FDR – ministers, crashes, and cuts

A recollection of what has happened in the last seven years since Nepal became Federal Democratic Republic. First of the two part blog series has some facts with some negativity. Part two will be more difficult to write – as the hope is to get a better and brighter picture.

Prime Minister/s

Expectations were high even in 2008. Nepal came together and made history with Federal Democratic Republic country and the new constitutional assembly. Sure, we removed the monarchy in hope to better the political structure that we thought was more akin to feudalism under the then ruler. Introspection reveals a neglect and a disaster. Members of the second Constituent Assembly, elected in November, chose S Koirala of the Nepali Congress (NC) party on February 10 as the fifth prime minister since Nepal held its first democratic elections six years ago. Disclosure – I am inclined towards democracy, neutral towards the old monarchy, and despise the communism

#
Name
(Born-Died)
Term of Office
Political Party
Took Office
Left Office
Days
1 Girija P koirala.jpg Girija P Koirala
(1925–2010)
28 May 2008 18 August 2008 83 Nepali Congress
2 Prachanda 2009.jpg Prachanda
(1954– )
18 August 2008 25 May 2009 280 Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (Communist)
3 Madhav Kumar Nepal2.JPG Madhav Kumar Nepal
(1953– )
25 May 2009 6 February 2011 622 Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist)
4 J.n (2).jpg Jhala Nath Khanal
(1950– )
6 February 2011 29 August 2011 204 Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist)
5 Baburam Bhattarai.jpg Baburam Bhattarai
(1954– )
29 August 2011 14 March 2013 563 Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (Communist)
6 Khilaraj regmi.jpg Khil Raj Regmi(1949– ) 14 March 2013 11 February 2014 334 Nonpartisan
7 Sushil Koirala.jpg Sushil Koirala
(1939– )(Acting)
11 February 2014 Incumbent 12 Nepali Congress

Source – Wikipedia Article

Seven prime ministers in seven years. Seven head of state, elected (and/or selected) to bring the country out of tragedy and darkness.  GPK was experienced, skillful and capable leader. However, he was inadequate and incompetent for the time, corrupt, greedy, and old.

Koirala ruled the longest as five-time prime minister in the democratic era after 1990, and by that token also made more mistakes than others, besides earning the animosity of the mainstream left which opposed him in Parliament and on the streets. Koirala can take some of the credit for the advances made during the dozen years of democracy till 2002, including the advance of community forestry, press freedom, the FM radio revolution and the brief interlude with local government. He was a true believer in open society. And yet, he was party to the ills that dog us to this day, from energy shortage, static economy and the impunity that has spread like wildfire. Clearly, Koirala was unable to come to grips with the newer challenges beyond pluralism, posed by identity assertion and economic globalisation, among others.

– – Kanak Mani Dixit (The Hindu – March 22, 2010)

The next four prime ministers were from Communist Parties. Though not a big fan, ours is one of the few nations which has the leftist participate and win democratic elections. Among the four PM, it was B Bhattarai from whom the expectations were pretty high. He failed. The remaining three communist leaders are mockery at best. In my personal view, Francis Underwood could learn a lot from PK Dahal on how to lie; and MK Nepal on how to become head of state even after loosing the election (plot line for season 4)

Autumn 2003, I found myself at the same university which shaped up Dr. Babu Ram Bhattarai, the chief Maoist ideologue. Now, popularly known as ‘Laldhwaj’ among his comrades, Babu Ram Bhattarai did his PhD in Urban Planning from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi (1986). This famous Leftist bastion drew him to the communist fold despite his earlier fondness for BP Koirala and even GP Koirala. Taking a U-turn from his Nepali Congress leaning in JNU, he wrote a thesis, replete with leftist polemic and revolutionary rhetoric, now available as a book- “The Nature of Underdevelopment and Regional Structure of Nepal: A Marxist Analysis.” He has himself admitted, “I learnt the ABC of Marxism in Delhi’s JNU.”

– – Shrishti RL Rana (Kantipur Online – March 29, 2006)

Then came the chief justice of Nepal, who somehow managed to get the government going for sometime. and now we have a bachelor as prime minister. Nothing against his bachelorhood. Just too many incapable politicians around even in the new CA.

