Nepal: Frustrated Undercurrents

Last week, Nepal's Finance Secretary Rameshwor Khanal was apparently forced to resign. Known for his straight forward working style and exemplary work ethnic, the news of his departure came as a surprise to many.

Chandan Sapkota, who works for Kathmandu based economic think tank says that Khanal's decision to leave the office was not voluntary:

Rameshore Khanal, an honest civil servant working as finance secretary of Nepal, resigned due to undue pressure from Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikary and his cronies (including businessmen who were about to be charged for tax evasion). God knows how much Adhikary and the political parties are being paid by the crooked businessmen to oust Khanal from the finance ministry. This is corruption and dirty lobbying at its height. The morale of civil servants will further go down. The optimal solution right now is to take moral responsibility by Adhikary, resign immediately, and recall Khanal without any preconditions.

Nepali Flags on display and for sale in Basantpur Durbar Square. Image by Sharad Aryal, copyright Demotix (24/03/11).

Nepali Flags on display and for sale in Basantpur Durbar Square. Image by Sharad Aryal, copyright Demotix (24/03/11).

Khanal now has a Facebook fan page whose only demand is resignation of Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikary. Commentators have posted congratulatory messages praising Khanal for his stand up behaviour and are questioning Finance Minister Adhikari's style of working and his associations.

Screenshot of Rameshwor Khanals' Facebook Fan Page.

Screenshot of Rameshwor Khanals' Facebook Fan Page.

One of the persistent questions on Minister Adhikari's associations stems from his proximity with prominent industrialist Binod Chaudhary.

At Mysansar, the speculation is that Binod Chaudhary, along with number of major industrialists share the blame for Rameshwor Khanal's resignation.

“नक्कली भ्याट बिल बनाएर राष्ट्रको राजस्व छल्नेहरुसँग १ अर्ब ३५ करोड रुपैयाँ कर असुल्ने तयारी गरिरहँदा चौधरी ग्रुप सहितका व्यापारिक घरानाको दवाबमा अर्थसचिव बदल्ने खेल भएपछि अर्थसचिव रामेश्वर खनालले राजिनामा गरेका छन्। “

“Khanal was working on taking action against tax dodgers who scammed the government out of 1 billion and 35 million by creating fake VAT bills. Behind the scenes Chaudhury Group along with number of prominent business groups worked on removing Khanal from his position, which forced him to resign.”

Allegation of  corruption, alleged role of the Finance Minister and accusations of influence peddling are now galvanizing public anger against the government. There are calls being made for grass roots level campaign to keep civil servants safe from political meddling. At Twitter and on the blogosphere, some young people have already started organizing.

Blogger Ushaft is now leading the call for more youth lead direct action in cleaning up Nepal's work place environment. He is one of the more active members of Nepali “tweeps” who meet on weekends to discuss Nepal's current situation and how a citizen lead civil vigilance movement could benefit the country.

At his blog, he has posted a detailed plan of action for Nepali bloggers and organizers to actually make an impact on the country's politics, on behalf of the frustrated mass. It is interesting to note here that he refers to recent events in the Middle East and says that citizen action can lead to fundamental transformation.

“Well, here’s an opportunity to try to change things a bit.

We might be unsuccessful, but we might gain some momentum, create a critical mass of people for some similar incident in the future, or achieve some other nice goals on the way. We should not forget that people coming together on the internet social networks have achieved wonderful things in the recent times (read Middle East, Wikileaks etc). Let’s aim in bringing the Secretary back to  his office and creating an environment where he can work independently and in his full capacity. Let’s hope that we’ll succeed in teaching the politicians a lesson and that they do not dare to do similar things in the future.”

Krishna H Pushkar at Nepal Officers Blog writes:

We want Mr. Rameshwar Khanal back as finance secretary, though we know that probably he is not coming to rejoin the resigned post.

Adding an interesting spin on the scandal, Binod Chaudhury today published an op-ed at Kantipur Nepali Daily. He completely disassociates himself with the Finance Secretary resignation and also the allegations of tax dodging.

As the public anger gather momentum and the pressure on the government grows, it is clear that Nepali politics has entered a new era where the people are not satisfied just reading about the government's affairs. They are also fed up with the politicization of scandals. With the new technology, people are now organizing and making their voices heard in an clear, peaceful way without any political interference.

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