the roads within the valley are black topped.
4. Wholesale increase in professional group of Nepali is evident by what happened to me. I just stepped in my friend’s home for a dinner party. Someone handed over a phone and asked me to speak to the person on line. It turned out Kantipur was coming out with a Naya Nepal issue for Falgun 7th day and was seeking peoples’ opinion. I was briefly interviewed and my photograph was taken by a digital camera and sent over the internet. Next day issue was published on time!
While I was in Kathmandu, my brother was interviewed live in one of its “call in service” by a FM radio at Dang, Chitawan and Pokhara at various times. People asking questions were precise and animated, it felt alive!
5. I spoke to Bhim Bahadur Tamang, Nepali Congress Central Committee member and former minister after his visit to Nuwakot to assess Party position. He felt NC has its voter base intact and people are animated politically. I also got the feedback that CPN UML is well organized and looking forward to elections. Maoists are militant and committed and well organized. They are the wild card and their voter base is “unknown quantity” at the time. Madheshi Janadhikar Forum (MJF or MRPF) is a very recent spontaneous movement; its total impact on body politics of Nepal is unpredictable. However it has given enough energy to Madheshi people to organize better for future. Similarly, Limbu, Rai, Magar etc will have similar voices in Nepali politics in future. There is no question about it. What will be total impact is too early to predict at this time.
6. Finally, I had an opportunity to visit a village in Kavre (Bahune pati) on a day trip. What I saw in the village astounded me. It is in Panchkhal valley. From what I remember from my past memory is that this valley used to be surrounded by dry arid hills with little red dirt peeking out of naked hills all across. There was hardly any greenery in the past. This time the whole valley was irrigated, potato was planted row after row with Indrawati flowing on the side. All the naked hills were covered with lush green pines: thanks to community forestry; villager were looking after it as if life depended upon them. In the village I spoke to few community leaders which included ladies form local Fishermen community. They all seemed to be doing quite well for a village in Nepal. There was disposable income with them, village was served with a local health post connected with Dhulikhel hospital, it had 10 +2 school and the area was connected with rest of Nepal by all weather road.
[Just to digress: A novel “Abiral Bagdachha Indrabati” was based on social condition of this place. Basically this novel depicts a local village headman exploiting the poor condition of local Majhii community. It ends upon sad note that the condition has prevailed form time immemorial and must likely will continue. Just to prove it wrong, Majhi women I spoke to were assertive and seem to live in self dignity. Nepali village has definitely changed. Houses across the hills were two storied, with galvanized zinc roof top. I did not see any thatched low house of the past.]
To my pleasant surprise I found Nepali villager animated, sharing pain and pleasure as before, I saw children running around carefree, girls singing and dancing (it was Shiva Ratri day) and there was no evidence of depressed mood (that I expected following 10 years of violence in the villages). It looked like Nepali villagers have taken the changes in stride and are looking ahead for Naya Nepal.
What does it tell me?
I think Nepali have used their time to do the best they could on given situation. I feel Nepali people know and they have said: we want to be left alone to live in dignity, and they have a clear and loud message to political big wigs that they would like to have permanent peace.
This message has been heard loud and clear by all parties concerned. It includes major political parties, Nepal army and police, India and the US. There is lot of undercurrent for that power positioning in the center. That is what gives a sense of despair in Kathmandu but underneath everyone is jockeying for their consolidated power before going to Constituent Assembly election. At the time, politically Nepal is at the cross road. Any prediction is going to be laced with lots of uncertainties. But when we look at overall growth of Nepal and Nepali capabilities , political process cannot go backward or be hijacked by anyone group. I am confident Nepali people with their resilience and wisdom will bring the Nepali politics back to where it belongs: at the Center!
Gaury S Adhikary
Ann arbor, MI
[UWB: This article first appeared in a private discussion group on the Internet and is reproduced here with writer’s permission.]