Plane Crash/es

Next on the list is Plane Crashes. Here is a list of accidents and incidents involving commercial and non-commercial [NC] aircraft in Nepal from 2008.

  1. 2008 October 8 – Yeti Airlines Flight 103 De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter crashes 60 nmi (110 km) from Mt Everest, Nepal, killing 18 of 19 people on board.
  2. 2010 August 24 – Agni Air Flight 101, a Dornier Do 228, crashes outside of Kathmandu, Nepal in heavy rain, killing all 14 people on board. 
  3. 2010 December 15 – A Tara Air de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter crashes in the Bilandu Forest near Shreechaur, Okhaldhunga District, Nepal, killing all 22 passengers and crew on board.
  4. 2011 September 25 – Buddha Air Flight 103, a Beechcraft 1900D, crashes in dense fog while attempting to land at Kathmandu Tribhuwan International Airport, killing all 16 passengers and 3 crew members
  5. [NC] 2011 October 18 – Royal Nepal Air Force, a Britten-Norman Islander,  Nepalgunj, performing an ambulance flight from Nepalganj to the capital city Kathmandu with a patient, one accompanist, two doctors, a nurse and a pilot. It crashed in unknown circumstances near Dhorpatan, killing all six occupants.
  6. 2012 May 14 – In the Agni Air Flight CHT, a Dornier Do 228 crashes near Jomsom Airport, Nepal during a go-around; of the 21 on board, 6 survived.
  7. 2012 September 28 – Sita Air Flight 601, a Dornier Do 228, crashes on the bank of the Manohara River, Kathmandu, Nepal after a bird strike, killing all 19 on board
  8. 2013 May 16 – Nepal Airlines Flight 555, a de Havilland Canada DHC-6, overruns the runway on landing at Jomsom Airport, Nepal, injuring seven people
  9. [NC] 2013 May 27 –  Cessna 208B Grand Caravan in Simikot,
  10. [NC] 2013 June 1 – Sita Air Flight – Simikot, Karnali,
  11. 2014 February 16 – Nepal Airlines Flight 183, a de Havilland Canada DHC-6, crashes near Khidim about 40 nautical miles south-west of Pokhara, Nepal, killing all 18 people on board.

Source – Bureau of Aircraft Accident Archive [NC] – non commercial flights

For comparison, India which is around 21 times the size of Nepal, and well with 1 billion+ population had 10 plane crashes from 2008 onwards (till 2014). Next neighbor, China had 7 accidents. Well to be honest, we can exclude the three airplane crashes in Kathmandu, TIA, for being one of the worst air strip for aviation and landing a plane. Still, We have one accident every 8 months. I am horrified to board a plane.

the Middle Class Migration

Before I begin ruining my thoughts of how I miss my friends and family, here is a small excerpts from New York Times, Feb 21, Opinion section. A very strong word – Social Mobility, and how the authors compared wealth and knowledge among the haves and not haves – around the world. Authors talk about Indian (Nepali) society and how our cast system and religion has prevented the social mobility. One question,  is why all the prime ministers in Nepal are from upper class?

When you look across centuries, and at social status broadly measured — not just income and wealth, but also occupation, education and longevity — social mobility is much slower than many of us believe, or want to believe. This is true in Sweden, a social welfare state; England, where industrial capitalism was born; the United States, one of the most heterogeneous societies in history; and India, a fairly new democracy hobbled by the legacy of caste. Capitalism has not led to pervasive, rapid mobility. Nor have democratization, mass public education, the decline of nepotism, redistributive taxation, the emancipation of women, or even, as in China, socialist revolution.

– – Gregory Clark (New York Times – Feb 21)

That said, here is the number of people in last decade (and so on) that have left Nepal and gone out for education for work. Most of them are from Middle Class, Upper Middle and few from the Elite Nepali Society. This probably is not selection bias, on my part, as I could very well not choose my family and friends from a broader group of society hierarchy based on economy. Disclosure – I represent the middle class family in Kathmandu. Coaxed  into more studies and less play – with broad shoulder that could carry a heavy back pack filled with books day-in-and-out.

Family

Four of my first cousins are not in Nepal, gone outside for education. I am not good with extended family (don’t remember them) but seven among all the second cousins I know are outside Nepal.

