The jury is still out on federalism in Nepal, which was put in place in 2017, after elections to three levels of government – local, provincial and federal. But there is no doubting that local people are getting more vocal about their frustrations at the slow pace of road building and other infrastructure works. I wrote the following in this week’s Nepali Times:
Think locally, act locally
- In May, residents and traders burned tyres to block the Chabahil-Jorpati road, signalling their frustration at long-delayed construction on the dusty, crater-filled stretch. They succeeded in sparking action, but after upgrading work stalled, protests erupted again last week in a bid to force the contractor to finish the job.
- The road blocking trend morphed into poster protests, where the faces of delinquent road contractors were plastered to poles and vehicles. This included Nagarkot, where contractor Sharada Prasad Adhikari, also the landlord of Nepal Communist Party Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, was targeted. The tactic spread further, with Mayor Bhim Parajuli of Biratnagar being publicly shamed last week.
- Residents attempting to stop road-building in Baitadi in October were turned on by an excavator operator, whose shocking attack with the machine injured eight people. Attempted murder charges are pending.
- In Udaypur last week, locals clashed with police after seizing more than a dozen dump trucks and an excavator that were being used to gouge sand and rocks out of a local river.
- Residents of Charikot of Dolakha District took to the streets last week to protest the lack of progress in repairing the Jiri Highway. They blocked the main intersection to vehicular traffic for hours.
Living in Kathmandu it’s way too easy to be critical of this country, which often means critical of the government and the ‘establishment’. Red tape, corruption, injustice and neglect are just some of the terms that can easily be used to describe those who wield power in this place.
Of course, this is just part of the picture: because those are exactly the issues that the media focuses on (writes the former and still sometimes journalist) they tend to be emphasised. But I know that there are positive things happening here, from the macro view of issues like declining maternal mortality and improving child health, to the growth of micro-enterprises in Kathmandu run by young Nepalis who have chosen to return home from studying overseas.