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Curb inflation, uphold the Charter

The governments’ failure to guarantee fundamental rights by curbing inflation and by providing jobs can make way for anarchy

Curb inflation, uphold the Charter

Although the Constitution of Nepal stands for fundamental rights, sustainable development and welfare policies, a sweeping wave of unemployment and inflation have pushed the country to a breaking point.

A soaring inflation has caused a brutal impact on the lives, livelihoods and overall well-being of the people. Whatever you purchase these days has inflation attached to it. To mitigate the economic distress resulting from a double impact of inflation and unemployment, the government could have introduced welfare schemes as the constitution has envisaged that all public policies are supposed to be in sync with fundamental rights and directive principles.

Soaring market prices have everyone upset. Tomatoes have become so costly that people have begun comparing them with petrol. In fact, it is a wrong comparison. While petrol costs Rs 175/liter these days, tomatoes cost around Rs 200/kg. In such a situation, governments—central, provincial and local—should have provided some relief to the people.

Constitutional quagmires

Our constitution, which entered into force on 20 Sept 2015, ‘guarantees’ so many rights. It guarantees the right to food (Article 36); right to employment (Article 33); the rights of consumers to have quality goods and services (Article 44), so on and so forth. Over and above all else, it guarantees the right to live a dignified life (Article 16). I wonder why we are not talking about these foundation stones on which the constitution stands.

Inflation has a direct bearing on poverty. The other side of this picture is that some of the adverse effects may have a lasting impact. For instance, a section of the population may suffer from diseases for want of a balanced diet owing to the lack of income or poverty.

On the other hand, people may not be able to educate their kids properly regardless of the right to education enshrined in Article 31 of the constitution as one of the fundamental rights.

All this has the people and their fundamental rights on the receiving end. In today’s federal democratic republic, the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution sound so alien. Gradually, this situation may give rise to public distrust toward constitutional guarantees and government-made promises, thereby fomenting anarchy.

Preamble of the charter

The preamble of the charter obliges the state to end “all forms of discrimination and oppression created by the feudal, autocratic, centralized, and unitary system” for the creation of an “egalitarian society on the basis of the principle of proportional inclusion.” The preamble affirms the sovereignty of “We the people,” committed to fulfilling the “aspirations for perpetual peace, good governance, development and prosperity through the medium of democratic republican system of governance” and thus “hereby promulgate this Constitution through the Constituent Assembly.” The concluding part seeks to unite the citizens in an enduring sense of duty to uphold constitutional norms, not just the ‘loyalty of lip service’.

The Parliamentarians and the provincial leaders must ask themselves whether, as responsible public servants, they have stood up to the constitutional promise of maintaining the concept called “rule of law” and “egalitarianism”.

The governments’ failure to guarantee the fundamental rights (by curbing inflation and by providing jobs) can end up disrobing egalitarianism, the rule of law and the overall objectives of the preamble. 

Way forward

The people should raise their concerns strongly against unscrupulous exploitation of their rights and value their hard-earned money. A culture of accountability and honesty will not flourish in the country unless the consumers themselves become more vigilant.

Article 46 of the constitution empowers every citizen to knock the doors of the Supreme Court (Article 133) or High Courts (Article 144) for the realization of fundamental rights. Article 48 casts a fundamental duty on every citizen to abide by the constitution and the prevailing laws. 

Do we care about these provisions?

The governments’ failure to curb inflation or their failure to introduce welfare schemes amidst rising inflation reflects poorly on our political leaders. For them, nothing else matters save absolute power, it appears. This has a profound negative bearing on the entire democratic system of governance.

To protect fundamental rights, the government should rein in food inflation. There should be frequent administrative checks on retail prices, hoarding of food commodities and unabated smuggling of food items to the neighborhood.

Escalating food prices are especially worrisome as they undermine the right to food.  The mismanagement of the economy and lawlessness should not be the hallmarks of our federal democracy.

Margaret Thatcher, a British politician, had rightly said, “The Constitution has to be written on hearts, not just paper.” If we really want to live and breathe in a democracy, our constitution must be acknowledged in letter and spirit.   

It’s high time to realize that the country cannot survive with uncontrolled inflation and frequent disruption of constitutional mandates, especially given that Nepal is an ancient country of sustainable development-friendly people.

Take a pledge to implement the constitution, for the country deserves the rule of law. As George Washington has said, “The constitution is the guide which I will never abandon,” the time has come for every Nepali, including leaders and Ministers, to take the same solemn pledge.