On Jan 24, Prem Prasad Acharya, a youth entrepreneur, immolated himself in front of the Federal Parliament at New Baneshwar even as a motorcade carrying Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal sped past.
Acharya set himself on fire in broad daylight, when people were milling around and police personnel were very much there on duty. But neither these personnel nor the people present at the scene seem to have any idea on what to do in such situations.
It seemed as if our security personnel are not trained to act as first responders in emergencies. This begs the question: Who then will act as first responders?
The tale of the state’s lack of preparedness in dealing with such cases and insensitivity toward the victim does not end there.
The visit of Dr Toshima Karki, minister of state for health and population, to the ICU ward of the hospital where Acharya was receiving treatment has not gone well. She has come under fire in social media for using her visit as some kind of publicity stunt. Dr Karki enquiring about the youth’s condition with himself, while he was battling between life and death, has drawn criticism.
Was Dr Karki’s conduct in keeping with medical ethics? Does the Hippocratic oath allow all this? Our umbrella medical organizations like the Nepal Medical Council know better.
Before taking the extreme post, Acharya had posted a long Facebook status pointing that he was going to take the extreme step. This should also have alarmed our authorities, but it did not.
The loss of youths like Acharya, who stayed on in Nepal despite adversities and tried all his best to help his family, community and the country through entrepreneurship, is a tremendous loss to the country. But even before taking his own life, this young entrepreneur tried to show our political leadership and bureaucrats the way ahead. Acharya has tried to expose systemic diseases that ail the Nepali state. He has talked about corruption and mentioned those, who drove him to despair. The youth has urged the state to promote Nepali entrepreneurship.
As per its pledge, the government should conduct a free and fair investigation, make the report public and act on its findings.
In a few days, the demonstrations erupting after Acharya’s passing may fizzle out and he may be forgotten.
But the three organs of the state—the executive, the legislature and the judiciary—should not just speed past these incidents. They should have a long memory. In hindsight, the executive, on the driving seat of the state, should take concrete steps to root out rampant corruption and mal-governance before the fire burning inside Nepali citizens erupts further and pushes the country into yet another era of turmoil.