Friends

School, High School, and then School of Medicine – some of my close friends are outside Nepal pursuing higher educations and/or working with really good future prospects. Some in pursuing medicine, some in public health, and some in everything else, that I cannot understand. We had a small eight boys group in school which represented the small-dull-nerd group (seriously). Five of them are outside Nepal, settled and prospering. High School saw a huge magnitude of friend circle/s, but among the closest friends – 10+ are in USA, few in Europe and Australia. Then unto medical school, we had 45 of us, and around 6 are doing (or will soon) their residency here in USA.

Neighbors

Third on my list is how my friends, family and most of the neighbors have at least one of their family members aboard. I have a small map below, which puts my place in the center, and all the houses that surround the one that I live in. They all have one thing in common, either their daughter is married to someone outside Nepal, or son/daughter is outside Nepal for further education, or the whole family got into DV Lottery.

Migration of Neighbours

Keywords – D = Daughter, S = Son, m = Married, fam = familu, DV = USA DV Lottery,

e = Education, AUS = Australia, w = work

The middle class exodus is in the rise, specially after the 2006/7 pseudo(corrupt)democracy. This being the intellectual herd (personal opinion) Not saying that there aren’t any left in Nepal, but a big portion is going out. I know (hope) they will return one day to help build Nepal a better place. Disclosure – I myself, at the moment am in USA, till the end of April 2014. 

Somehow, I feel that our social culture dictates this. Any parents would want to see their kids grow up into better life. Educate them, and see them work in better position. When the times were difficult, my grandfather migrated from the hilly regions in Nepal to the fertile flat lands in Terai. My father migrated from this fertile agricultural society to the capital Kathmandu for service based economical model. Now I take this progress,  few steps further. Its either sending your kid to a rich, developed nation or coaxing him/her into a respected profession (by time/place)- a doctor, an engineer etc.

Power Cuts ~ the rolling blackouts

Seven years of FDR has done nothing to reduce the Power Cuts. Below is just a small list of power cuts that we had during the peak season of misery. I wanted a more elaborate 12 month graph for seven years, but I couldn’t find any materials on the Internet. I did mail to the NEA asking for the information. Putting this for another post.

  1. 2008 – Mid – February – 16 hours / day – Source – Reuters
  2. 2009 – January 11 – 16 hours / day – Source – Reuters
  3. 2010 – December 28 – 11 hours / day – Source – Ekantipur
  4. 2011 – January 11 – 12 hours / day – Source – Ekantipur
  5. 2012 – January 19 – 12 hours / day  – Source – BBC
  6. 2013 – January 19 – 14 hours / day – Source – Ekantipur
  7. 2014 – January 05 – 12 hours / day – Source – Nepalnews

Interesting Read //

  1. Nepal Logjam (Part 1 of 3): Civil War, Peace – Deal…
  2. The Unlikely Tale of How ARM Came to Rule the World.. 

Technology //

  1. Mobile ApplicationHamro Keyboard is a Nepali keyboard for all of us who love Nepali language. This is still work in progress, however, this looks promising.
  2. Two great news from Mobile World Congress 2014 – – Nokia X family of phones and Firefox OS built phones.
    • Nokia X – Sturdy Smart-phones at reachable Nepali economy.
    • Firefox OS build phones which in partnership with a Chinese Chip company – Spreadtrum Communications – hopes to built a 25 USD smartphones.

 

tea conundrum – बाबु चिया खाने?

As a follow up to my post on comparing the conversation starters  here I write some more on how we get around with tea. The importance of tea in Nepal, or may be, at least in Kathmandu. These are some ideas and facts I’d wanted to share for some time – my personal hausaufgaben (that’s homework in German). On a brighter note – I have a new theme and a fix domain – www.momobites.com.

Tea-Time

I am a tea person and my morning starts with tea. Every day at six, I take my Ideapad laptop to kitchen (or nearby) to read Setopati (Nepali Online news portal) and most of the time, the boiling tea water resonates my feeling concerning Nepal’s political landscape, hot and turbulent. The packaged tea leafs from Nepal will last us three more weeks and by then we hope to get another batch from someone coming from Nepal. Our current batch is from the tea shop near Basantpur Durbar Square. I am not sold with the tea bags found in USA plus with our limited budget we can’t afford a grandeur brand.

