It is no surprise that Nepal is a very corrupt country, but a cause of worry today is that politicians are robbing the state coffer openly and sometimes ‘proudly’ in Nepal.
This is an analysis of very recent allegations of corruption against our politicians, which have mostly gone un-answered.
Here are a few examples:
News 1: Nagarik Daily published a series of in-depth investigative reports (by Subodh Gautam) about erosion of Chure Hills in its February 22 and 23 editions. The news has hinted the apathy of the police to control rampant illegal activities in the Chure area. According to the articles, around 0.75 billion Nepali rupees have been misused under President´s Chure Conservation Program (PCCP). Can the commission for the investigation of abuse of authority (CIAA), an anti-graft body in Nepal, and the government agencies concerned, bring the guilty under scanner? Many believe they canno
News 2: On the February 22 edition, Annapurna Post published an article (by Govinda Pariyar) about import of sub-standard medicines worth Rs 500 million from India. According to the article, the government has been importing medicines that the Indian government has banned. The issue should have received a great deal of government attention, especially because this directly relates to the health of a large population, but no legal action has been initiated so far.
News 3: Speaking at the parliament meeting on February 25, UML lawmaker Rajendra Pande dubbed the fast-unto-death staged by Dr Govinda KC merely “a drama” (News published by Nagarik daily in February 25). Senior orthopaedic surgeon at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH) Prof. Dr Govinda KC had staged hunger strike at the premises of hospital putting forth seven point demands, alleging TU officials of being involved in graft and irregularities.
According to doctor KC, medical colleges often bribe TU officials to get licenses to operate medical colleges without meeting basic standards. The government was forced to address demands put forth by Dr KC following pressure created by his hunger strike. The government agreed to halt all process of issuing licenses to medical colleges for the time being. Issuing license to medical colleges is openly linked with bribery and corruption. But who cares? Rajendra Pande continues to be a powerful leader and lawmaker in Nepal.
News 4: On March 1, Kantipur daily published an article (by Sujit Mahat) about ‘Gundaraj’ in the country. In the news, it’s clearly mentioned that even the Prime Minister and ministers create pressure on police officers to release ‘Gundas’, if Gundas who them favors are arrested. Can any parliamentarian speak out against this open ‘Gundaraj”? The answer is: No.
Nepal’s Home Minister: a Mockery of the Rule of Law
The Home Ministry is supposed to control hooliganism and illegal activities (including aforementioned types) in the country. But can the Home Ministry do so in Nepal?
Our new Home Minister Bamdev Gautam’s reputation is tarnished to say the least. His own party CPN-UML had once publicly named and shamed him as the ‘corrupt number one’ during a mass meeting in Kathmandu. Further, his party had linked him with the infamous ‘gold smuggling scandal’. In 1997, when Gautam was Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for seven months, he was implicated for using the government machinery to support a gold smuggling ring. (https://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/08KATHMANDU982_a.html) Now, the same party has decided to pick him as the Home Minister. Why? No answer.
It is not that no one in our government cares about holding these leaders accountable. Time and again, there have been efforts to report and highlight corruption, but although law-makers agree about corruption, they dare not publicly name government officials. An example of this is a report submitted by a parliamentarian committee, 1999.
Then parliament formed a committee led by parliamentarian Pari Thapa. Some highlights of the report presented by the committee:
Smuggling was taking place with the active connivance and assistance of officials of various agencies like police, customs, NID, civil aviation etc.”
“These officials were directly involved in smuggling activities right from its planning to implementation stage.”
“Some political leaders and senior officials appear to be directly involved in certain cases of smuggling and other illegal activities.”
The report says smuggling (including gold) was talking place in Nepal’s Tribhuvan International Airport, the only international airport in the country. But failed to indicate who were ‘Some political leaders and senior officials’ were? Pari Thapa and members of his committee are still there but no one is ready to speak out. Why? No answer.
The report concluded that “Smuggling was taking place with the active connivance and assistance of officials of various agencies like police”. But did the responsible authority take action against the person leading the Home Ministry then?No.
And any guesses on who was leading the Home Ministry. Yes, it is the recently elected Bamdev Gautam.
To conclude, even the parliamentarian committee submitted a vague and ambiguous report. It shows even our parliament dare not speak out against corrupt leaders.
Now, the question to ask is, is corruption becoming socially accepted in society?
Slowly, the effect corruption on our politics is becoming visible in the mindset of an average Nepali. “He can be a leader because he has ‘money and muscle (goons)” has become, to some extent, a common perception among people.
People are angry and tired, and media houses often publish news about the connection between political leaders and goons but no one takes to the streets to protest corruption – an anomaly for a country where people have Nepal Bandhs, country-wide strikes for every distress.
People instead take to social media and everyday conversations to express their anger and frustration. But most of our leaders who are old, do not use technology or social media, nor are sensitive about criticism.
Even the private sector does not speak out against corruption. Nepal’s private sector often blames government and leaders of forcing them to forceful donations and unwarranted bribery at the bureaucracy level, but has never revealed even a single incident. Why? Perhaps because they are also involved in tax evasion and they have built connections with government bureaucrats to evade sentences.
In the end, a recently published “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013” by Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, US Department of State speaks much about degree of corruption in Nepal. Here are highlights.
“Corruption existed at all levels of government and police, and the courts remained vulnerable to political pressure, bribery, and intimidation. There were problems with self-censorship by members of the press.”
“Although the law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, there continued to be reports that officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.”
“Police corruption, especially among low-level and underpaid police officers, and impunity for police abuses remained problems.”
Yet, I refuse to believe that our society has lost power to speak out against corruption. I recently came across with a tweet by PeaceCorps: “Don’t just talk about a better world. Do something about one.” If all Nepalis started speaking about corruption, we would not only hold our leaders accountable but also create a better society.
(Siromani Dhungana is a Kathmandu-based journalist and Media Educator. He is also editor of United We Blog, Nepal’s first blog site. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @siromanid.)