Let’s start with a question for the Nepali electorate on the eve of local elections.
Are you happy? Yes? No? Don’t know/Can’t say? Wait....
While answering this question, be honest with yourself. Remember, you don't have to be politically correct. Remember, you are not facing the camera. Hooligans bent on getting the 'right response' are not marauding around.
So, fear not.
Don’t fake your feelings and act as angels/cherubs assigned to spread happiness around the world, for many world bodies have been investing billions of dollars for the same.
Why the world, the third world in particular, has not been able to put on a grin, leave aside that cheek-to-cheek smile, despite such huge investments is perhaps the most difficult question of our times. Is the dollar lost in the pipeline?
The Buddha is meditating under the peepal tree. Who else would seek the answer?
Forget it, for now.
For now, even forget the findings of the World Happiness Index 2022. BTW, that index has found in Europe a fountain of happiness with eight countries of the continent enjoying the topmost slots. Nepal figures as the happiest country in South Asia (rank: 84), while Bangladesh (94), Pakistan (121), Sri Lanka (127), India (136) and Afghanistan (146) cheer her on.
The rest of the world can perceive us to be one happy country, but it means nothing if we are not happy from within.
Happiness can be a very shallow idea oftentimes, anyways.
Tin-pot dictators can find happiness even by opting for ethnic cleansing and by driving away lakhs of citizens if they perceive them to be a threat to despotism. What good is ‘happiness’ if that is contingent on the fulfillment of the whims and fancies of such despots?
Sadly, the international community seems to have no problem with such despots and their ‘democratic systems’.
Back to the opening question. While answering it, shed the burden of having to project the image of a picture-perfect country. Despite all our perfections and imperfections, we are one of the most beautiful countries. The world knows that and we know that.
This time, get a bit angry over the state of affairs. Angry over what?
Angry over misrule, corruption, the breakdown of law and order. Angry over rising inflation, triggered by repeated hikes in fuel prices in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war and rampant corruption that has become a way of life for our political and bureaucratic elites. Angry over the audacity of our tried, tested, failed and corrupt-to-the-core political parties to seek our vote in the local elections at top of their lungs despite a disappointing performance over the decades.
Angry over the fact that Nepal continues to fare poorly on the Transparency International’s corruption perception index (CPI). Have a look at Nepal’s CPI score over a decade if you think all is hunky-dory in the god’s own country.
Angry over apathy on the part of bureaucrats (who like to be called the Rashtrasewaks, the servants of the nation) and politicians towards the public that has been weathering an economic crisis in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war and the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic that dealt a serious blow to the Nepali economy.
In the wake of economic crises, politicians around the world take drastic measures to minimize their impact on the public. They cut down on their pay and perks, some even work without pay. They do every bit to ensure that public health, education, agriculture, law and order, and all those welfare schemes do not suffer even during hard times.
But our good-for-nothings are a shameful exception. Even when the inflation is starting to bite, the government has no plans to curb expenses.
Instead, the head of the government flies to a hill station just a stone’s throw from the government headquarters to attend a conclave. The cost of that ride: A whopping 10 lakh rupees. Couldn’t he have opted for road travel? Or could he not have addressed the conclave virtually if it were so important?
What’s more, the government seems bent on infringing upon the autonomy of the central bank.
It’s not only the government that has been showing extreme insensitivity towards the public during this crisis, though. Except for token protests against price hikes, the opposition parties have also been acting as mute spectators towards the plight of the public.
For example, none of them have suggested, even feebly, a cut-down on pay and perks for lawmakers and bureaucrats when the national economy is in dire straits. Why would they? After all, they too will be needing millions of years to ‘fight’ the elections.
A political and bureaucratic system mired neck deep in corruption needs a thorough cleansing. How about initiating this process through the elections?
This time, reformists/activists of all sorts should have pressed for a none-of-the-above legislation, allowing the electorate to discard all of the tried, tested and failed parties in the fray. That could have offered a measure of public resentment against the old guard, and helped cleanse the system.
But all is not lost and the voters can still make a huge difference.
This election season (local level elections are on May 13, to be followed by provincial and federal elections in a matter of months) while politicians of different hues and shades come to us asking for our precious votes, let’s keep in mind that tried, tested and failed parties and their leaders are largely to blame for our pitiable plight. Rather, let’s think about giving the new, untainted ones a chance.
This time, let’s carry a lot of anger and turn it into wisdom. This time, let’s vote for Nepal, the Nepalis and a new destiny.
This time, if none of the parties are convincing enough, let’s vote with our feet. That is one sure way to make our vote count.