Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My Vision for Nepal

My Vision for Nepal

By Prof. Dr. Khagendra Thapa

According to the 2001 census of Nepal, there are 103 different ethnic groups in Nepal. They speak at least 90 different languages. Some of the ethnic groups are as small as 164 people. Nepal is a country of minorities. The largest minority group is that of Chhetris at 15.80% followed by the Brahmins at 12.74%. Magars constitute the third largest minority group at 7.14%. Realizing the complexities of the make up of the population, Pirthvi Narayan Shah, the founding father of Nepal declared in 1767 AD that Nepal is a garden for people of all races and ethnic groups. In fact, Nepal was well known as a peaceful nation with complete harmony among people of diverse ethnic groups who practiced different culture and spoke different languages.

To give an example as to how people live in the villages of Nepal, let me describe the village in Dhankuta where I was born and raised. To the South of my home there were four Newar families. To the East side there were three Newar families and two Sunar families. To the North side there were six Newar families and six Chhetri families. To the west side there were four Damai Families and Chhetri families. Further in the East side there was big Limbu village mixed with Brahmins and Chhetris. Further South and South East there were more Limbus, Chhetris and Brahmins. In the North West there was a large group of Kami and Magar residents. There was even a Sarki family in the village. All these people lived in complete harmony. There was no presence of any police in the village. Any dispute among the villagers was settled by the village elders without any involvement of the courts. There was only one court in the district head quarters. I am sure it is a typical mountain village in Nepal. It was a self sustained village in that Damais tailored the clothes, Kamis made the tools for agriculture and house hold items out of iron, Sunars made the jewelry and Sarkis made the shoes. The villagers produced just about everything they consumed. When they wanted to eat some produce such as peanuts or mangoes or bananas they went to another village where there was a bazaar held once every two weeks where villagers bartered their produce. For example, those living in the hot areas and cold areas bartered their products.

We have lived in peace and harmony for centuries. After the movement of April 2006 sidelined the monarchy and brought the former insurgents(Maoists) to government, there has been numerous incidents of racial and ethnic group uprising thereby creating tension and conflicts among the various groups. Some groups are demanding cessation from Nepal and establish a separate independent country. All political parties have agreed to at least divide the country into Federal Republic. However, not a single party has any clue as to how to divide the country into different units. Various ethnic groups have demanded Self Governing Units based on Ethnic Groups. This is not going to work due to the lack of the homogeneity of population settlement. Moreover, Nepal has always been a unitary government. No single part of the country has ever been a self governing unit for the last 240 years which is a long time. Therefore, when the political parties promised Federal Structure to Ethnic Groups and Terai residents, they have not realized that they are treading into the uncharted territories.

At the time when many nations are working together and uniting their efforts such as the European Union, it is impractical and stupid to divide an existing nation to appease a handful of selfish politicians, thugs, and armed terrorists. The division of nation will bring about untold amount of misery and suffering to the people. It will benefit no one. We should learn from what happened when the British left India and the former colony of Britain was divided into India and Pakistan. We need to have a logical approach to solving problems so that the demands of Terai residents as well as the demands of the other ethnic groups are met without destroying the basic structure of the society. The foolish and selfish politicians and administrators living in luxury of Kathmandu do not understand the problems faced by the people in the villages of the terai, hills and the mountains. Are these fools aware of the fact that a pregnant mother has to carry drinking water for the family two miles up the mountain? Men do not fetch drinking water in Nepal. When I was out in Salyan to survey for water supply, I was both saddened and surprised to note how difficult life did a Magar village had because of lack of drinking water in the vicinity. They had to travel two miles down the steep mountain to fetch water.

It seems that the political parties do not have the interest of the people or the nation in mind. They are all busy in planning to take care of themselves, their relatives and their cadres. Not a single political party has given a program or plans as to how they are going to solve the problems of the people regarding poverty alleviation, eradication of illiteracy, economic development, train workforce to develop the country, health care, education, transportation, maintain racial and ethnic group harmony, and above all protect our territorial integrity and preserve our sovereignty.

Since no political party was willing to give a plan of action, I decided to give mine with a hope that they might decide to copy my plan so that our motherland and our people will benefit.

Our Goals as a Nation

The goals are divided in different aspects. Different goals may require different time limits.

Education and Literacy

1. Every school age child between the ages of 5-16 years should have access to school with books and school supplies.

2. Every Nepali should be able to read and write. For this, we must run a massive literacy campaign. Every literate Nepali must be challenged to help make three fellow illiterate Nepali to read and write within a year. Democracy without the literate citizens becomes a joke just like the one we had from 1990-2002.

3. We must open life skills development centers where we provide training in basic health care, carpentry, plumbing, electrical wiring, masonry work (brick laying), etc. These centers must be opened at least one in each district.

4. We must emphasize in trained practical hands on education in areas of engineering technologies such as electrical, welding, manufacturing, plastics, surveying, construction, automotive, HVACR as well as nursing, dental hygiene, physical therapy, radiography, respiratory care, sonography, phlebotomy, nuclear medicine, etc.