As a time limited experience from Charlottesville, Boston and Providence – I guess the tea (or coffee) time is usually personal and to the point. You take caffeine mostly to wake yourself up and feel refreshed. Personally tea time for me is designated by the time of the day, something very prevalent from the sub culture I bring from Nepal. A brief description of my routine in Nepal was as follows.

  • Morning Tea @ Six – no milk and no sugar – – To wake me up
  • Morning Tea II @ Seven – milk and sugar but half the quantity – – Newspaper and news
  • Afternoon Tea @ one – milk and sugar – – lunch time tea (talk time tea)
  • Anything after this – milk and sugar – – guest and talk time tea

Two years ago my team (technically Aditi’s team) spend six months on this research study. Personally, I think this study and the published paper is of national importance which reveals how international friends are manipulating this (Nepal)puppet country in the field of health aid and health related national programs. Those six months however, were the most tea intoxicated time of my life. All the literature study, desk work, planning and in-depth interviews meant a lot of tea (and some coffee). The picture below is of Radheshyam (team member) waiting outside Singha Durbar south gate. We were to take an in-depth interview from one of the high ranking official in Ministry of Finance. He made us wait for two hours. Any guesses on how we spend our time?

Image0071

The Tea shop pub culture

Tea shops in Nepal are akin to the bars and pubs of Europe. People come here to share some progressive ideas, ramble more about politics, and make friends. Most of this require some water, some milk and sugar, a place to sit, and good company. I see it in Chabahil – Ganeshthan near my home every day, with a spike during holidays and weekend. My recent trip to Janakpur this summer for Nidan required me to work in the earliest possible hours. At seven in the morning when the most of the businesses are non functional these tea shops would be open, filled with people. Late last year when our small team reached Taklung after six hours bus ride and 10 km walk on a hot and sunny day we were approached with tea. We begged for cold water.

Tea is part of our culture and I love it. It gives me good feeling of being South Asian and being Nepali. Its one of those culture which I can talk about, humor it, and love it at the same time. Like the most tea cultures around the world, its something that brings people together. Disclosure – There is certainly alcohol culture too, but that usually happens in the evening/night for majority and I may talk about it some other post.

Types of Tea

There is a culture (and many smaller sub-cultures) in Nepal with a cup of tea. Tea time has variations in time, place, quantity and quality. I certainly have few moments of emotional attachments with few of these cups/glasses. From the first cup of tea I made which tasted like strong sour hot water to the first cup with Aditi after she said yes to my proposal. The black tea I drank with Avi and Pradhumna after eight years, in Pokhara and the first morning in home after I got married with family and my newly wed wife. The following are some type of tea I see prevalent in Nepal.

“mitho” tea

Mitho Tea

Image Credit – Veronica (BackPacks and Pumpkins – Blog)

One of those few teas that actually taste good. My mother makes one of these, and so does our new Nepali friends in Charlottesville. You know the one with just the good amount of milk, tea, and sugar. I am not a good fan of masala tea but they taste good.

“pasale” tea

Any one remember the typical tea glass in most of the tea shops in Kathmandu? The glass this lady is holding in the image below. Image from June 2012, article written by Niraj Karki in ECS Nepal. (web link). Good read.

tea_shop

“kaam kaaj” tea

This was one of my favorite during medical school years, and then while working in Kathmandu University School of Medical School – Chaukot. The tea time, was first at around nine thirty in the morning, with a follow up at around two thirty. A fifteen minute chat time with friends and colleagues, with some breads and donuts. Sometimes there would be wai-wai fry. Back during my work in Chaukot in 2010/11 our small tea group talked about politics and bollywood. Our friend, Smrity literally introduced us to Zoom TV during these tea talks.

“gaunle” tea

Most Nepali know this. A long steel glass, filled up to its brim, with tea. A bit thin and light in color; but still has a good punch. Be it the hills, mountains or the Terai flat lands in Nepal, the rural village Nepal – this kind of tea takes 20 minutes, and the steel glass needs to cool for at least five minutes before we are able to take a first sip. Its hot and it fills up the glass. You need a special grip to hold this glass and there is so much effort to take that first sip.

chiyaGlass

“pahuna” tea

One famous tea culture in Nepal. Carrying this from my previous post from last week. Most households in Nepal offer tea to almost all kinds of guests – friends, families or someone who is at the door for say more than 15 minutes. Extending all four seasons, and irrespective of the time of day – a cup of tea, is presented to you, almost everywhere. I have mentioned my Taklung experience above and am sure everyone has their own. Classic Nepali Tea Culture.

