Baburam Bhattarai: An analysis on Nepal’s underdevelopment
Pioneering development planner
Born on 18 June 1954 in Gorkha
Went to Amarjyoti Janata High School, Gorkha
Graduated from Punjab University, Chandigarh, Post-grad from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi
PhD in Regional development planning from Jawaharlal Nehru University
Published doctoral thesis ‘The Nature of Underdevelopment and Regional Structure of Nepal: A Marxist Analysis’ in 2003
Husband of Hisila Yami
Father to Manushi Yami Bhattarai
I went to India in 1972 under the Colombo Plan scholarship to study architecture. Architecture is a fusion of science and art, which is also associated with the socio-economic factors of society. For instance, we often hear terms like ‘Architecture of Modern Nepal’ or ‘Architecture of Modern India’, where the process starts from a building, housing, urban area, regional area, and lastly the international area.
The intricacies of this developmental process intrigued me, compelling me to delve deeper into the subject. Consequently, I dedicated my efforts to researching why Nepal is still backward in development and analyzed the political-economic aspects of it. I then went on to publish my doctoral thesis on ‘The Nature of Underdevelopment and Regional Structure of Nepal: A Marxist Analysis’ in 2003.
We know that Nepal is underdeveloped, but this book offers an in-depth exploration of the regional aspects of this underdevelopment. The book primarily utilizes two key hypotheses—internal dynamics and external dynamics—which later helped to build the base of the Maoist revolution too.
Concerning the internal dynamics, our history reveals a prolonged period of centralized feudal monarchy spanning two centuries following its unification. In contrast, during the same era, Europe had already embarked on the path of industrialization and capitalism. Typically, societies follow a progression from tribalism to feudalism and then to capitalism as part of their economic development. However, Nepal, during the 18th century, found itself at a juncture where it should have transitioned towards capitalism but was still firmly entrenched in a feudal system.
Presently, the global trend is moving from advanced capitalism towards socialism, but Nepal has yet to fully establish a solid capitalist foundation. Therefore, Nepal’s status as an underdeveloped nation can be attributed to its prolonged history of centralized feudal governance.
Regarding the external dynamics, prior to the Sugauli Treaty, the developmental status of Nepal, India, and neighboring states exhibited considerable similarity. In fact, within South Asia, Nepal was notably ahead of its counterparts. However, following the Sugauli Treaty, Nepal began to undergo a shift towards political dependence, or I prefer saying semi-colonialism. During this period, India embarked on the path of industrial capitalism development, while Nepal remained primarily reliant on a limited number of small-scale cottage industries located in only specific regions of the country.
This disparity in economic development led to an unequal relation and exchange where Nepal became increasingly tied to the Indian economy.
With these internal and external dynamics, I divided this book into four parts—Agriculture, Industry, Trade, and Pattern of Urbanization—analyzing and concluding that without ending our central feudal system and restructuring our dominance-dependent relationship with India, Nepal can’t develop.
Traditionally, the common classification for the major components of an economy is agriculture, industry, and services. However, I view it as the primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors. Historically, economic development has typically followed a path from the primary to the secondary, and then to the tertiary sector. In our case, as a less developed economy, the primary sector holds a significant share. There is a noticeable gap in the secondary sector. For instance, in China, approximately 38 percent of their economy is linked to the secondary sector, while in our case, it barely reaches 12 percent and sometimes drops as low as five percent. It is now impossible for us to progress through these economic stages following the historical pattern.
Given our integration into the global economy, it is imperative that we shift our focus towards transitioning the labor force, which is predominantly engaged in agriculture, to the industry and service sectors. When there is an agriculture-based rural economy, the settlement pattern is always scattered. Unless we shift our labor, production, and economy to the secondary and tertiary sectors, it’s difficult to plan a settlement in a scientific way.
So, when we planned federalism, our aim was to bring economic development alongside fostering ethnic diversity. This regional restructuring was essential to facilitate a transformation in our economic landscape.
Numerous flaws exist in our present regional restructuring. Ideally, it should have been meticulously designed with the input of urban planners, following a systematic, scientific, and economic approach. However, our current local structure appears to be haphazardly assembled, primarily through the amalgamation of pre-existing feudal systems. It lacks a scientific basis for its restructuring.
The sole resolution lies in freeing the workforce currently confined to the primary sector, enabling their transition into the secondary and tertiary sectors. Only then can we enhance production and stimulate economic growth, ultimately breaking free from this predicament. Our emphasis should be on achieving double-digit economic growth over the course of two decades.
Manushi Yami Bhattarai (Daughter)
Coming from humble origins, he is deeply rooted in his ideals for an egalitarian and just society free from poverty. His lifelong political struggle has always been driven by aspirations for Nepal’s development and prosperity. He displays an earnest scientific temperament in his thoughts and actions and has always had a keen interest in global phenomena, the latest developments in science, technology, and philosophy, and how they may affect Nepal’s political-economic transformation.
Yogeshwar Parajuli (Friend)
Bhattarai possesses remarkable intelligence and a profound understanding of various subjects, making his educational background a significant asset when it comes to his role as a politician. He exhibits a remarkable capacity to acquire new knowledge in line with his duties and is proactive in finding ways to put fresh ideas into action. During his tenure as prime minister, he assembled a team of experts with whom he regularly convened to address emerging challenges. Bhattarai has a consistent commitment to continuous learning and growth.
Laxmi Devkota (Colleague)
Baburam Bhattarai holds a strong belief in the power of science and technology. He is convinced that the progress of our world has been driven by advancements in these fields, and he advocates for Nepal to embrace a similar trajectory. He consistently adheres to his principles and actively seeks opportunities for learning. I greatly admire his modest lifestyle and his commitment to deep thinking. If only we could have harnessed all of his knowledge, Nepal might have experienced even greater development.
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