As a child, I had read a story about Shiva Sharma who begged for living. One day, a generous benefactor gave him a sizeable amount of satu (roasted corn flour) in alms. Shiva Sharma came home and put the sack of satu near his Spartan bed. He lay down in his bed and began to think how he could sell part of the flour, make some money, invest in a farm, get rich, get married, have children and punish his children if they did not behave. When he motioned his leg how he was going to whack them, his leg hit the sack, and the satu was spilled on the dirty floor aborting his dream. Next day, he went to beg to beg again.
Nepalese politics repeats the Shiva Sharma story endlessly. Just before elections, leaders hand us sacks promising to fill it with higher investment, higher growth, better education and health services, more jobs, higher income, more energy, more drinking and irrigating water, more road. They get rich and powerful while we, the people, dream of the sacks getting so we could sell them and invest. In this waiting game, we grow weaker and become poorer. The next election cycle comes along and leaders kick the old rotten sack down to the floor and hand a new bag promising that they would fill it soon.
Some might argue that we have not become weaker or poorer over the last several decades. They are right. Poverty has declined and the standard of living has risen. But these improvements have come along from our selling sweat and blood in foreign lands, sometimes working in 50C temperature and losing several lives of our kith and kin in the Gulf and elsewhere. Our leaders deserve our gratitude for issuing us passports and for not preventing us from traveling abroad for employment. But not much beyond that.
Today, nearly three million people work in the Gulf, Malaysia and elsewhere, many of them in dangerously inhospitable weather and awful conditions. The British newspaper Guardian reported that 185 Nepali laborers constructing the World Cup Stadium in Qatar died due to heat and exhaustion and thousands live in unacceptable conditions. The situation is similar across the Middle East. These laborers send money home so their families can eat well, get medical treatment, send children to school, and support the national economy.
Economic development takes time even if leaders do their best, which they have not. But they did deliver what they could. No new constitution in five years, though they had promised it in 2008 within two years. No justice. No better education and healthcare. No local elections. No drinking water and electricity. Meanwhile, they pocketed the monthly salary, meeting allowance, housing allowance and other benefits as well as took foreign trips. In 2013, our leaders kicked down the old sack and handed us a new bag with tons of promises, the new constitution within a year, growth, jobs, drinking water, energy, etc.
But as soon as the election ended, our leaders reset them in the old mold and began to fight for posts rather...