By Ghanashyam Ojha
( Published in the Kathmandu Post Feb 5, 2008) Can also be accessed at Ekantipur
KATHMANDU, Feb 5 – Much has been said and written about extortion, intimidation and abductions by the Young Communist League (YCL) and its occasional dabbling in social work. But hardly anything has been written on the financing of this most sophisticated and perhaps most ruthless political machine with 40,000 full-time paid cadres across the country.
The Post approached a number of YCL leaders in Kathmandu Valley and asked where they got the money to keep their organization going? The answer was almost unanimous: “It’s the generous contribution of the people.” But there is more to it than that.
Consider room and board first: YCL provides Rs 500 monthly allowance and food and accommodation to its full-time cadres. At a merge Rs 60 per day for two meals, YCL needs to spend Rs 18,00 for each cadre.
For 40,000 cadres, the monthly budget (including allowance and meals) is Rs 92 million, which means one billion rupees in annual terms. On top of this, YCL needs to find accommodation for the cadres, who are ready to ‘act’ any time the party orders.
Maoist YCL workers perform a dance at a property at Kapan belonging to Nepal Bank Limited.
Photo by GHANASHYAM OJHA
Surprisingly, each of the YCL units is ‘self-sufficient’. The party doesn’t provide any financial support and has asked each of them to generate its own revenue. There are over 10,000 full-time YCL members, in 41 units, in Kathmandu Valley alone.
When asked how YCL manages its finances, Chandra Bahadur Thapa aka Sagar, YCL-in-charge for the Valley, said, “People provide it voluntarily.”
He offered a further explanation: People know that a parallel Maoist administration exists in the country and they cooperate, providing us financial assistance.
He proudly elaborated how his 300-member YCL unit, based in Balaju, has constructed new buildings for the unit with the help of ‘generous’ support from local people. “Generous people provided us bricks, cement and other items. So we were encouraged to build new houses for our comrades,” he said pointing to a construction in progress.
Pratap Gurung aka Mausam, YCL-in-charge of Kapan, also says he has been running his 100-member YCL unit smoothly with ‘generous aid’ from people in different walks of life.
“Shoe factories provide us shoes and various other industrialists provide food and other items. Even some hoteliers here willingly give us a monthly levy ranging from Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000. So we have not faced any financial problems so far” says Gurung, former company commander of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Third Division in Chitwan.
He also claimed that since the YCL punishes any criminals operating in the area, many business entrepreneurs and hoteliers are happy to provide them a monthly donation as ‘levy’.
Mausam’s team has occupied a garment factory, which is essentially the property of Nepal Bank Limited. The bank seized the factory after owners Laxmi Acharya and Sher Bahadur Thapa failed to repay debts.
But that’s bank property, how can you take it under your control? “Our party (Maoist) will soon talk to Nepal Bank and request it to sell it to us us at a reasonable price,” he said.
The locals in Kapan refuse to talk to the press about what they think of YCL activities in their vicinity. “I don’t want to speak about it,” a local hotelier told the Post, refusing to reveal his identity.
Forget the locals, even Kathmandu police refuse to comment about the YCL on record. A senior police official, preferring to remain unnamed, said, “The people are forced to provide money to the YCL.”
He also said the YCL has taken the law into their own hands in the name of maintaining security in various places.
“It’s an open secret that the YCL has been operating as a parallel administration in the country. Although we document their crimes, the government dissuades us from taking action against any YCL person. So we just ignore any crime in which the YCL is involved,” he said.
Police records, obtained by the Post, show that the YCL has set up offices in 23 locations in Kathmandu Valley alone.
When asked about the future of the YCL, Sagar, former brigadier commander of the PLA Dinesh-Ramji Battalion, said, “Once we form our government, it will be dismissed.” Till then, the ‘generous aid’- euphemism for soft extortion – will continue.