By Om Tat Sat,
Amidst the greatest crisis humanity has faced, events are showing that we are not ready for the challenge. In times like this, common knowledge would guide us all to pitch in where we can and help each other out. Many hands make the work lighter we have learned, but apparently not those in the government. Nepal being a poor and not a well government society, is witnessing all kinds of threats to its people, and any good government would have asked for all hands to be on deck. Not this government.
Under current condition, independent citizens, non-profits, corporate houses and social organizations would have been able to play a larger and more impartial role, which would have ameliorated the suffering and far more relief could have been provided to the most vulnerable people.
In the latest live facebook update by Gyanendra Shahi, a social activist against corruption in the government, informed that the SSP of Lalitpur had called him to stop handing out relief food materials to those people in the Ring Road who were facing hunger due to lockdown. His call to the CDO confirmed the information received through the SSP. According to the CDO, the command came from the Home Ministry itself. This relief action by Gyanendra Shahi team was being offered after collecting requests from those in need. Then the drop off schedule and procedure is given to the callers. On the sixth day of his effort, he was notified of the government order. All the materials were to be handed over to the political ward office.
The question arises why? Clearly they are afraid of his nationwide support and dedicated network and see a threat to their rule rather than the relief people will get. Government officials already irritated by his tireless mass movement against corruption in high places has rankled the political parties in the government. So their policy is yes, people need help, but only we are allowed to do it. Other have no right to be good Samaritans, especially if you are critical of our work.
Because of government failure, general population have come out to offer aid to people who are walking from Kathmandu and other major city centers to their homes in rural areas. There have been many groups of people who have taken actions to offer whatever assistance they can muster. Few days earlier, a folk singer traveling to his home in his motorbike to deliver crucial medicine for his ailing mother, saw hundreds of people walking from Kathmandu. He could not bear to hear their stories and bought for them some snacks with few thousand in his pocket. He drove away with tears in her eyes because he could not do more.
While one door policy might sound good, in Nepal people do not trust the government at any level. There have been accusations of discrimination. In Pradesh 5, Surkhet municipality has given out phone no to call if anyone needs food. However, after getting a phone call, the municipality team goes out to visit the caller’s home within 24 hours, and then decides whether they qualify or not. This is a sample government action. Many reports have come forth that the relief given out by government is influenced by politics. Local politicians have denied relief to those with different political affiliation or independents. Such political favoritism has caused violence. In Rajbiraj, a chief of the precinct was beaten after the recipient list showed favoritism, and even listing people who were actually well off. In such government body, each team member seeks to include their own affiliated people for relief irrespective of the needs. That has been the main concern. Massive corruption in purchase of goods, distribution of rotten, inedible food, and favoritism are what government has displayed to everyone’s utter disappointment. Because of such controversy, demand has been made for an investigation.
A few days ago, there were viral pictures on the social media showing local government officials distributing meager food relief to their citizens. A ward official was shown giving a fruit juice like item holding a 6 feet long stick, or another one where an officials masked was stretching all the way to offer something to the recipient equally stretched to hold it. They have come fodders for memes in social media. Lockdown has had a severe impact on the daily wage earners. Headlines are screaming that they fear hunger more than Covid-19. Since the lockdown is nearing a month with the shops also closed in the initial phase, those who were living hand to mouth existence have been affected the most. Hunger is a far more pressing concern for them. Another example of government ineptness was seen in Dailekh. Some people walking home were intercepted and placed in quarantine, but despite being placed in government custody, they had nothing to eat for two days.
Perhaps the best summation of the government attitude is in this headline in Spotlight: “C-19 Response In Nepal: Incompetence Was Expected But The Apathy Towards The Poor Is Astounding,” Hence only in Nepal, the Supreme Court has to intervene to direct the government to facilitate all pedestrians’ safe travel to their homes, yet the PM issues an order for them to be held wherever they are found. In Nepal, even the most fundamental right to be at home is being breached.
The crisis has unmasked the intentions of all major players. The truth has come out, so that means. Nepal is ready for a new beginning. The good and the truthful will make a return.
The writer is a graduate of Arizona State University in Political Science. He is working as a social activist and motivational speaker for students across Nepal since 2007.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necesarily reflect the official policy or position of Nepalisite.