Gagan Thapa may be the best argument yet for old politicians in Nepal making way for young blood. Wise before his time, down-to-earth, articulate, passionate about the major issues plaguing Nepalis -- whatever their backgrounds or ethnicity -- Gagan has quickly emerged (from leading Nepal Congress' youth organization) as one of the most insightful officials elected to last year's newly created Constituent Assembly.
Our meeting took place several weeks before Prachanda stepped down as Nepal's first Maoist prime minister. My questions included Maoist leadership, brain drain in Nepal, the writing of the constitution and shortcomings within Gagan's own party. His answers were, as always, generously seasoned with candor.
DUNHAM: How much headway has the constituent assembly really been able to achieve in creating a new constitution? Should the people be concerned that the constitution is not going to be written by the deadline next year?
GAGAN: Yeh, let me start this way. The first four or five months of this new constituent assembly was, in a way, wasted. If you look into the use of the time during that initial period, it was a complete waste in terms of the writing of the constitution. We managed to address organizational matters of the new government -- we elected a president, that sort of thing. But it took five months to get to the creation of fourteen different committees to begin the process of writing the constitution. Out of the fourteen committees, eleven were subject committees and three were technical committees. Had we created these committees at the beginning, by now, we would have concluded at least the first part of the constitutional writing.
After the formation of the committees, it took another two months to lay out the outline, discuss the issues with experts, and then we decided to go to the public and seek their opinions. But thing is, this aspect was not well discussed in advance. The procedure we adopted to seek public opinion wasn’t very scientific.
To begin with, the questions posed to the public were so complicated that lawyers would have to spend five hours to answer the questions that arose from the technical language used in our questions; especially the people living in remote areas could not understand the language because of all the technical jargon.
Another problem was the criteria for sampling public opinion. It was done on a more-or-less ad hoc basis – no consistent system had been adopted. We distributed over 300,000 questionnaires but it doesn’t look as if anyone knows how to process the information. Any number of people have expressed their views in different ways – that is to be expected – but the question remains: How should the information be processed? Only now is the Secretary of the Constituent Assembly discussing this issue with the Central Bureau of Statistics. “Is there any way to help us out?” But the bureau has responded by saying that it doesn’t have any specific answers as to how to resolve this issue.
Now we have collected the questionnaires and now we have only one week left. Within this week, all the eleven subject committees have to finish writing the concept -- the first draft for each subject committee. It means that the next week is going to be very telling, extremely crucial. It will indicate if we are on the right track or not.
As a member of the CA, what I’ve observed is that it’s easier for some of the subject committees – those that are dealing with less controversial issues -- to finish this task on time. But for the committees that are tasked with issues like creating new states within the nation or deciding on the intricacies of the electoral system, the work is much more difficult.
And then there is this: We have already spent almost a complete year sitting across the table from one another, but so far, the members of the various political parties have discussed these issues only among their own party members, not the other parties. We have been listening to various experts, both domestic and international. We have been listening to the people’s opinions. But we – the various political parties – haven’t talked to each other. So no one knows: We only know the public position of our own political party. It remains to be seen how flexible the parties will be on any given issue.
The law says that two-thirds of the CA has to endorse each and every article. It means that there must be consensus among the major political parties – the Maoists, Congress, UML, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum – only if we can achieve consensus among ourselves can we move forward. Let’s take an example: The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum – it is their political position that they want one single Madhesi province. Congress is set dead against it. UML has a different viewpoint. The Maoists have a different viewpoint. So far, these are the parties’ positions. But to write this into the constitution, you have to arrive at a consensus. In order to do that, you have to start talking to each other and determine how flexible can one party be, what can be the common points of interest. This crucial process hasn’t yet begun.
Another thing that I have observed is – honestly – it’s again the issue of the political parties. We have 601 members in the CA, from diverse backgrounds. We represent diverse communities, diverse interests – that’s one side of the coin. But the other side of the coin is that again we are members of different political parties. My observation is that the parties still hold sway over their CA members, not the communities whose interests the politicians are supposed to represent.