“chutti ko” tea

Holidays and day-offs are big everywhere, and tea on these occasions are wonderful delight. Morning tea with some good food like – jerry swari, maalpuwa, khajuri, and few other South Asian sweet snacks are some of my favorites. These are usually morning teas, and they feel great during the months of September-October-November. These being the festival months in Nepal. These are in part the South Nepal food choices, related to my father’s origin, unto which this is highly influenced.

03012010086

As a medical school student, however, holiday tea in Dhulikhel (and Kathmandu) representing the hilly outskirts of Kathmandu meant more like – sel-roti and aalu-chana, with may be, sometime chiura (the beaten rice).  Friday evening sometimes meant beer and some local stuff that mostly gave a big hangover Saturday. The dorm rooms and the respective rest rooms (aka toilets) took a lot of post-binge-throw-ups. We wake up late afternoon, with heavy dehydration and headache, nauseated and thirsty. The weekendnoon-tea after one of these events are usually with no milk, and mostly lemon flavored.

DSC09929

SMALL BITS

Guess what, part of blogging in WordPress allows me some information of my readers. I see when and where my blog appears in internet searches. Guess what appeared when one from Nepal searched the key word – “how to take bike license in nepal by giving bribe” 

In another note, I watched Flash Point Paradox. Waited for few months for this. It was awesome, as expected. For the unknown I am big fan of Flash.

NEXT WEEK – I write about Dashain..

Of Wrestlings and Elections (I of II)

Last week was all about history. I refreshed my memories about World Wrestling Federation Entertainment from Bret Hart to HBK, Steve Austin and CM Punk. Belonging to the millennium generation from Kathmandu I was never a Rock fan. Thus I am trying to mention him less. Much of school life, grade eight, nine and ten, was about WWE, talking about Monday night “RAW” and Thursday’s “SMACK DOWN”. The back stage interviews, entrance music, commentaries made by JR and King, and those awesome rivalries were must know general knowledge. Everyone knew how to draw the bull (pictured below), sketched out in notebooks, text books, and school diaries. My sister would go on to draw it in her school bag, and I know I had one printed shirt of it. It read “ayatollah of rock and rolla” in the most common Times New Roman font – italicized. We took three (or four) days to design this in MS Word ’97. I still don’t know what ayatollah means.

The-Rock-Brahma-Bull-wwe-33324645-1280-800

AND thats the bottom line… cuz Stone Cold says so!

Last week was also about my political inclination back in Nepal). Major parties in Nepal including the pseudo-communist beleaguered Maoists, have put their nomination forward for the November election. This is the second constitution assembly for Nepal. There nomination list has some surprises, few misfits, and certain number of dropouts compared to the last election. My supported politician back from 2006/7 elections did not get the ticket this time. She’d won last time. Had I been in Nepal, I’d vote for the Nepali Congress nominated candidate from Kathmandu Area Four constituency. Gagan Thapa is by far the most favored candidate in NC right now. This is what I think. Since I am outside Nepal and won’t be able to participate a direct election I take up an audience seat this time. But why can’t I vote?

So why can’t I vote?

A friend of mine in Facebook mentioned something about 2008 Election commissionaire talking about the foreign Nepali voting right. “He had promised that the Election Commission would work towards this end and create conducive environment for Nepalese residing abroad so they can exercise their right to vote in the future.”  

Why doesn’t Nepal have a workable mechanism devised  so that citizen/s could vote from abroad?

Why doesn’t Nepal have a workable mechanism devised  so that citizen/s could vote from abroad? My one word answer would be poverty (an initial perception). However, I think there ought to be some other explanations as well. Disclosure – no money was required, but some time was spend researching internet.

