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Failed Leaders And Corrupt Nation-VI

Issue 52, December 26, 2010

Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

Nepalis have been poor because of the corruption in the state business since the Shah dynasty started ruling the country. Corruption has two faces of the same coin. Siphoning the state money for the personal benefits of the rulers and getting money through commissions from the contractors, company and other business dealers on the state affairs. The Shahs did so during their direct rule; then the Ranas sidelined the Shahs and had done worst than the Shahs; then came the Koiralas, and so on only to rip the national treasure and steal the money as much as possible for their benefits and the political parties.

Before the Shahs came to power in Nepal, the Mallas had performed the state affairs quite remarkably for the benefits of the people and the state letting the people do everything for them. The decentralization has been up to the neighborhood or a community. Each neighborhood or community had the authority to do whatever needed for the community from the supply of water to the building of shrines to various deities and the rest houses and hangout places. They collected the money from the community members and spent it with the consensus of all the members of the community on various community activities for the benefits of its members. They had the associations called guthi for various purposes. Each household of a family was the member of such a guthi. They had the association for undertaking funerals, for building water supply system and maintaining them. They had guthi for every purpose they needed at that time. The rulers had charged minimum possible taxes on the agricultural products, trade and other business keeping most of the wealth created by the people in the community and with the people for them to use, as they desired. Consequently, they could create the culture of the world class at that time.

Then came the Shahs from the very small principality called Gorkha. The royalties were neither developed to anywhere close to the development of the Mallas nor their people had done anything comparable to the arts and culture developed by the people of the Malla period. However, they succeeded to unite all small principalities of that time into the current day Nepal.

With the unification of the principalities into a single kingdom, the ways of life and means of maintaining the decentralization the people had enjoyed simply evaporated. Everything centralized; people’s hands had been not only tied but also cut if they attempted to do something good for the people on their own. In addition, the households and their communities had lost all the savings they used to have due to the heavy taxes imposed by the Shah rulers. As a result, Nepalis not only could not do anything to develop the arts and culture further but also could not keep up with the arts and culture developed by their forefathers and mothers.

Most of the taxes collected from the people in kinds and cash went to the luxury of the royalties and the army men and to upkeep the arms and ammunition. They kept their army strong and efficient to suppress any voices the people might make against the authorities. The royalties enjoyed the lavish lives but the common folks went to bed with half-filled stomach. Their children had neither the education nor even the normal food any child entitled to have. Thus, the people once were so well to do became the poor and they lived in poverty for more than two and a half centuries under the heavy hands of the Shah, Rana, Koiralas and so on rulers.

The Ranas sidelined the Shahs and ran the country from more than one hundred years. They were crueler than the Shahs in dealing with the people’s lives. They imposed more rent on the land farmers cultivated taking every grain of each harvest leaving the agricultural residues for the farmers to live on. They watched every movement of any person of any community to avoid any threat to their rule. They confiscated any visible wealth from the commoners on one or another pretext for keeping the people deliberately poor so that they would not be able to challenge their authority. However, they could not keep their mighty rule forever, as any autocratic and despotic rulers could not elsewhere in the world. Nepalis under the banner of the Nepali Congress (NC) crushed the heads of the mighty Rana rulers under the boots in 1951.

People thought that then they could go back to working on the decentralization and they would do everything possible for their communities and for their lives provided the rulers lessened the rent on their businesses and agriculture. The Ranas continued to lead the coalition government while the leaders of NC and representatives of the sidelined monarch joined in the tripartite government. Each party in the governance pulled the string of the authority to its benefits leaving the people high and dry. Clearly, the power had not gone to the people’s representatives but again to the despotic rulers. While the NC leaders fought against the residual power the Ranas had enjoyed, the monarch had been consolidating his authority and taking the people’s power to his palace.

Nepalis did not see much improvement in their lives immediately but the fear of the Ranas taking away their wealth had gone from their mind. They could do their businesses without fear and interferences from the Ranas. They could express their opinions freely. They could set up schools on their own and run them freely. Suddenly, children got the opportunity to go to school and get the education in the first half of the 20th century. They had come out of the darkness but not fully to the light.

No roads, no railroads even the foot trails to move from one part of the country to another. The Ranas did not spend a single rupee on the building infrastructures, schools, hospitals and so on that would directly make the people educated for the fear of the educated minds of the people would not keep them in power for long. Their strategy of rule had been to keep the people poor and in darkness and in virtually disability. They built their statues kept at the crossroads. They built some roads wide enough for moving their carriages from one palace to another. They built palaces in the western style not fitting to the local climate and ignoring the wonderful local architecture. They spent the revenue generated from taxing the people on building such palaces, their statues and on buying jewelry for their queens and concubines.