My point is that it’s not only what’s going on within the CA. The most important thing is what’s going on outside the CA. I mean, the Maoists, Congress, UML, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum – forget about what’s happening inside the CA. Let’s imagine that all the various parties were right now in good working relations with one another, that they were moving forward with a common aim within a framework of a particular time, that they were listening to each other, trying to make compromises – then it’s going to influence what’s going on inside the CA.
But what if it’s not happening like that? The problem is that the working relationship within the major political parties is getting worse, not better. There is stark polarization between the parties. The truth seems to be that the writing of the constitution is not a priority in the CA.
DUNHAM: If that’s the case, what happens, psychologically, to the mindset of the Nepali people, if the deadline for the completion of the writing of the constitution, in May 2010, comes and goes without the CA’s task having been achieved? Granted, there’s a stipulation that the time can be extended for another six months. Nevertheless, the people are sitting, waiting, watching -- listening, time and again, to their political leaders assuring them that the constitution will get written on time. What happens to the general morale of the voters who put stock in the member of the CA to get the job done? Isn’t there a real danger of the public just getting fed up with the whole process?
GAGAN: Exactly. Just after the election of the CA for the declaration of a republic, people had such high expectations. They were expecting some difference in their own lives – positive indications that things were going to be better in the coming days. That was the public mood. But so far we have been unable to deliver on these promises. People are not very happy with what has happened in the last year.
But is spite of that, there remains a hope, stemming from the mere presence of the CA, that it is making enough progress that life – in spite of growing skepticism – is going to get better. But once the public concludes that the CA is incapable of writing a constitution, people will become so disenchanted with the peace process, as you said, that things would become really difficult for political parties to control.
DUNHAM: Then things get really ugly. The blame game. Maybe the Maoists going back to Plan B, for instance – the unfinished revolution, all that.
GAGAN: Then things get really ugly. But I’m more worried…I mean look at all the new political groups. Look at the eastern districts where groups are demanding an autonomous ethnic province. You can see this all across the country. Right now, these demands aren’t getting organized to the point that people are rallying around them – right now they’re not getting the public support that they would like. But once the public realizes that the CA is not getting the job done, then these people will cease looking for the big political parties for help and they will take the lead within their own constituencies. They won’t wait to see what the CA will do. This will lead to a kind of political anarchy. The parties that were main players in the peace process will be elbowed to the sidelines. That is my worry.
I have traveled all over the country in the last one year. I have seen this mood. In the western part of Nepal for example, Tharus are demanding a separate province. As it stands now, it’s the CA that is supposed to decide this issue. Still, the Tharus continue to organize so that they will be in a better position for bargaining with the CA. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if they conclude that the CA is incapable of doing its work, the Tharus will stop demanding anything from the CA. They will claim their province on their own – with or without the CA’s approval. This kind of thing might not only lead to political anarchy but civil war as well. That is my worry.
DUNHAM: Something else that I find worrisome is recent Maoist belligerence – I’m thinking of Dr. Bhattarai’s public attack on the judicial system. My belief is that the judiciary should always be kept separate from the political arena. Other political parties have registered objections to Bhattarai’s attack, but it takes more than an objection or two to put an end to such lambastes – to safeguard the independence of the judiciary. Do you agree?
GAGAN: I do agree. We’ve been discussing this situation in my party as well. We have been disrupted in parliament for the last twenty days because of this. We would like Bhattarai to come to parliament and make a statement as to why he condemned the Supreme Court in public and to make it very clear what his party’s position is about judiciary independence. That was the issue we have been distracted by instead of addressing other issues involving the YCL and all of those things – principle issues.
Clarification will of course help the entire peace process as a whole. Again, the Maoists have to commit to what they agreed to in the peace agreement and they have to express their commitment to respect the independent judiciary. But unfortunately neither Congress nor UML has pressed this issue. Instead, they have focused on less vital issues.
