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One Hundred Days of Maoists’ Rule in Nepal

Issue 48, November 30, 2008

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

Nepal has gone through drastic changes during the last three years. It has become the first Himalayan Republic ending the 240-year old despotic Shah Rule and putting the former rebels called Maoists at the helm of the state administration through ballots. On November 25, 2008, it has been one hundred days since the Maoists led the government. It is time to evaluate the performances of their administration.

Nepalis have had high expectation from the Maoists, as they have been speaking in doing many things for improving the lives of the Nepalis in general. However, we have not been able to feel the performances of the coalition government headed by the Maoists’ Chairman Prachanda not different from any previous governments, as Nepalis are still living in terror and uncertain future; street protest have been on-going; law and order have been no where to be seen. Except for the smooth supply of petroleum products, we have not been able to see the real change the Maoists’ government has brought in the lives of Nepalis.

Prime Minister Prachanda has been busy with the foreign visits. Immediately after getting elected to the position of Prime Minister, first thing, he did was to visit China and attend the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Game on August 24, 2008; then he flew to India have talks with the India dignitaries; upon return he boasted that India was in favor of assisting Nepal in building large hydropower projects, and immediately supplying 60 MW power to Nepal to ease the power supply in Nepal. He then visited New York to attend the 63rd UN General Meeting and gave an impressive speech. Then, he visited India again to attend BIMSTEC meeting held in New Delhi. Four foreign visits of Prime Minister Prachanda in three months.

Prime Minister Prachanda acknowledged that his government could not set up various commissions on various subject matters such as enforced disappearances and so on following the Interim Constitution and Comprehensive Peace Agreement. He even said that the irony was that he had put pressure on the previous government to set up commissions but he had not been able to do so, yet.

The Maoists have been in confusion whether they are going straight for ‘People’s Republic’ as advocated by hardliners headed by Mohan Baidya ‘Kiran’, or follow the long path to ‘People’s Republic’ proposed by current Prime Minister and Chairman of the Maoists’ Party Prachanda at the Central Committee meeting started on Monday, November 17, 2008.

Mohan Baidya ‘Kiran’ has submitted his version of a political report in which he proposed to achieve the goal of ‘People’s Republic’ through the people’s revolt in view of not having sufficient majority of the CPN-Maoist in the Constituent Assembly for crafting a new constituent, and in view of facing a stiff challenge from other political parties to integrating the People’s Liberation Army into the Nepali Army.

On November 25, 2008, the Central Committee meeting of the Communist party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) prepared a final document of the party incorporating the report submitted by both Chairman Prachanda and senior leader ‘Kiran’ and the suggestions submitted by the National Convention of cadres following the inputs provided by the 21 groups of the cadres divided for discussing it.

Speaking to the State-run ‘Radio Nepal’ Maoist leaders have disclosed that their party has adopted the goal of ‘Federal Democratic National Republic of Nepal.’ They felt that they have left out ‘national’ so they have added ‘national’ to the ‘Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal’ previously declared by the elected Constituent Assembly in May 2008.

We Nepalis understand that doing anything or proposing anything against Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal violates the declaration of Nepal a federal democratic republic by the Constituent Assembly.

Now turning to the Ministry-wise performances during the last 100 days of the Maoist-led coalition government, Ministry of Home led by senior Leader of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) Bamdev Gautam has done nothing except for creating terror in the minds of the restaurant owners, petty street venders and casino workers. In the name of cleansing the social evils prevailing in the restaurant after 11:00 PM, he prohibited to keep restaurants opened after 11:00 PM; and in the name of cleaning sidewalks in Kathmandu, the Metropolitan police have been harassing the poor sidewalk hawkers grabbing their stuffs and then loading those stuffs on the police truck and sometimes just kicking the low-cost stuffs off the sidewalk.

Home Minister Bamdev Gautam assigned former Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan, Keshav Sthapit to talk to the street hawkers on settling the sidewalk business. Some persons knowledgeable of the past deeds of Home Minister Gautam believed that the Home Minister assigned former Mayor Sthapit to collect some money from the sidewalk vendors, in view of Mr. Gautam in his previous incarnation also as a Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister used the same person for collecting a large sum of money from the businesspersons.

Home Minister honorably known as Deputy Prime Minister Bamdev Gautam has been sending his policemen and members of his ‘Youth Force’ to counter the grip of the members of the Young Communist League at all casinos in Kathmandu. They even took the manager of the Casino Annapurna provoking the protest from all the casino workers in Kathmandu. Some casino owners have doubted whether they would be able to run the casinos if the Home Minister continues to interfere in their business charging them of letting in the locals and letting the activities of commercial sex without any hard facts.

Law and order have been deteriorating because of the youths affiliated to all large political parties taking law in their hands. More often than not the youths affiliated to the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist have been clashing with each other causing deaths and injuries. Home Minister might have hands in inciting such incidents rather than preventing them. Some Maoist leaders said that the Home Minister had been doing everything to tarnish the image of the government led by the Maoists.

Students have engaged in closing the Kathmandu Valley and even Nepal on any pretext they could think of. Family members of the victims of road accidents invariably have resorted to forcibly stopping the traffic on the Highways and other roadways for getting the compensation for the loss of the loved ones. Home Minister takes time to settle such things depriving the common Nepalis of rights to work for livelihood and rights to move freely from one place to another.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Upendra Yadav representing Madheshi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) in the coalition government headed by the Maoists’ Chairman Prachanda has made several foreign visits. It is no surprise as it has been customary for any minister for foreign affairs to make as many foreign visits as possible because they would not be able to do so when they would be off the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav has called back several ambassadors appointed by the previous government headed by Nepali Congress President Girija Prasad Koirala. It is not again surprising, as every new government calls back the ambassadors and then appoints new ambassadors of its choice. So, the current government is not different from any previous government in this regard, too.

