The cabinet has decided to provide Rs 20 million for the Lumbini-Sagarmatha Campaign, an expedition of 11 Maoist cadres, chief among them Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s son Prakash, which is out to climb Mt Everest. The government should have proper justification for every single rupee of tax payers’ money it decides to spend; and the justification should be all the more robust when such spending is unbudgeted and hence does not come under parliamentary scrutiny. The funding decision cannot be justified under any pretext.
Maoist cadres have said that their journey from Lumbini to Mt Everest is aimed at exerting pressure on the leaders to conclude the peace and write the constitution on time. This is a crude joke at the expense of the Nepali people’s aspirations for a timely conclusion of the peace process and promulgation of the new constitution. If Prakash Dahal is so concerned about peace and constitution, his journey to exert the required pressure need not be that arduous. It can start from his own room and end at his father’s.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, who started out with a strong pledge of austerity and raised hopes and expectations among so many, has also made a joke of himself through this decision. The series of reckless and profligate steps that he has taken of late make his choice of a Nepal-made Mustang Max as his official car and economy class flights during foreign trips nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt. Just because Prakash is Pushpa Kamal’s son and has the crazy idea of climbing Everest doesn’t mean the cabinet should fund the expedition from state coffers. Think of the hundreds of Sherpas who have climbed up the slopes of Everest as porters, as only that arduous calling provided them a livelihood. The cabinet’s decision to issue 20 million to Prakash and company is an affront to those hard-working highlanders and other Nepalis who toil for two square meals a day.
It’s also a question of fairness. Nepalis who don’t have any political connections are often denied state assistance even when they fully deserve it. Take for instance the compensation that the families of victims of the Babarmahal bomb blast were supposed to receive. The state initially withheld the compensation under the pretext that it first wanted the official investigation to clear those killed in the incident of suspicion that any of them could have been carrying the bomb. Police have already nabbed six people believed to have a direct hand in planning and carrying out the blast and they haven’t found any hint of complicity by the victims.
And yet the victims’ families haven’t received their compensation. The locals of Dhading forced a highway banda on Tuesday to pressure the government over the matter. This is not how skewed things ought to be in “New Nepal.” The government must, without further delay, revoke the decision to bankroll Dahal junior’s vertical urges and leave it to he himself or his father’s party to fund the venture