DUNHAM: What about freedom of speech? Freedom of the press? The press has been under attack by the Maoists, coming, I guess, on the heels of Prachanda’s son being photographed dead drunk. The Maoists reacted by castigating the press – calling them everything from foreign lackeys to smugglers. Mustn’t they also be held accountable for that, if they support a democratic society?
GAGAN: Mikel, there is one interpretation that, in a very planned way, the Maoists are trying to weaken all institutions -- the press, the judiciary, the industrial sector, the military, and the school system – everything in a deliberate way. That’s one interpretation. I still don’t want to believe it. We have to wait for the coming days to see whether this is true or not. But there is a pattern emerging – the back and forth.
After the Prime Minister came back from his European tour, he condemned all the political parties. The next day the characterization of the press as “smugglers” came out. The next day, in one particular program, a senior Maoist leader challenged the rival political parties by saying, “If you’re going to change the government, you’ll have to face the consequences.” Then, Prachanda came to parliament, completely conciliatory, and said he was ready to listen to any political party – this backward and forward – this has been the pattern for the last six or seven months. Neither have the Maoists stopped attacking institutions, nor have they stopped making the conciliatory statements.
DUNHAM: A well-choreographed plan to create confusion and maintain confusion? When people are confused, they don’t act.
DUNHAM: Is it a fishing expedition to see how far they can push the envelope? I’m including here the recent attempted enforced retirement of the generals.
GAGAN: The generals are quite a different case because G.P. Koirala did the same thing after he became prime minister after Janandolan II. He didn’t extend the period for a few generals. So that’s why it doesn’t really allow the moral ground for other parties to come out and object. That’s one thing. Another thing is that the impression of the national army hasn’t been completely positive. That issue will have to proven, resolved in the coming days. But you’re right about the confusion.
What I’ve found, when I travel to different districts, is that there is a kind of frustration even among the Maoist cadres – not just people like us.
When I talk about “us”, I mean the people who did not vote for the Maoists. But when the Maoists first came into power, I personally thought, “OK man, they are going to run the country in quite a different way. They are going to set some principles and standards that we will have to follow. And it’s going to benefit the whole political system. The parties like National Congress and UML will have to meet those standards. They will have to democratize themselves, look for different perspectives – the Maoists are going to change everything.” That was my expectation.
There was another thing going on -- during the build-up to the election -- before Prachanda was elected. The country was expecting an ongoing high level of charisma from that individual. The people of Nepal have seen Koirala leading the country, Deuba leading the country. The general population was thinking, “This man is going to make a difference.” And since then, Prachanda has disappointed a large portion of the public.
But, in traveling to the various districts I’ve seen that, even though some of the Maoist cadres are disappointed and frustrated, the Maoist party, itself, doesn’t bother itself too much about all these things. They are so busy in their expansion of their organization -- they are so busy in penetrating certain established organizations -- that they are giving the impression that they don’t care about the popular vote.
DUNHAM: Then what do they care about?
GAGAN: They care about the strength of the party itself.
Right now the Maoists can beat any of the other political parties, as far as the number of active cadres, the resources, the capacity of mobilization are concerned. And this is what they are focusing on, rather than addressing or influencing a large portion of the population with good policies and programs. They are more concerned with expanding the organization.
DUNHAM: Expansionism is one of their superlative talents.
DUNHAM: Their ability to define who they are for public consumption is also very impressive. Someone told me the other day that – someone who loathes the Maoists: “The brilliant thing about the Maoists is that they are perceived by the public as having a plan. What’s the Congress’ plan? What’s the UML’s plan? It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. The point is that the Maoists have won in the perception game that they are the party with a plan.”
GAGAN: It’s not only the outsiders who are saying this. Even inside our party, we are so concerned about Nepali Congress being out of power, that our effort is focused on getting back into power and mobilizing our cadres and instigating party programs. Why are we doing all this? We want to win the next election. We need to make all the proper preparations to win the next election. That’s all obvious.