Once, Nepalis kept away their beautiful wives, daughters and sisters from the sight of the Ranas for the fear of taking them away. They locked their wives, daughters and sisters in rooms and did not allow them looking out of their windows during the festivals when the Ranas followed the religious procession. Even then, some of the beautiful women became the victims of Ranas and forcibly taken them away from the families and kept them as concubines.

All the luxurious lives of the Ranas had fell down as the houses of cards immediately after the end of the Rana rule in 1951. Their palaces they considered so beautiful became the state properties but they kept the cash and jewelry. Some of them moved to India with their wealth but most of them stayed on. Their palaces housed the offices of newly created ministries, police and even armies. Some of them managed to keep the palaces for their use.

Whiles Ranas became commoners; some of the NC leaders became the Ranas. They did not think about the people that had shed their blood for tearing down the rule of Ranas but they wanted to set up the rule of NC not the rule of law. So, Nepalis could not dream of the rule of law even after removing the most autocratic rule of Ranas. However, using his most of the political leverage he had gained after removing Ranas from power and the palace, the then king consolidated his power and played a dirty political game to put his authority above anybody and anything. Nepalis slowly sliding back to square one while the NC leaders fought against each other in order to impose the rule of NC rather than the rule of law.

After the fall of Ranas, during the brief rule of NC from 1951 to 1960, the NC leaders have made a lot of money for themselves and for the activists. They were sure that they had already taken the seats of Ranas in the administration. Then, it was their time to rule the people. Hundreds of NC cadres became the indirect parts of the state administration. They collected money from the people for doing any state business. The state administration had to follow the recommendations of the NC cadres and activists. The local administration had also to abide by the recommendations of the local NC cadres and activists. They had controlled even the public water supply connections to houses. If you are a member or a cadre of NC then you can enjoy every possible benefits from the state if not then you pay for anything the state administration does for you. If you are a member of any political party other than NC then you are an undeclared foe of the NC activists. Thus, the NC members had run the state administration indirectly for their benefits whereas the Ranas had done it directly.

The Ranas had classified their families into three categories. The first class members were the sons born of the legal marriages done following the Vedic rituals, the second class members were the sons born of the father unofficially marrying the women of the same caste allowed by the caste system, and the third class members were the sons born of the father unofficially marrying any women of any caste except the one allowed by the caste system. The first-class Ranas were listed in the hierarchy of an heir to the throne of the then prime minister dubbed as the king. They enjoyed becoming the generals of the army even at the birth. Only the generals were listed on the list of the hierarchy of the Rana rulers. Thus, only the first class Ranas became the circle of Rana rulers while the second class and the third class Ranas had to be satisfied living out of the circle of the rulers. They enjoyed various positions in the administration police and the army but not reaching the position of general consequently to the office of the Prime Minister.

Like the Ranas, the NC leaders had also classified their activists into various classes. They classified the NC cadres into village level, district level and the national level. The village level NC cadres had to reach the district level status before reaching the national level status. The district level NC members had been the local landlords called zamindars. They held considerable influence on the local people since the rule of Ranas. They had collected the taxes on the land from farmers for the Ranas. So, they did control the village level NC cadres. Only they could reach the district level NC members. Consequently, only the local zamindars could reach the national level status of NC members. The rule of NC had effectively gone to the hands of the zamindars.

Then came the direct rule of Shahs. More than what Gyanendra did in 2005, his father Mahendra did. He dismissed the elected government of the BP Koirala, dissolved the parliament and shutdown the offices of all political parties in 1960. From then on, Nepalis had the rule of Shahs rather than the rule of law.

Mahendra introduced his own constitution and introduced the no-party system called Panchayat that had held direct election at the village level local governments called Village Panchayats. Village electorates elected both the Village Assemblies and the village governments called Village Development Committees. Mahendra made certain provisions for decentralizing the power to the local governments at least visibly but not felt at all. Mahendra did not directly use his words as the laws as did the Ranas in their time but his words meant everything.

Ranas did not need any constitution to run their administration but they did have a civil code to punish the people but any Ranas did not need to follow it. Members including the second and third class family members of the ruling Rana got the position of the Chiefs of the districts or zones they had divided Nepal into. They consumed the revenue collected from the people for maintaining the civil administration, police and army, and the savings sent to the pocket of the Rana Prime Minister.

Mahendra had not so many concubines to have as many sons as required by the districts and village administration but he had made sure that the people sitting on the chairs of his local and district governments surely followed his orders. In return Mahendra allowed them enjoy the local revenues collected by them as much as they could and wished for. So, Nepalis could not get rid of the family rule. They simply needed to live under the larger family rule of the NC leaders, then the largest family rule of the Panchayat system Mahendra had created. This Panchayat family excluded any underground members of any political parties. Only the royalists had monopolized the Panchayat system and the national revenue.