5. We must emphasize on female education and achieve gender equality by empowering women.

6. We must provide equal opportunity to education to people of all regions and all ethnic groups with special attention given to historically disadvantaged groups.

Health Care


1. No Nepali should die of communicable diseases or due to lack of medication of any kind of diseases.

2. Every village should have a pharmacy and a basic health care provider.

3. Nepal must manufacture its own medications in collaboration with the Pharmaceutical companies. If proper incentives are given, big Pharmaceutical Companies would be willing to shift their Asian Head Quarter to Nepal because of our weather which is highly conducive to all kinds of herbal plantations and central location.

4. We must have at least one Major Hospital in every zone.

5. We must strive for a steady decrease in child mortality

6. We must increase the awareness of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS

7. We must help improve maternal health.

Fulfilling our Energy Needs

Nepal has one of the largest hydroelectric power generation potential. However, because of the lack of leadership and vision, we do not have enough energy provided even in the capital city forget about the villages. To fulfill our energy needs for domestic consumption as well as for transportation and manufacturing, we must aggressively launch hydroelectric power generation programs with an intent to fulfill our complete need for energy without having to import any fossil fuels from other countries.

Transportation

1. We must build major electric train service that runs from East end of the country to the West end.

2. There should be north south connections to the major east-west electric train by electric buses as well as rope ways.

3. All other vehicles should be based on electric energy or other alternative energy.

4. All government owned vehicles should be sold and government and corporations should not provide transportation to the employees. If transportation is provided to the government officials it should be a bus which will pick them up in certain locations and drop them off at the end of the day. Even government ministers should not be provided with government vehicles. A poor country like Nepal cannot afford to provide expensive cars to the high ranking officials or ministers.

Economic Development

Nepal must rely on its own resources and stop begging for money and donations from other countries even to pay the salary of its incompetent and idiotic bureaucrats. Nepal must fight for fair trading practice with other countries particularly with its immediate neighbors. One of the areas where Nepal can immediately start benefiting is in exporting bottled water. In addition, it should increase the production of medical herbs for export. Our emphasis must be to encourage farmers to cultivate herbs for export purpose.

Turn Nepal into the Business and Financial Center of Asia

Once Nepal establishes its basic infrastructure, it should actively entice the multinational corporations such as Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Citi Corp, and many others to establish their Asian Head Quarters in Nepal. Nepal’s central location in Asia, its honest and hard working people and great weather should be very appealing to the Corporations. If we are able to bring political stability, there is no reason why the multinational corporations would not be willing to relocate their head quarters in Nepal. In addition, they will save a lot of money in energy costs since we have wonderful weather requiring less heating and cooling than any other Asian country.

Food and Agriculture

Nepal’s population is increasing both due to natural growth rate of 2.2 % and immigration from India. The available cultivable land is only 14% of the total area. Therefore, we must emphasize on increasing agricultural production.

1. We must provide irrigation for agriculture so that the farmers do not have to depend on the rainfall alone. Currently, only miniscule areas of the arable land are irrigated. Increased irrigation will help farmers to produce more food and cash crops.

2. We must use Biotechnology to produce more food. For example, according to Jimmy Carter because of the recent developments the following areas of food production using Biotechnology may help Nepal to produce enough food to feed its population:
Golden Rice enriched with beta carotene and iron that can help combat vitamin-A deficiency, a major cause of blindness among poor people in Nepal. Researchers also are working on a "Golden mustard" that will yield cooking oil enriched with vitamin A. Mustard oil is widely used in Nepal to prepare food.

New varieties of corn, sorghum, sweet potato, and wheat that are being developed to provide more amino acids such as lysine, an important dietary protein.

Cucurbit crops that resist viruses and increase yields of these important staples for Nepali people.

"Pharma foods" that may help prevent or cure diseases such as cholera and diarrhea, leading causes of infant mortality in Nepal.

New banana varieties resistant to Black Sigatoka that could reduce the need for chemical controls, improve production agronomics, and increase the quality of bananas. These Bananas could also be exported as cash crop.

3. We must make a proper use of land for agricultural purposes. Instead of just producing the traditional staple crops such as rice, corn, millet and wheat, Nepali farmers should produce more vegetables and products that cause less soil erosion. The market for such products is readily available in the cities in Nepal as well as in India. For example, farmers in East Nepal already export substantial amount of vegetable to India.

4. Proper land use may prevent both soil erosion and land slides. Both increase the siltation in the rivers thereby causing flooding and river changing its course. River course changes can destroy a lot of arable land. It takes over 400 years to replace the top soil that is being washed away from the hills and mountains of Nepal because of improper land use.
Housing and Shelter

Because of the increase of population and displacement of people from their homes to cities as well as to district head quarters due to the Maoists insurgency, there has been an acute shortage of housing in these areas. In addition, because of increasing loss of forested areas, the poor people are finding more and more difficult to find basic building material for their shelter.