But my question to party leaders is, “What are we going to do, once we regain the office? We don’t have any plan. Let’s discuss this. We are just discussing that we are worried that we are out of office. Are we going to repeat the same mistakes that we have made in the past? Have we ever discussed that, after getting democracy in 1990 – when everywhere in the worldwide communist movement -- Russia was collapsed, even in China, the communists were reforming themselves – and yet in tiny Nepal, the communists exhibited new life! Why is that? Have we ever discussed that within our party?”
So it’s not only about looking at the Maoists. It’s also about looking in the mirror. In 1990, we, the Nepali Congress were the major political party; we were running the government. So where did we fail?
It was the weakness of our programs. It’s always about the programs, Mikel. Even in the most recent bi-elections, what we have seen is that the constituency that used to be ours, the Nepali Congress’ – the poor, the disadvantaged, the Dalit – they are no longer with Congress because they believe that Congress, even if they came to power, would no longer serve or address their needs. That’s the public’s perception of Congress.
Does the perception fit the reality? Does Congress accept that perception? Does Congress think of itself as a party that does not offer solutions to the ultra-poor? Have we become more about serving the interest of the middle-class?
If you look at our election manifestos, we are still described as a party with a socialist approach. We define ourselves as social democrats. Really, if you compare our manifesto with the Maoists’, there’s not a significant difference. But what about our policies? How can we make people believe that we’re not the same old Nepali Congress?
DUNHAM: Well, why would anyone change their mind about Congress as long as G.P Koirala is leading the party? He represents the past and all that went with it, not the hope of a better future. When I think of G.P., I don’t think of a new Nepal.
GAGAN: Mikel, what I’ve seen during the recent bi-election and student elections is that -- although Congress wants to portray itself as the party that is for the democratization of Nepali society, that we abide by democratic principles, that we want to democratize all institutions, that we take credit for bringing in the Maoists from the underground into the peace process and convinced them to accept all the norms of a democratic polity -- people haven’t trusted our claims.
Why? Because G.P. Koirala controls all the party decisions. It’s a one-man show. It’s a one-man party.
DUNHAM: Autocratic. The perception is that Congress is autocratic.
GAGAN: Yeh. And people have read this in the newspapers, they’ve seen it for themselves, they’ve observed it, and so they don’t trust our party’s claims to the contrary. How can you trust a “democratic” party that is saddled with an undemocratic inter-party process? How is such an organization going to democratize society as a whole? Prior to 1990, the party’s internal process was limited to private sympathizers, but today the party’s actions are a public affair. In the 21st century, people have come to expect transparency in party matters – party affairs are no longer regarded as a private affair.
You cannot control the thinking process of any individual. These days, an individual will judge for him or herself, if a party serves democratic goals. That judgment will be based on the party’s working style. And Congress’ non-democratic style is it’s major defect.
Honestly, the whole peace process is suffering from Congress’ defects. Had Congress been stronger, it would have helped to keep the Maoists in check. Keeping the Maoists in check would have helped the whole peace process. Even if the Maoists had had some sort of secret game plan, a strong unified Congress could have forced the Maoists to abide by the peace agreement.
DUNHAM: Let’s talk about unity. What are the key issues that prevent Congress and UML from uniting to create a majority rule?
GAGAN: This is the irony. The UML has already proved that, as far as the political system is concerned, it doesn’t have a different stance from Congress. You cannot doubt UML’s commitment for multi-party democracy. It maintains a communist ideology, but you cannot put the UML and the Maoists in one basket. Therefore, there is room for Congress to start a meaningful dialogue with the UML.
But again it’s this thing of one party trying to prevail over the other. And what has happened is that the two parties are, in fact, drifting apart, not coming closer together. I always see the room for a genuine dialogue to exist, but the parties aren’t picking up on the opportunity. There again, on the UML’s part, it seems so unified, but there are very different viewpoints within UML leadership.
