Despite criticism from all sectors, the Legislature-Parliament a few weeks ago, endorsed a bill to effect a whopping 42 per cent increment in pay for lawmakers, officials and others – this at a time when over sixty per cent of our population is living in poverty, when earthquake victims are still forced to sleep under the open sky, and when people in many parts of the country, especially in the remote part, are living in hunger.
Parliamentarians even prioritised endorsement of this legislation to serve their own sick interests by delaying other crucial matters including the impeachment motion against Lok Man Singh Karki, the constitutional amendment process and the completion of the transitional justice process in the country. An even bigger surprise to all was the fact that the bill to increase pay was endorsed within just five days of it being tabled in the House. The long-term effect will be disastrous. How can our government and politicians even begin to justify their action?
While the country is on the brink of economic and political collapse and many parts have suffered hunger for decades, the new bill will cost the treasury a huge additional amount annually. What is the meaning of this huge increment for the privileged in the present circumstances? Where is the moral authority of our parliamentarians and politicians? Have they not been elected to serve the people? How can they continue to enjoy their good salaries, pensions and other facilities at taxpayers’ expense while millions of people are forced to survive with little or no food, medicine or other basic necessities? Many questions must be asked today: Where are the voices of the so-called civil society and the media? Maybe they are all influenced by partisan interests that blind them to the values, traditions and established social norms of our country. However, the bill indicates more things than that.
Firstly, it is a mockery of democratic values and traditions, and it is also illegal, unconstitutional and an extreme act of immorality. The action of the politicians poses a serious threat to the democratic interest and, most importantly, to parliamentary democracy itself. For our politicians, it proves that democracy means little more than loot and monopoly over the affairs of state. I see this bill as amounting to open and fearless corruption. It generates also crises for governance, for the rule of law and for the values that we wish to maintain. Good governance requires that the government should be subject to the law, but there seems nothing and nobody to answer for our politicians. This is the most unfortunate act by our parliamentarians so far. It is a great mockery of humanity, of moral authority, and it amounts to an extreme act of greed.
Of 195 independent countries in the world, Nepal is only 20 places above the very poorest. Why does our country always seem to be so helpless? There has to be a very simple answer: politicians and public institutions are not accountable to the people despite laws to regulate their conduct. Where is the human right of the poorest of our citizens to live in fairness and dignity? Politicians are elected to serve the interests of the general public and not act on their own petty desires. Why are they cheating the people? Why are they misusing their power constantly to serve their own vested interests?
Secondly, politics is supposed to provide service, but it has become a profession – and a lucratively paid one at that. Politics should be a job of selfless service towards society, to make society better and, most importantly, to transform society towards greater goodness. In our context, it appears that politics means getting rich overnight and grabbing more and more. As such it has become a job that is no different from working for a huge company or an NGO/INGO with attractive income, bonuses and expenses.
The new bill is thus the greatest insult to the poorest in our country, to the tax-payers and to common people in general. It gives the impression that our country is being run as a mafia state controlled by corrupted politicians, businessmen, and dalal-broker criminals. The politicians use poverty eradication only as propaganda in order to win votes. I strongly believe that while over 60 percent of our population is forced to live below the poverty line, this bill to increase VIP salaries and other facilities runs against the mandate of the people and amounts to a total misuse of authority and power. It is the most shameful act ever undertaken by our so-called representatives of the people. It is a pure criminal act in the name of the majority in the House and is a prime example of cronyism. The rule of law and constitutionalism, which are the principal pillars of a democracy, are being severely shaken by the actions of our so-called parliamentarians.
Finally, the bill indicates that this country appears to have entered an era of unprecedented corruption at the top such that Nepal could well claim to be the most corrupted spot on the whole planet. I believe that this constitutes a new form of terror and brutality against the inner soul of ordinary citizens. It is an act of large-scale legalised loot of public property and a misuse of public funds: most importantly it is a gross misuse of tax payers’ hard-earned money paid to the state by some of the poorest in the country. It proves that our politicians and parliamentarians are most undemocratic, unethical and selfish in their deeds and manners. When are they going to learn to adopt a more democratic culture and show a little more sincerity towards the people of the nation?
I strongly believe that the bill that serves only the petty interests of politicians and VIPs should be taken as a wake-up call for all of us. It is a symptom of a failed system of governance and of the rule of law. It is a monopoly by a few individuals over the resources of the state, and most importantly it is an extreme act of immorality. Our politicians have abandoned humanity, the very purpose of democracy and common sense, and the country has lost its direction.
Open corruption and the loot of public money must be halted. The politicians and public institutions must be held more accountable to the people and more responsible for their actions and omissions. Reform can only be achieved by public resistance, but how can that be done and who can do it? Real reform should destroy the systemic corruption on which politico-economic interests seem to rely. It requires the changing of institutions and mind-sets and the making of meaningful policies and programmes. Most importantly, we must enforce laws more effectively, and state institutions must be freed from the political parties.