Our goal should be such that every Nepali family has a some kind of a shelter. As much as possible shelters or houses should be built using local resources. For example, using jute sticks, bamboo and mud Satars, Dhimals, Tharus, and others build beautiful little huts for themselves whereas in the mountains villagers build good homes using bamboos, stones and clay.

Of course, our politicians and rich businessmen and those who are historically privileged build concrete and brick homes especially in Kathmandu. I do not believe there is a single politician (other than Maoists) who does not have a nice home in Kathmandu. Some of the highly corrupt ones also own homes in India along with fat bank accounts. Some of the rich people’s homes in Kathmandu can also withstand earthquakes but not as well as the beautiful huts built by Satars.

Make Nepal the Play Ground of Asia

Nepal has many historic and religious places such as Lumbini the birthplace of Lord Buddha and several religious places for both Hindus and the Buddhists. Moreover, as stated above we have great weather as well as natural beauty. In addition, seven of the ten highest mountains including the Mount Everest are located in Nepal. The holy city of Kathmandu is not only the home of Lord Pashupatinath but is a great historical place with its majestic pagoda style temples and palaces built in the last seven centuries. In addition, there also famous Buddhist holy places such as Swoyambhu and Bauddha.

Nepal should make it appealing to tourists not only from countries all over the world but also should pay special attention to tourists from its both neighbors China and India. The rising economy of these countries has created a large middle class which can afford to spend money on traveling.

In addition to the existing cultural, religious, and natural beauty, Nepal should add new attractions to entice other kinds of tourists. Nepal must clean up its religious places and establish many casinos from East to West so that we can keep more of the tourist’s money in Nepal. Casinos could play an important role in improving the economy of a region or country. For example, look at Nevada in the USA. It has no agricultural land and no industries. Yet it is thriving economically. Right now the great industrial States such as Michigan are in a very poor economic situation where as Nevada is flourishing economically primarily because of its casinos.

Preserving Our Heritage

Nepal has many historical religious places with ancient temples especially in the holy city of Kathmandu. There are also important historical temples and places outside the capital for example in the holy city of Janakpur, there is a beautiful Janaki Mandir. The all powerful parliament has declared Nepal a secular state, nevertheless these unruly parliamentarians should not be allowed to destroy our national heritage like the way Taliban destroyed Buddhist Statues in Afghanistan. When the Maoists come to power and Comrade Prachanda becomes the first President of Nepal as he promised to Nepali people, I genuinely hope that he will not burn our religious books and burn down our temples.

Maintaining the Harmony and Peace among Communities

Thanks to Maoists Comrades, civil Society Members, NGOs and INGOS, the peaceful coexistence that existed in Nepal for centuries is no longer there. The events of Kapilvastu, Gaur, Nepalganj and the constant Chakka Jam and Nepal Bandha are burning examples of what has happened to otherwise peaceful society. The random murders by members of one ethnic group to other ethnic groups are taking place just about every day not to mention about the threats of violence and intimidation. As a result, some communities living and working in some parts of the country have been displaced.

In order to maintain and to reestablish the inter-ethnic and itra-ethnic group peaceful coexistence, Nepal needs to form Peace and Reconciliation Committees, comprising of the representatives of all ethnic groups (residing in the area) in each village and communities.
Observe Baisakh 1st the day of National Unity and Reconciliation

The Muluki Ain (Civil law) declared about forty years ago did away with all kinds of discriminations and untouchability. However, the law was only limited in paper. The successive governments of all political color did nothing to really implement it. Now, it is time for the people to come forward and implement the law and repair the fractured race and ethnic group relations. In order to achieve the peace and tranquility in the society, we must declare Baisakh 1st (The Nepali New Year’s day) as the Day of National Unity and Reconciliation. In order to get rid of the issue of untouchability and discard the feeling of superiority and inferiority by people of different castes, I propose that we hold parties and get together in every village, town , and city blocks and have feasts sitting, singing, dancing and enjoying together so that Brahmins, Podes, Sarkis, Damais, Chamars, Kamis, Madhises, Pahades, everyone gets along on the day of Day of National Unity and Reconciliation. We must also welcome people of all religious faith no matter whether they are Muslims, Christians, Buddhist, or Hindus. There are two issues which bring about division and dissension among people and those are politics and religion. Discussion about these issues must be banned from these parties. Consumption of alcohol must not be allowed in these get together. Political leaders who want to bring political issues and religious leaders who want to talk about religion must not be allowed to participate. However, as long as they are willing to participate without political agenda and religious prejudice, they should also be welcome. People themselves should organize these parties (may be pot lucks) without the involvement of the government.


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Khagendra Thapa is a professor and Vice President of Academic Senate at Ferris State University. He was educated in Nepal, London England, Canada, and the United States. He holds five degrees from the above countries.
Source:http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/print.html?path=HL0710/S00326.htm

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