DUNHAM: Are we talking about ideological differences?
GAGAN: No. What I see is personal issues. Power games within the party. But again, instead of blaming UML, I prefer to get back to Congress, which also has issues with personal power struggles.
NC claims to be a watchdog for democracy, for helping UML to get on board with the democratic process. So it’s in NC’s court to initiate a dialogue with UML. The differences are so few between the parties -- except that the UML wants an executive Prime Minister, who would be directly elected by the people, while Congress wants a parliamentary democracy in which parliament elects the Prime Minister. But 25 parliamentarian members of the NC came out with a different proposal, which was identical to the UML proposal for the election of the prime minister. It’s not a major difference, which proves that we can discuss this. It’s just about a model. The difference is not insurmountable.
But let’s return to the most basic question: What is the constitution about? The constitution is about the foundation of society. What foundation do you want for a new society? And it’s the same: the NC and UML proposals are the same. We both want a welfare state that takes care of health, education, employment, and the right to private property – even if the state doesn’t run the business, it must still oversee the operation.
You will not find a single difference between NC and UML. We can come together but we have not. That’s the irony.
DUNHAM: What would it take to induce NC-UML unification: A major controversial development coming from the current government? And if so, might that not be too late?
GAGAN: Yeh, exactly. It would be wiser if the two parties took the initiative, rather than to wait for a common threat. Otherwise it could be too late and just a political reaction. Let’s say UML and NC could form some kind of alliance: It shouldn’t be against the Maoist; it should be tailored to take the peace process to its logical conclusion – exerting enough pressure on the Maoists to abide by the previous peace agreement. Such a partnership between UML and NC would really boost both parties in the esteem of the Nepali people.
DUNHAM: Again, back to the general public’s perception of politics. The image that sticks in my minds is one in which all the parties are standing in a straight line, shoulder-to-shoulder, looking at each other, pointing the finger at each other, instead of lifting up their feet and stepping forward. Of course issues arise that must be addressed – I’m thinking of the recent Tharu movement here – but the parties must also keep their eye on the prize: peace in Nepal. The parties are far too easily distracted, in my opinion.
GAGAN: But there are issues that must be addressed. One of the issues that is really pressing on Congress and UML alike is the integration of the Maoist combatants into the national army. A party with an army cannot be compared with non-armed parties. It is a primary concern. You cannot just expect the Maoists to say, “OK, the army has been dismantled, don’t worry about integration.” That’s not the reality and, in the past, we recognized this as a primary issue in the peace agreement, in which we stated that the combatants would be kept in cantonments and dealt with in a very thorough process.
We can doubt Maoist motives. OK, fine. But we signed a 12-point agreement promising to deal with the issue. Why did we do that? Why did we agree to Maoist-inclusive elections? So now, why do we drag our heels in dealing with an issue we agreed on? Until and unless we satisfactorily deal with the question of army integration, we cannot say that we have concluded the peace process. We have to deal with it. We have to open the basket.
But what do the Maoists really want? They have been saying different things in public. They have been saying one thing to the civilian community and they have been saying other things to the combatants. So we have to address the problem once and for all. This is not going to just go away. There is no magic wand that can be waved around to fix the problem.
DUNHAM: True. But to what extent have the combatants been asked to help solve the issue? Has anyone really gone to them, without coercion, and asked them what they want? Have they been given real options, or are they just sitting there waiting for Maoist leadership to tell them what to do? How many of them want to remain in a military?
GAGAN: International groups, including the Indian government and the World Bank, discussed this. Both groups offered the Maoists all the financial assistance they needed in order to give these combatants real options: Option A was to given them enough money that they could reestablish themselves in the community; Option B was to join the national army; Option C was to open up new avenues for them like working for the police, the armed police, or creating a new industrial security force. These were real options.
But there was skepticism that, as the Maoists have complete control over the combatants, very few would risk accepting the options -- that they would be too intimidated by the desires of Maoist leadership.
