Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Dark Ages

The government has declared a nation-wide power crisis and announced an increase in the load-shedding hours to 12-14 hours a day, starting Sunday 28th December. Electricity usage in hoarding boards has also been banned.

We already have load shedding for 10 hours daily six days a week. So this is not a new development. But, as someone who only has a layman's knowledge of electricity generation, I just wish the government would also clearly spell out WHY the load-shedding hours are constantly increasing. It is not enough for Ministers to proclaim a "national crisis" without letting the people know exactly what is causing this crisis, how long is it going to last, and what steps (besides the hoarding boards mentioned above) are being taken to economise on electricity usage. This information is the right of the people.

If this truly is a national crisis, it certainly does not affect the roughly 35% of the population which has never had access to electricity. Those of us who have access, I presume, need to do our individual share in conserving electricity. Common-sense steps such as wearing more clothes rather than using heaters; using lights only in the room which one occupies, shutting off all other lights - a good torchlight is enough to do this switching-on/switching-off operation; watching television sparingly; etc.

Any takers?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Politics of Violence

The Prime Minister was quoted yesterday as saying that "the barrel of the gun is still relevant" for Nepali politics. Apparently "the gun will come into the hands of the people" again. So after a 10-year insurgency and about 13,000 Nepali deaths, when we are supposed to be having a New Nepal, the executive head of the country who also happens to be the Chairman of the Maoist party is still thinking about the gun. He says he is still committed to the peace process, and that is commendable. Indeed, he is in the process of extending UNMIN's stay in Nepal after its current term expires on 31 January 2009.

Communist parties have the unfortunate habit of identifying the People with their party, rather than the other way around. So when Mr. Dahal talks about the gun coming into the hands of the people, he is implying that when and if the Maoists take up their guns again, they will be doing so on behalf of the People. With 220 seats in the Constituent Assembly, the Maoists constitute 37% of the CA members. It is the largest party in the CA and the leader of the governing coalition. But it still represents only 37% of the CA - a long shot away from representing the People, without even a simple majority. So let us not confuse the Maoist party with the people.

Given the success that the Maoist party has had with the utilisation of guns, it has become a role model for any other group which has a political ax to grind, be it from the right or from the south. Should we go back to the politics of violence, there will be other groups besides Maoists who will be toting guns. Let this not be ignored.

Finally, the PM is expected to embody the fabled New Nepal, our hope for the future. His initial stance of moderation and statesmanship must not give way to doctrinaire jingoism. Maoist ideologues may spout off that the final objective is socialism and communism via "new populism". The word that these ideologues must not forget is "realism". Should the politics of violence re-emerge, whether with disturbances in the streets or with guns, we are destined for absolute chaos - because the participants in this violence will not only be the Maoists this time.

Let the guns stay where they belong, in the hands of the Nepal Army!