In the name of inspecting development activities, Mahendra visited Pokhara frequently and even built a small palace for him and his queen to stay during the inspection holidays or whenever he needed a quiet place to be alone and think seriously about anything he wanted to do drastically went to Pokhara and lived there for the days he needed to do his work in isolation. He used army and police to manage his security and the civil administration and the palace administration people for managing his household in the trip to Pokhara. He spent state revenue indiscriminately, and gave such authority to the police, army and civil administration that they did not worry to follow the financial rules and regulations for spending the state money for his purposes. So, rules, regulations and laws he had made were relaxed for his own purposes.

Mahendra had also made a bungalow in Chitwan where a large number of different animals and birds lived in the natural jungles. He enjoyed hunting them and at the same time working in isolation there, too. He heavily used the state money for his pleasure trips combined with some businesses. His queen always accompanied them.

Mahendra and his queen had enjoyed lives in Nepal while her three stepsons went to the school in Darjeeling, India, and then to schools in England. They did not send their three daughters to any known public or private schools in country out of the country. The gender discrimination did not exclude the palace women, too. Even if they sent their daughters to schools known to everyone, the gender discrimination remained, as only the first son could be eligible for an heir to the throne. So, women were disabled at the birth even in the palace.

Echoing the influence of the western education on him, the then crown prince Birendra had told the reporters that he would contest the presidency rather than inherit his father’s throne. Birendra was in the Eton in England at that time. Unlike his son Dipendra’s drinking habit, his drinking and indulging in the activities not fitting to the royalties did not surface. Dipendra’s habit of buying the cheap whisky in the diplomatic stores and then selling them to his peers had surfaced in the Nepalese media. Birendra went on to Japan for studies but Nepalis did not know what he studied there. Upon return to Nepal, he went to China to meet Mao Zedong. Mahendra had slowly groomed him to be future king rather than a future president.

In 1970, Mahendra held a lavish wedding ceremony for his son crown prince Birendra. He spent a large sum of the state money on renovating the palace. They replaced the old floor with the marble floor. He decorated his palace lavishly for the wedding of his crown prince with one of the daughters of the Rana family. He invited foreign dignitaries including the Bollywood celebrities to the wedding. Civil, police and army offices were invited to the wedding ceremony and feast. Crown prince Birendra rode on the heavily decorated elephant followed by the wedding process from his palace to the old Rana palace called Singhdurbar that has been in use for the secretariat of the government. It was a few kilometers ride but it was a lavish public display.

Mahendra had arranged three daughters of Kendra Shumsher JB Rana for marrying to his three sons Dipendra, Gyanendra and Dhirendra in 1970. He did so possibly to avoid the palace conspiracy to gain the power. However, he did not succeed in avoiding the competition of winning the throne at the loss of the unimaginable number of royalties. On June 01, 2001, Nepalis came to know that Birendra, his spouse and his town sons including the crown prince Dipendra and the pregnant daughter along with other royalties in the shooting incident in the palace gathering of the royalties. The blame for killings was placed on crown prince Dipendra but all the evidences publicly known did not support this official conclusion of Dipendra killing his parents siblings and other members of the royal family excluding the family of Gyanendra. Logically thinking people did not believe in the official account of the sad incident. Thus, Mahendra strategy of continuing the dynasty without bloodshed did not work even marrying three daughters of the same parents to his three sons.

In 1990, Nepalis under the leadership of the coalition of the NC and CPN-UML toppled the Panchayat system Mahendra introduced in 1962. Then, again the rule of NC has prevailed for another ten years. The NC leaders successfully demolished the national airlines selling the two brand new Boeings and taking two very old Boeings in lease taking hefty commissions in both the deals. They also destroyed the trolley bus plying on the Kathmandu-Bhaktapur route giving in to the lobbyists that have been running private buses on the same route again taking commissions from them. Anybody can write a book on the corruption cases of the rule of NC in the late years of the 20th century.

On February 1, 2005, Gyanendra fires the elected Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and runs his administration sidelining the Constitution of Nepal of 1990 that has the non-amendable provision for the multi-party democracy and the constitutional democracy. Gyanendra is so greedy; he increases the amount of money allocated to the palace affairs ten folds disregarding the Appropriation Act. A number of corruption cases have spiked. Most of the money went to the pockets of Gyanendra and his ministers directly or indirectly. The country has the rule of Gyanendra rather than the rule of law because he has effectively suspended the Constitution of Nepal of 1990 that has put the multi-party democracy and the constitutional monarchy above anything. Consequently, corruption has been not only institutionalized but also has been the way of the political life in Nepal.


December 25, 2010

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