But my view is that, if you don’t offer the options, how can you ever hope to know what the combatant would like to do? Simply crouching behind skepticism doesn’t answer the question, does it?
DUNHAM: Say the integration does take place. What happens to the professional fabric of the existing army and the morale of the regular soldiers?
GAGAN: From the Maoist perspective – what they argue is: “Yeh, it’s a professional army and they’ve proved themselves on a global standard, but the Maoists fought them and the army didn’t win the war.” So it gives the Maoists a kind of confidence to argue that a colonel in a rebel army can match a colonel in a professional army. But I completely agree with your concern about the fabric of the Nepal army being compromised. Otherwise, it could create new complication.
But the thing is that we still have to begin the discussions, including what the army has to say. The army will say, “OK, it’s not our decision, but we have these conditions. A rebel combatant has to go through the institutionalized steps like everyone else. A rebel has to earn merit for each level of service.” Then the Maoists will provide their conditions. Then you look at common points.
But my point is that Maoists don’t really want the integration process to be resolved within the next few months. They don’t want it and we’re not supporting a resolution within the next few months. Just yesterday, the Prime Minister stated in parliament that in the next four months this issue is going to be resolved. I don’t believe that.
And the NC and UML are, unknowingly, supporting their interests.
And the question of integration is not just a local issue. India is very concerned about this. Other members of the international community are concerned. And the Maoists have assured the international community that the professionalism of the army will be kept in tact while integrating the rebels into the army. But at the same time, Maoist leadership has been assuring their rebels, “Don’t worry, you’ll get everything.” So the Maoists have been playing those games. That doesn’t serve the peace process. So let’s bring the Maoists to the table and create a genuine discussion. Let the Maoists define what their real stand is.
DUNHAM: The various politically affiliated youth organizations just had elections and the NC didn’t do all that well. How does Congress plan to reverse the trend of youth feeling disenfranchised by your party? So many of the youth are just sick of the political process in general. I’ve spent the last few weeks talking to youth and, in fact, most of them are just trying to get the hell out of Nepal. They are very cynical about politics in Nepal and see their best shot abroad, not here. They don’t see the parties having their best interests at heart – any of the parties. And yet 60% of the population is now under the age of 30. What group should Congress be concentrating on, if not the youth?
GAGAN: I traveled to a number of campuses during the student union elections – both in and outside the Kathmandu Valley. I was able to pull in huge crowds and talk to them for hours. And they listened to me seriously. They found my arguments convincing. But they didn’t vote for our student union even though they apparently like me as a person. Why? Because I don’t represent Congress Party to them. I’m still perceived as a sidelined Congress member who doesn’t have influence in policy making.
At Tribhuvan University, for instance, I spoke for an hour in front of 3,500-4,000 students. I started speaking at 6:30 at night. There were no lights. They used their mobiles to record my speech. But in the end, the number of votes my party got was less than 2,000. Obviously, the crowd is not convinced that the NC is in tune with the youth. You’re right; we have to find a way to regain their trust.
The second thing is that just giving promises to the youth will no longer work. 250,000 youths leave Nepal each year. Every day, 556 young people leave Nepal, from the international airport. Most of them are going to the Middle East for jobs.
You cannot keep these young people here, in Nepal, with mere promises. We have to create meaningful, sizable projects and jobs – enough so that a kind of hope will be generated in them that things are getting better for the youth. Promises don’t fill people’s stomachs.
It’s not that we don’t have the money to invest in such projects. If you look at the commercial banks in Kathmandu, when they made shares available to the public, the applications overtook the available number. It means there is money here. Look at the skyrocketing prices for property in Kathmandu. We’ve got the money. But there’s no appetite for investing in the kinds of projects that would keep Nepali youth in Nepal because there is no security in investing here.
We are not building new hydroelectric projects. We are not building new infrastructure. We are not opening up new industries. We are not reforming our international trade. We’re not commercializing agriculture. We are not creating new markets. We’re not doing anything and every year Nepal is getting more and more young!