Foreign Minister Yadav has been complaining that he could not enforce the need for all ministries to involve his staff in meeting with foreign officials. He did not think of whether it was practicable or not without expanding his ministry to an astronomical scale to man the staffs required for participating in the talks the Ministry of Finance and other line ministries hold with donor agencies every day.

Ministry of Finance headed by Maoist Dr. Baburam Bhattarai was initially not for taking control over the private-owned enterprises and advocated for his mantra: public-private partnership. He claimed that his budget was toward this end. However, recently he told the Nepalis that the government has the monopoly on the education and health sectors so the private companies have to move away from these two sectors to other sectors. Probably scared by the recent actions of the Minister for Finance, the Colgate-Palmolive (Pvt): one of the foreign companies moved away from Nepal. This is what the Finance Minister has done in one hundred days.

Ministry of physical Planning and Works is responsible for planning and managing urban areas and for public construction projects. Two main problems with the towns and super towns are not having sufficient drinking water supply and not being able to manage the sewerage system for not polluting the nearby streams or rivers. The holy rivers such as the Bagmati River in Kathmandu and the Humante River in Bhaktapur have been quietly carrying away the human waste dumped by the towns. The concerned ministry remained as mute as those helpless rivers. Supply of drinking water has been trickle down. However, the Ministry has remained mute for over one hundred days not telling anything about what it has been doing or done on the Melamchi Drinking Water Project that is supposed to provide the three major towns in the Kathmandu Valley with sufficient drinking water. Nothing has been told to the public about the construction of the fast track that will link Kathmandu with Hetauda. This fast and shortest track will save travel time and billions of rupees worth of fuel per year not to mention the saving of wear and tear of vehicles.

Ministry of Water Resources is supposed to materialize the dream of producing 10, 000 MW within 10 years in the country where people have the power-cuts of 10 hours every day introduced by the State-run company ‘Nepal Electricity Authority’ in the name of load shedding. Prime Minister and his Finance Minister have been parroting the possibility of building 10,000 MW in 10 years and also boasting that India is providing Nepal with 60MW plus 60 MW power to mitigate the power shortage in Nepal. However, even after one hundred days of the current government nothing has happened to alleviate the load shedding.

The media has reported that the Mid-Marsyandi Hydropower Project with the capacity of producing 70 MW has been completed and ‘Nepal Electricity Authority’ has planned to take Prime Minister Prachanda to inaugurate it in the mid December 2008.

While inspecting the Mid-Marsyandi Hydropower Project in the field, Minister for Water Resources Vishnu Poudel representing the CPN-UML in the coalition government said that the previous government had wrongly negotiated with the German company on this project; so it has caused cost overrun and time overrun. The project was planned to complete in four years but it took eight years.

Ministry of General Administration has just initiated the commission on administrative reform. Nobody knew why it took almost one hundred days to set up a commission on administrative reform; if it took so long time even to start a commission how long it would take to reform the administration is anybody’s guess. Several constitutional bodies such as Public Service Commission and other commissions have remained without filling up the vacant positions.

Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supply has not been able to on the one hand to stop the deteriorating labor problem in the industrial sector on the other hand to remedy more than ten hours of electricity cuts imposed by the Nepal Electricity Authority in the name of load shedding; in addition, the off and on closure of the country, highways and roads by various political activists, students and family members of the road-accident victims have added to the woes of the industries in Nepal. Despite the fact that those things were beyond his control, Minister Rajendra Mahato representing Nepal Sadbhavana Party in the coalition government needed to do something concrete for alleviating those woes of industries?

One thing the Minister did was the smooth supply of petroleum products that the former government led by Girija Prasad Koirala could not do even in two years. However, the Minister has not adjusted the prices of petroleum products following the international price of crude oil. The International price of crude oil has fallen below $ 50 per barrel in the last week of November 2008 but the Minister failed in adjusting the prices of petroleum products set when the price of oil was more than $ 100 per barrel robbing the customers and the society as a whole.

Ministry of Law needs to annul a large number of laws that go against the Interim Constitution of Nepal of 2007. Recently, the Supreme Court of Nepal has ordered the government to annul the laws pertaining to the monarchy, as the elected Constituent Assembly has ended the monarchy. Similarly, we have a number of gender-biased laws that go against the Interim Constitution of 2007. However, the concerned Minister has done nothing to remedy such things during the 100 days of the Maoist-led government.

Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction headed by former Commander of the People’s Liberation Army Janardan Sharma had secretly talked to the leaders of the armed groups in terai; and he assured Nepalis of talking to those groups for ending their armed activities. Nobody knows why the Minister has taken so much time to talk to the armed groups. Nothing has been told to the public about the reconstruction of buildings, bridges and so on damaged during the 10-year conflict.

Similarly, other ministers have done really nothing that could be mentioned publicly. So, it won’t be very harsh to the Prachanda-led government if we say that he has done a little in practice but has been talking loudly about doing something for the people and for the country. How long Nepalis needed to wait for the Maoist-led government doing something tangible?

November 28, 2008.

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