Doctoral Fellow, Dept of Economics, Temple Varsity Philadelphia, USA.
Lately, for many young Nepalese, politics is justifiably the most disgusting topic to read about. This is a period defined by events such as indefinite bands, ad hoc rallies, manhandling of private and public properties, beatings, murders etc. So frequent and commonplace are these events that a large chunk of the population has come to accept such anarchy as a defining characteristic of Nepalese society. Most folks you talk to will exhibit an extreme level of frustration about the future of the country and to a large extent a sense of indifference to everything good or bad that might be on the way. That this kind of attitude is rampant among the youths is evident in their Face book status-messages, tweets, and comments on news-articles and blogs. Although the news fatigue is understandable, the cost of such indifference is huge.
How many of you have come across (and perhaps liked!) a FB status which says “Learn from others’ mistakes because life is too short to learn from your own?” How stupid would it be to NOT learn from your OWN mistakes? Nepal, as a country, needs to avoid that stupidity by learning from her own mistake(s) committed during the early 90s. The episodes of violence were equally frustrating during that movement. Even then the people were divided into three distinct groups: those who wanted a change, those who wanted the status quo and those who didn’t care for various reasons. It was a huge chunk of that third group which Maoists latter tapped into in order to fuel their war against the constitution of 1990.
The decade long wave of violence waged by the Maoists cost the country a fortune in terms of loss of precious human lives, destruction of scarce infrastructure, and a lackluster economic growth. Over 13,000 deaths, thousands of injuries, and a massive loss of public and private property, which are a result of the Maoist insurgency, can partly be attributed to the third group’s indifference toward the ongoing political process of the time. To emphasize on the cost of a political change achieved without participation of all the stakeholders, it’s relevant to mention some of the estimates of economic cost of the Maoist insurgency. In his 2009 paper titled “Nepal’s civil war and its economics costs” economist Gyan Pradhan concludes that the country lost about 3% of 2009 GDP (roughly Rs 18 billon) due to the war. Although that’s not an insignificant amount for a poor country like Nepal, it is a severe understatement of the cost when compared to an ADB (Asian Development Bank) estimate of the loss of about 8.3% of annual GDP for the fiscal years 2005 to 2009. One of my own studies concluded the loss of up to 185 billion rupees just between 2002 and 2006. Though differing in figures, all of these estimates have two things in common: they are the costs and they are huge!
Will Nepal be able to survive similar injuries once again? Probably not. Will similar events unfold if the current political negotiations were to leave out certain factions of the society? Most probably yes. Since there is a very little chance that someone will come looking for you, its customary that you voice your concerns in all plausible manner. Agreed that all the bands and strikes are causing the nation to bleed its hard earned resources; shrugging the whole process off is equally dangerous. It’s impossible to exaggerate the importance of everyone’s participation during times like these.