The youth of Nepal is the very strength of Nepal and we’re not using it to our advantage. India, Europe, the United States, the Middle East are getting the benefit of our demographic bonus.
Sometime back there was a discussion about this in parliament. The Minister of Water Resources was there and I asked him about a provision in the constitution in which it states that, while building micro hydropower projects, the government is encouraged to hire local people to participate, thus giving some share of the money back to the local people. And I asked the Minister, “Is the government following this provision?” His reply was, “No, the locals don’t have enough resources, so we have to look for independent investors.”
Then I said, “I went to Qatar and met lots of young Nepalis under the age of 30 working in 50 degrees Centigrade conditions. And I asked them, “How many hours per day do you work?” And they said “eight to ten hours.” I’m not talking about sophisticated jobs. They’re working on construction sites under the sun. Such a miserable life there. Their families are far away. And with all this, they hardly save 8-10,000 rupees a month. And then I asked these guys, “How much did you spend to get to Qatar?” And the reply was, “Around 100,000 Nepali rupees.”
So I told the Minister, “One guy spends 100,000 rupees to leave Nepal! If you got only 100 local guys spending 100,000, you would have one crore Nepali rupees investment power. So how much does one of your micro-hydropower projects cost?” And the Minister replied, “Less than one crore.”
So there is one crore local investment power, right? But it goes far beyond that. Remember, these 100 guys were under the age of 30, able-bodied and ready to work eight hours a day on, let’s say, a micro-hydropower project. That’s 800 work hours per day.
So the potential is here, the financial resources are here, right here in Nepal, for young people. All you have to do is be able to assure the youth that the government is behind them.
The government has talked about big projects -- fast-track roads and railway projects, 10,000 megawatts in ten years – dreamed about such big projects. And Nepal has some of the cheapest labor in the world. If a guy is willing to work in 50 degree Centigrade in Qatar for eight hours a day and only save 7-8000 rupees, just imagine how willing he would be to could come back home, be close to his family, and work ten hours a day for only 5,000.
But it all goes back to the struggling between various parties. Congress and UML are scared that if the Maoists create projects, they will take the money and it will end up in the pockets of their own cadres – so the other parties put hurdles in the Maoists’ way. To some extent, the Maoists have themselves to blame for this mistrust. They have failed to gain the trust of the other parties. All of this lack of understanding between parties, finally, is at the bottom of the government’s failure to address the needs of the young people in Nepal. It’s all connected.
A better future for the youth of Nepal? From my perspective, it’s not just a distant dream. We can give them that better future. The youth are here, the human resource is here, right now, waiting for jobs. Let’s talk about tourism potential. You can hire 100,000 young people in that project. 10,000 megawatts: You need to employ two lak Nepali engineers. Health as a fundamental right to each and every citizen: that means the construction of a considerable number of hospitals, which in turn, require a lot of human resources. The opportunity is here in Nepal just waiting to be tapped.
People are ready to invest in Nepal. What they don’t have is the assurance that their investment is going to be secure.
And that’s what the Maoists have to understand. They can’t perform magic here. The Maoists like to talk about the “people’s constitution” and I used to ask them, what is the special feature of your “people’s constitution?” And the Maoists told me, “The people will get free food, free education.” And I told them, but that’s already in the interim constitution, the one that exists now. There is a provision already that says that health is a fundamental right, education is a fundamental right, employment is a fundamental right, environment is a fundamental right, food source is a fundamental right – all of this is clearly stated in the interim constitution.
So I asked the Maoists, “What’s stopping you from implementing programs that are already guaranteed by the interim constitution? You don’t have to wait for a ‘people’s constitution’, they provisions already exist. But you also know the limitations. You can’t do it overnight, for one thing. It needs the mobilization of all the resources. New projects need to be introduced.”
And where are we today, since the Maoist took the leadership? Look at the tourist industry, agriculture sector, the trade sector – everything is the same. Nothing has changed.