No Country for Old Men!

Our old neighbor used to swing around a towel to make pigeons go round and round in the sky. As I stared in awe at the pigeons’ performance, my grandfather told me stories from his youth about when people used these birds as carriers—I am sure some of the readers can relate to this. But most won’t, not because of a big age gap between us but because the time seems to have changed in a hurry, especially in Nepal. If aalikati right tira…bhayo bhayo…pheri gayo…alikati debre ghumau… is Greek to you but HD flat screen or 3D TV is music to your ears, then you are the one I am reaching out to. You, the “e-generation,” have more power than you think. You need to engage, become active, and demand for things to be done in new ways. This is imperative to ensure that our generations are not left wondering what happened, as the rest of the world leaves us behind one gigabyte at a time.

The political and economic systems in Nepal are archaic. It is time for the older generation to let the young and the vibrant ones work on building a nation in which they will live, raise their families, and take pride in what they create. It is an absurd idea to rely on leaders from the “Gandhi era,” to help us navigate through these electronic times, especially when they do not foster the teachings of Gandhi! It is time that the young generations demand a change in leadership. It is stupid to expect a different outcome while repeating the same process, with the same leaders, in the same system. It is time to change the system.

Old Politicians of Nepal

There are some inherent issues with the system in place, namely that it fosters rule by the party elites— we might as well have the monarchy and call it good. How is it fair when one person can run from two different constituencies? Why is it that the same person becomes the leader, again and again? Shouldn’t the people have a right to re-elect or remove the leaders by judging them on their actions? I do not need to remind you of the world record set by Nepal on electing the same person to the highest office 4 times! Did we really elect them? I sure didn’t. Why shouldn’t the entire country get to elect their leader?

What is keeping us from changing the current system? Is this system the best one for Nepal? Why can’t we draw up a system that looks at the American, British, and the French system of government for solutions? The details of a newer system should be left to the political scientists to draw, but the alternate system should ensure that local leaders can run for elections from their constituency. It should limit one individual to one constituency; no more personal insurance of running from two different areas. But most importantly, there needs to be a nationwide election for the prime minister analogous to the presidential election in the United States and France. This will insure that the leaders pay attention to the entire nation. Implementing term limits would be icing on the cake. Once the prime-minister is elected, s/he would get to pick his/her own group of experts for his/her cabinet. These members would oversee the various ministries, and MPs would no longer serve as ministers—this allows MPs to focus on their constituencies and not spend time in Chakadi of the party elites.

I am not a political scientist; however, one does not need to be to see the problems with the present system of politics in Nepal. It is not the parties, per-se, that are at fault. It is the system. The system preserves the framework where old “leaders” are brought to power time and again, yet, seems to stifle any new, young voice to come to the forefront and provide the nation with the much needed 21st century leadership, e-leadership, if you will. Every time one asks about young leaders in Nepal, people point to Gagan Thapa (in the Nepali Congress). I have heard that name thrown around for about 10 years and he has yet to hold office! Why? Not because he lacks leadership or skills, but because the system is such that one needs to curry-favor with the party elites to get anywhere. This is wrong. It should be the people who elect leaders not the party elites with fat coffers. I understand that it will be very difficult to change the system given the fact that the ones writing the constitution want to retain their control and flow of money. In other words, the status-quo is just fine with them: why bother changing something if it disrupts your comfort?

So, here is what Nepali youths can do!

The election commission of Nepal is firing on all throttles to register voters throughout the country. This is one of the key times for the Nepali youth to take charge through the democratic process. It is in our best interest to register and get others to register in order to make sure that our voices are heard. It is time to say, enough! There is a seismic wave building in the youth population of Nepal. This energy is evident on Facebook, Twitter, local newspapers and blogs. There is actually a movement on Facebook to Retire the Netas. This buildup can be impactful only if it can be translated into grassroots organization and action.

The frustration expressed on the web and print media is shared by almost all the past and present generations who have been denied prosperity and a decent outlook into the future. It is important to galvanize this sentiment among the youth to coalesce around the common dream of an opportunity to succeed—an opportunity to be able to compete with fellow generations of other countries in today’s globalized world. The Nepali youth know that they are as good as any of the British, American, European, or Australian youth. They know, if given a chance, they too can advance and prosper.

It is time to dismantle the barricade that is preventing the upward social and economic mobility of the Nepali youth. It is time to start organizing with the idea of changing things at the polls. Young Nepalese around the country, especially in metropolises like Kathmandu, Pokhara, Biratnagar, Surkhet, Butwal, Birgunj should start organizing at the grass-roots level. I would advise them to do things that provide their own local areas with gaas, baas and kapas and other related things. This will give credence to them and their movement. Once the constitution is written, whenever that might be, an election needs to be held. Young aspiring leaders should engage in this process. Their effort should be supported by aspiring entrepreneurs and professionals, without whom it will be hard for the young leaders to put up a decent fight. Youth in charge of the media should organize and hold programs to discuss ideas, visions, and their implementations. They should not waste time arguing over petty issues—this is an insult to the intellect of the Nepali youth and population.

With such platform and an opportunity to present one’s pragmatic solutions to the country’s problem of unemployment, income disparity, and lack of basic needs, the leaders of the e-generation can rise. You, the new leaders, should challenge the status-quo and the old goons at the polls. Organize through the social media and ask people to vote. Everyone in your generation is as disgusted and frustrated with the present system and the leaders as you are. This represents an immense force waiting to unleash its power. Give them an opportunity to release that power, an opportunity to vent and truly display their discontent with the present state of affairs, an opportunity to take control of their own destiny. It is time to break free from the chains that are holding us back; it is time to lean forward and embrace the Twitter generation and move beyond the pigeon generation!

Niroj Bhattarai

By Niroj Bhattarai
Author is an economist and a blogger at Ghintang Economics, a blog which focuses on culture, sustainability, and development in Nepal. You can follow him on twitter @arthabeed

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