1) Every elected politician should spend at least a month in a monastery and train in spirituality. Without spirituality, one can become greedy and overambitious.
2) We need a minimum set of qualifications and retirement age for ministers. If a driver or a clerk has to retire at 58, why not a minister?
3) Treat delays in development projects as corruption. They increase project cost manifold.
Every night I go to sleep, my heart weeps at the poor state of my country. When we became free from the Rana regime in 1951, the whole of Asia was more or less at the same level of development. Instead of progressing, Nepal has gone into reverse in these 70 years. Forget North America and Europe, compare us with our South Asian neighbors—each year, we are becoming relatively poorer. Bhutan, which was poorer than Nepal a few decades ago, now has a per capita income of $3,300, while ours is about $1,000. Look at China—our per capita income was once higher than China’s. And can you imagine Singapore was poorer than Nepal in 1950?
I feel humiliated to see my country. I don't know why our politicians don’t feel even a little shame.
God has given us everything. We have six seasons while some European and North American countries have just two—summer and winter. We have the Himalayas, Lumbini, Pashupatinath, Muktinath, and whatnot. Look at Singapore—they only have seashores. But 20 million tourists go there every year. Every year, 40 million tourists go to Tibet and 40 million to Thailand. And we have a proud target of two million a year! Even our tourism minister knows that we are never going to meet it. Every educated Nepali should feel ashamed to read this.
Every year, millions visit Mansarovar in Tibet. Our own Rara Lake is no less beautiful. It’s more accessible and you won’t have altitude sickness there, unlike Mansarovar. Our government proudly says 215 foreign tourists visited the lake the past year. Isn’t that shameful? If you properly manage Rara Lake, it alone can feed the entire Karnali Province. If you properly manage Lumbini, it can feed the entire country.
First, we need a stable government and responsible ministers. In other countries, ministers resign on moral grounds when things go wrong. There was a train accident in India, and the railway minister, Nitish Kumar, resigned although it was not his direct fault. In Korea and Japan, concerned ministers have committed suicide even in minor corruption cases. But look at our ministers—audio records go public where they are heard asking for bribes. And they walk around in full confidence as if nothing is wrong!
Young people should come forward in politics. There is a retirement age in every profession. Shouldn’t it be the same in politics? Because they make law, they have given themselves total liberty. The minister's driver has to pass a test to qualify for the driving license, and they have to retire at 58. But the ministers, who drive the country, don’t need any training, they don’t need to appear for any exam, and they don’t retire. They want to go to their funeral on the ministerial chair! Isn’t that ridiculous? How can you say a driver or clerk is unfit to work at 58, and the minister is fit till his deathbed? We need a retirement law for ministers.
The next issue is their qualification. They need to be qualified for their job. In Canada, the health minister needs to be a doctor, the defence minister needs to have worked in the army, and the finance minister needs to be an economic expert. But here, one with zero knowledge of health becomes a health minister and one having no idea of transport engineering becomes the transport minister. To become a police inspector, one has to do all the studies, go to university, sit for a competitive exam, and go for rigorous training for two years. But the home minister needs no training and no qualification except some politicking! This is why we are poor. Politicians need to be qualified in a related field to run a ministry. Only then can you deliver professionally. If you are the minister and you fail 100 percent, shouldn’t you feel a little bit of shame?
The Pokhara International Airport project was started in 2016 with a deadline of two years. But five years have passed, and the work remains unfinished. Who is responsible for the delay? To give an example of how things work elsewhere: There was one tiny bus station-like airport in a Russian town when I went there in 2005. The next year, I was startled to find it being converted into a thriving international airport.
Look at the Melamchi Water Project. Due to the long delay, the project cost has gone up manifold. Shouldn’t you account for that? Look at the price you have to pay the consultants, project staff, and materials, and the money you lose in corruption. I say the CIAA should seriously consider time-delay as major corruption in such projects; it’s more dangerous than monetary corruption.
We need to encourage our political leaders to spend at least a month in a religious place or a monastery learning and practicing Buddhist teachings, Hindu Upasanids, Ashtavakra Mahagita, and the like. How many Nepali politicians know that Ashtavakra Mahagita was composed in Nepal? They should know this and be proud of it. They need basic training in Hindu and Buddhist scripture.
In Thailand, you cannot become the king if you haven’t spent a year in a monastery as a Bhikkhu. They did something similar in Myanmar and other Buddhist countries: You had to be a Bhikkhu before assuming a responsible public position. In Nepal also, one should learn some spirituality after winning an election and before joining the office, or even before filing a nomination. This will open you up to great insight, you can learn compassion, learn to quieten your mind, to control your ambition. Without spirituality, one becomes too greedy or too ambitious. That fuels corruption.
Just like a spoonful of sugar can give great taste to a cup of tea, there should be at least one spoonful of spirituality in the whole political system. It can make the whole system beautiful.
I have been asking the government to propose the Buddha Jayanti as the National Meditation Day. It will only take two minutes for the education minister to propose it at the Cabinet meeting and for the Cabinet to approve it. When we have a National Meditation Day, we can propose the United Nations for an International Meditation Day. I am sure most Buddhist countries will back Nepal's proposal. I once mentioned it to the Sri Lankan ambassador and he was so excited that he hugged me. We lost International Yoga Day by delaying the proposal; let's not delay this. Everybody needs meditation. Let’s go for it.
When did you first sit cross-legged in meditation?
When I was in school, in class 8.
Who is your all-time favorite political leader?
Lee Kuan Yew. He not only converted Singapore from a poor to a highly developed country, but also changed the face of Asia by inspiring leaders like Deng Xiaoping and Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Why do politicians lie? Is it necessary to lie in politics?
Rather than welfare, politics has become power-centric. Just to remain in power, they have to make a lot of compromises, so they also have to lie sometimes.