The COVID 19 is disrupting society, economy, and politics in all parts of the world. Nepal is not an exception.
From April 23, the Himalayan country has also imposed lockdown as ‘Bramha Aasthra”- one and only solution to combat this pandemic. The myopic policy of Oli’s government, the consecutive political dilemma followed by the intra party confrontation in the ruling NCP has given this pandemic political relish in Nepal. Is this a time for political confrontations? What the ordinary people will get from yours political bargaining (personal rivalry) for power? Can’t we wait for the normalization of this pandemic? These are the few representative questions of each Nepalese citizens.
The former revolutionary political parties (so called people’s parties/democratic parties) and their leaders hadn’t felt it necessary to think on behaves of the laborer, workers, conflict victims, elderly peoples, unemployed youth, and single women etc. who were in desperate needs of the state’s assistance. Neither a single stone is unturned on behalves of them nor the adequate relief given to them. The relief given by the government is not enough them to be alive during the deadlock as well. In fear of food scarcity and lack of proper facilitation by the local people, house owner, employer and the government; thousands of the laborers, workers, and women were compelled to reach their home town on foot. Many of them were still waiting for the state’s responses but the situation has been worst day by day. Now, during lockdown it was reported that, the locals from capital were lifted on reserved vehicles. How could it be fair, that the ordinary citizen has to suffer and the elite were rescued via private/reserved vehicles in a one country? Does the law of this land permits this duality? Simultaneously, the cases of the migrants from India and the situation of stateless in the bank of Mahakali river shows the priority of the state, in one hand and why it think necessary to airlift the students from China in another. This situation make every Nepalese to realize that there are two Nepal, one for the elite and one for the poor people, where there is absence of the state and the government.
HEROES OF THE FRONT LINES
New cases of COVID, depicts the current situation of the country and the imperfect preparedness of the government. Until, now (5th April) 82 cases of COVID has been identified in Nepal, the transmission of the virus has reached the third phase and has entered the community transmission in Nepaljung and Udhaypur. Which shows the recent trends and the intensity of the outburst of the virus in Nepal. If the government doesn’t take the timely initiatives, the situation will be worst in the days to come.
But the Oli’s government is mollycoddled by his own political (personal) interests. The intraparty conflict in the NCP, the slothful opposition party and the priority of the government focusing in ordinance and its unconstitutional moves has depicted the shifting of priorities of the government and failure of political parties during pandemic. The country has to be united during this pandemic but the plot starting from the public statement of the NCP Chairman Prachanda about the formation of the high level political mechanism to combat this pandemic (this types of mechanisms has been practiced during the transition period (2006-2015 in Nepal); which was rejected by other chairman and PM Oli instantly. This move has manifested the personal confrontation and the political play within the ruling party affecting the government’s action combating COVID 19.
This article highlights the reliable options for the formation of high level holistic mechanism within the existing constitutional provisions by reviving NSC. With this, NSC as the political avenue automatically revive the relevance of the NSC especially in imparting the security policy, strategy, operability and cohesiveness in force enforcement agencies and coordination/sharing responsibilities among line government agencies. In line with the spirit of the recent constitution, the National Security Council can function as the high level mechanism if the present government come up with constitutional reform and the institutionalization of NSC as,
The Article 266 (1), related to the objectives of NSC reads as ‘to formulate the Nepal’s overall policies incorporating national interest, security, defense and others. So, if the government has yet realized the impact of the COVID in national interest, it is urgent the government has to formulate or update the existing policies, development plan, acts etc. For instance the National Security Policy (NSP) of 2016 has to be updated to catch the federal sentiments and to combat the post COVID security challenges in Nepal. Security here doesn’t imply the traditional definitions, but the modern notion of the security, ‘human/people security’. The NSC could be the new avenue not tested yet, to formulate the policies, planning, and strategies for the country targeting post COVID crisis.
For, this, the setup of the NSC has to be updated or reshuffled to address the post COVID crisis in Nepal. Based on our own experiences, the NSC’s meeting is deemed to be necessary only during the monsoon season (natural calamities) and the election, only for formalities to mobilize the Nepal Army (NA). The NSC has been limited only to recommend the council of Ministers in mobilization of the NA. The periodic meetings of the NSC is the primary condition to revive the NSC and the constitutional provisions demands holistic policy formulation as well.
The secretary of the NSC should be the chief secretary of the government of Nepal. This doesn’t mean that, the defense secretary doesn’t have any role. The subcommittee within the NSC can be established under the chairman of the defense secretary comprising home secretary, foreign secretary, finance secretary and other expert as a member. To facilitate the functioning of NSC other department, committee can be established.
The opposition party leader must be the member of the NSC, by incorporating the opposition leader, the NSC will became the constitutional body not limited to only government body. Since, Nepal is federal country, the NSC setup was not in line with federal spirit. For instance the role of the provincial Chief Minister/ministers were not considered necessary in existing setups. The CMs or state home minister should be the invite members of the NSC along with independent professional experts.
The research and development wing with in NCS can be the intellectual engine, which may assist NSC to formulate timely policies, review the existing polices and activate the research culture in the constitutional bodies. For, this the NSC must have separate independent research and development department, headed by professional expert.
There are various ways to give life to NSC, few of them are listed above. Foremost, the leaders must have to realize the constitutional spirit of the NSC, its relevance, and has to reform NSC, its institutional setups, and not to limit NSC with in defense ministry. This demands the unity among the political parties on the issue of the national interest, which is difficult in current political feudal culture. Rather than COVID 19 and its global pandemic, Nepalese from each nook and corner were haunted by the undemocratic/unnatural ghost of the K. P Oli led government’s.