Lack of accountability mechanism, declining faith of public on judiciary, red tape scandals, inefficient and corrupt politicians and incompetent and greedy bureaucrats are major issues most Nepalis often talks about. Release of Nepali Congress leader Khum Bahadur Khadka, who was convicted of corruption in August last year, from Dillibazar jail today has once again brought the debate about corruption at the fore.
By Siromani Dhungana
We can simply call it euphoric. There were no hint of regret. Khum Bahadur Khadka, comparatively ‘popular’ figure in politics in spite of corruption charges against him, succeeded in showing his political power while getting out from jail today. His supporters, clad in t-shirts with BP Koirala’s image printed on them and Nepali Congress’s chartare (four-stars) flags in hands, cheered and celebrated. Some dubbed his move as a ‘BP with Corrupt Leader’ and blamed Khadka of trying to tarnish image of the most famous leader of Nepali Congress while his supporters argued the following:
Khum Badhaur dai matra bhrasta hoina. Dai hamro asthako Kendra hun, neta hun, daikko birruda shadayantra bhayeko chha (Khum Bahadur dai alone is not corrupt. We have faith on him and he is a leader. Some people has conspired him to put him behind the bar).
Both sides have logics. Generally, popular perception about corruption begins from a common question: who is not corrupt in this country? If s/he is not, it is due to lack of opportunity than personal integrity. It is a bitter fact to a large extent. Lavish lifestyle of politicians and rapid change in their lifestyle provide much room for public to smell rat in their activities. Bureaucrats are no different breed.
Today, I talked to some of die hard supporter of “Khum Bahadur dai”. They are furious over what they call ‘biased’ and ‘prejudiced’ decision against their pyaro (beloved) Dai. If Nepal’s judiciary was independent and free, almost half of the leaders alive today in Nepal (from all parties) would be in jail on corruption charge, they rightly argue. They openly challenged Commission for Investigation of the Abuse of the Authority (CIAA) to initiate investigations against all top guns of all political parties including Prachanda, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Sher Bahadur Deuba, Jhala Nath Khanal, Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar and Mahanta Thakur. Some supporters even questioned the integrity of president Ram Baran Yadav.
“We have been witnessing the lifestyle of leaders and unbelievable changes in their lifestyles,” a supporter said. “Kichimichi banaidina man lagchha, sab neta bhrasta hun hamro dailai matra fasaiyo [I want to smash all leaders. They all are corrupt but our Khum Bahadur dai became the scapegoat.]” he added.
On the other hand, Khum Bahadur Khadka has also been criticized for celebrating his release from jail in ‘victorious manner’. For instance, Setopati writes: “… it (celebration) is a satire to the political consciousness within us.”
Many posted on Facebook and Twitter saying “Bhrasta lai laj chhaina?” [The corrupt should be ashamed for what he did.]
In think, the debate will go on for next couple of months (definitely until elections are over). Some parties may make his release and celebration their election agenda and will try to prove him national antagonist.
But analyzing the particular incident is not sufficient to understand country’s corruption problem which has been chronic. Khum Bahadur Khadka has raised a very serious question, i.e., credibility of judiciary and anti-graft body.
CIAA had initiated action against Khadka based on a report submitted by the Lamsal Commssion. The Lamsal Commission submitted its report recommending strong action against some 2,000 persons remaining in the government posts after the restoration of democracy. Among 2,000 CIAA initiated action against some handful leaders and put the execution process on hold which is not justifiable and anyone can ask question: why Khadka alone was singled out? Officials at anti-graft body, can you justify why did you not take any action against remaining leaders and bureaucrats?
The reason is obvious: even activities of Nepal’s independent bodies are not transparent. They are not accountable to people. They don’t think it is their duty to inform people about their decisions. Such mechanism have been running in traditional manner where ‘powerful person’, it is believed, can easily make ‘powerless’ a victim.
Anti-graft bodies like the CIAA and the National Vigilance Centre are not in a position to investigate illegal property amassed by politicians, bureaucrats and civil servants. If they could, the face of our country would have already changed.
Who are not corrupt in this country? Let’s see some examples:
- A businessman always claims of suffering from loss but always makes malls and big complex in the downtown Kathmandu
- Investigation of cases related to tax evasion and tax avoidance are not transparent
- Every government employee under revenue group wants their posting in lucrative customs points
- A government official having Rs 30,000 salary dares to make his son/daughter a doctor
- A simple police officer can purchase land in Kathmandu valley within few years of his service
- A politicians who had entered Kathmandu with a pair of sandals has now big building and his son and daughter are studying in foreign country with scholarship
- Even some richest persons pays income tax equal to a normal businessman but tax administration cannot investigate
A good human can never support corruption. Corruption is not about amount of money but attitude of the given society. Corruption always weakens democracy and it is one of the major stumbling blocks to the development. But my opinion is very clear, anti-graft body should not be subjective. It should have clear reason as to why Khum Bahadur Khadka alone (and no others accused by the same Lamsal commission) was targeted?
Nepali society is very greedy and power-driven. They worship those who possess power and can display his power. Many people paraded today with Khum Bahadur Khadka because he, they think, is one of the ‘powerful people’. We should not forget that Prachanda, Dr Baburam Bhattara, Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar, Madhav Kumar Nepal, KP Oli, Mahantha Thakur, Sher Bahadur Deuba and dozens of other leaders are equally powerful in the same way as Khum Bahadur Khadka was/is.
Siromani is the editor of UWB. firstname.lastname@example.org