CA NEPAL CONSTITUENCIES HU BLUE[Converted]

Voting right for citizen abroad

There is an excellent Gaurdian article by Joseph Mayton (here) from 2010 July which speaks about how you would feel deprived of a say in your country’s future, if not allowed to vote. He gives two country specific examples which are very similar to Nepal’s emigration. He speaks about a theoretical possibility related to Lebanon’s diaspora. Lebanon has some 12 million citizens living outside the country compared with only around 4 million inside – so in theory absentee voters could determine the outcome of any election. Please also listen/read to the Freakonomics podcast on how Lebanese are most successful Immigrants in the world (here), which came out in August 29 of this year. Our second example is that of Mexico, which recently introduced voting right for citizen abroad. The cost factor might be unprecedented for Nepal, but if we are to learn from Mexico’s example; Nepalis should begin to seek out a means to better their native countries.

voting_from_abroad_120This article also refers to Maria Gratschew (co-author) and her handbook, Voting from Abroad, where she argues that “external voting is highly relevant to the many people who are travelling or working around the globe”. This handbook is from 2007, so some of its data might be irrelevant. My next post has some quick read materials that I found interesting in here along with more personal insights for November election. Disclosure – This book is free and under Creative Common License (CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0)

So what has Nepal to gain from its citizen abroad?

I argue that there are three major groups of Nepali outside Nepal.I wrote some part of this in August 2013.(here is the post link). First the hard working labor population representing mostly from Middle East and South East Asia. They are the ones keeping Nepal’s economy well and alive through massive remittance. It not Lord Pashupatinath, its them. There has been a huge spike in this group in the last decade, and boys leave the country as labor population as soon as after finishing grade eight. This is the plight of the Lower Class, a majority in Nepal. Tap into them for voting rights, and most if not all will represent socialist outlook. Presently represented by एमाले (confusing mixture of democracy and communist) and माओवादी (purely communist) parties.

It not Lord Pashupatinath, its them and their remittance that have kept Nepal’s economy alive in this last decade.

Second huge group outside Nepal is the student population – both undergraduates and graduates. Most if not all the undergraduates are money-drain from Nepal, and like the First Group there has been a huge spike in people leaving Nepal for Education. This group of students are have mixed educational and intellectual background when it comes to politics. Most represent the Middle Class family from Nepal, and as progressive they are, all of them might not be the answer Nepal needs right now. Case in point to a blog post written by Pranaya Rana in ekantipur.com (here). The topic was something I’d definitely would have talked/written about before I came across this post. He writes it very well, and he has much better command in the language (better than me). The post argues about the plight of middle class, and how we are limited and disillusioned by our own good intentions to do good. Mr Subedi (read more here) last week was one of the fall guy among this Middle Class hordes. These represent a mixed political views ranging from liberal democracy to hard line communism.

The third group is the indistinct settlers. These are either the upper class or the ones that have first educated themselves in foreign land and then gained experience as much to settle in. The H1B Visa status in USA and the alike. I can’t really say anything more about them as they comprise of the heterogeneous population from all parts of Nepal, and most of them are content with their lives in foreign land. They comprise the brain-drain population from Nepal. Few definitely have done good deeds for Nepal, despite being outside Nepal. Most of them represent the नेपाली कांग्रेस (corrupt-democratic) party. Obviously this is my personal statement and I don’t have hard facts to prove it.

Regardless of my perspective, if the country is to make a situation for voters abroad have their say, it would benefit Nepal. According to the Census report 2011, Nepal’s population stands at 26.4 million, out of which 1.9 million is absentee population. This is 7.1% of those who are outside Nepal. I am short on the total number of registered voters right now, still searching for it and will post as a comment to this page once I find it.

Lastly – reinvigorated love for my N9

Read a post last week from OSNEWS (here) and a link from an original article (here) about the one true mobile phone experience – Nokia N9. He writes – Virtually every N9 owner I’ve ever talked to loves the N9 unconditionally. It could have been the Eve of Nokia’s resurrection. Instead, it became the symbol of its demise. So very true. I do have a constant mobile phone changing experiences averaging eight months – – albeit with budget phones. Until last week I was using Palm Pre II through Ebay at 54 USD. Got it in USA, this July, because it wasn’t available in Nepal two years since it came out. Used it for three months, but now am back to Nokia N9 (got this in early Feb 2013 – second hand shop). It just works.

Next Post – is part two of this one. shorter and fewer tidbits on November election. The tea post is still on, i still am searching for few images (CC-BY-3)