Two recently proposed regulations highlight the opacity and unaccountability of our government mechanisms. The first one stipulates that under-40 women who wish to travel abroad must first obtain written travel recommendations from their family as well as the local ward office. Such a rule, we are told, will check the trafficking of Nepali women. There was not a single woman in the eight-person government panel that made this recommendation.
The second regulation makes the registration of all “online TV” mandatory, with the license for such a channel costing Rs 500,000. Compulsory registration and high fees will apparently deter the peddlers of fake news and instill some decency in the raucous Nepali media sphere. Nowhere does the regulation define what exactly constitutes “online TV”. As it is, the provision could be applied to all YouTube content creators—which is absurd. From now on, if you want to upload your latest dance moves, you may first need to fork out half-a-million rupees.
Just like no women were consulted while drafting the new visa rules, no online content creator was on board while coming up with a proposal that clearly violates people’s constitutional right to free speech. The hush-hush surrounding the origin of these rules suggest the involvement of vested interests. No wonder the public trust of their government is low: a 2021 Sharecast Initiative Nepal nationwide survey found only 11 percent of those surveyed trusted their prime minister, while just 31 percent of them thought the federal government was doing a satisfactory job.
That Nepal continues to be run by a bunch of know-all graying men who feel entitled to act on behalf of the whole country, often without any consultation and feedback, makes a mockery of the new federal system. The country threw away the autocratic monarchy in order to establish a free and fair society. But systemic discrimination against women, minorities and free-speech advocates continue in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Nearly 15 years into the federal project, the remnants of the old unaccountable and corrupt state remain largely intact. They must be resisted every step of the way.