Saturday, November 21, 2015

Memorandum submitted to Hon. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli for the management of the crisis resulting from Indian blockade

Honorable Prime Minister,

India's extended blockade against Nepal, now running into third month, has caused much hardship for the people. But the people of Nepal have lived with them patiently in the belief that the government would take necessary measures to mitigate them even as it would continue to protect country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are pleased to submit to you that the whole country has been very appreciative of your prompt move to seek China's support for mitigating our problems as soon as it became clear that it would take longer time to resolve the differences with India regarding the provisions of our Constitution. We note with satisfaction that our close neighbor to the north has been so very kind and forthcoming in helping Nepal at this hour of national crisis. However, the overall situation in the country is worsening by the day, mainly for want of sufficient quantities of petroleum products, and the dwindling availability of medicines and other essential supplies. Therefore, we the undersigned submit to you the following recommendations for your consideration, some for immediate implementation and the rest for priority action.

1. Immediate term measures

1.1 Supply of petroleum products and medicines
The government must redouble its efforts to ease the situation in these two areas on priority basis. Firstly, special efforts should be made through all possible diplomatic channels with India to work out the easing of the blockade by India. Secondly, as a viable alternative to it, Nepal should make special request to China to significantly increase the supply of petroleum products to Nepal through all possible channels. Regarding medical supplies in particular which are running calamitously short in the country, the government should request China for emergency air delivery of some basic medicines to Kathmandu and arrange for its airborne supplies also from our south Asian neighbor, Bangladesh.

1.2 Suspend federalization provision until the people have been consulted
The root cause for most of the current problems of the country has been the federalization provision of the new constitution. In this regard, we would like to submit to you the following.
Firstly, federalization of the country has never been the demand of the people, and it has been imposed by the Maoists in 2063 and reluctantly accepted by the two major parties NC and UML.
Secondly, we particularly note that, according to democratic tradition, all major changes in polity are done only after they are approved in a referendum. But the decision to federalize the country has never been referred to the people. We further note that in the consultation meetings held across the country before the adoption of the new constitution, the people had reportedly overwhelmingly opined against federalizing the country. But unfortunately, that was not taken into account.

Thirdly, and most importantly, Nepal's variegated geography would help Nepal become a prosperous state only if used as an integrated whole. For instance, the 750 MW West Seti Hydropower Project would submerge some 2000 ha of land in four hill districts in far west region and displace some 16,000 people but would irrigate 360,000 ha of land in the Tharu heartland of Bardia, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts, and would power industrial and agricultural development of the country that is bound to take place mostly in the Tarai region. Given the fact that the landlessness of the farmers is most pronounced in the Tarai region, poverty in the Tarai can be mitigated only by promoting accelerated and expanded agro-industrial development in the region. Besides, the West Seti Project is estimated to yield 15 billion rupees in annual revenue that would significantly contribute to national development, including in the far west hill districts where the project is to be built. The same is true of Upper Karnali, Arun-3 and many other such projects. We are afraid that if the country were to be broken up into different autonomous provinces, this project and many similar projects in the hill regions that hold out so much promise for development all over the country probably would never be built, assuring continued pauperization of the people of Nepal. Furthermore, in regard to the present proposal to demarcate the entire Tarai belt as one province, we further add that due to excessive extraction of ground water in adjacent India, the water level in the Tarai is rapidly depleting, so that Tarai's water needs can be met only by training the rivers in the hill regions in the north. For all these reasons, we believe that the present demand for the demarcation of the Tarai as one province is devoid of any logical rationale and therefore, is totally ill-intentioned. Therefore, we strongly urge that necessary steps be taken to suspend the federalization process and subject it to a dispassionate scientific investigation as to its potential benefits and drawbacks for the country as a whole.
1.3. Inform international agencies and engage with leaders of powerful nations

Since the Indian blockade violates all international norms and covenants that assure a landlocked country's right to unrestricted passage to the sea, we strongly urge that the government should inform all related international agencies like the UNO, WTO, ILO, and so on and invite their missions for on-site examination of the problem and take measures to remove the blockade as soon as possible. Since India as an emerging power in the world is also in constant contact with all major nations in the world -- whose support would be crucial for India to pursue her ambition to become a permanent member of the UN Security Counci l-- Nepal should also inform the leaders of all major powers and seek their good offices to pile pressure on India on behalf of this landlocked country.

1.4. Engage with India to continue to discuss the shifting bottom lines
Given our geographical position, Nepal has to remain engaged with India for all times to come, culturally, economically and so on. Therefore, continuing to engage with her constitutes an essential condition for restoring good relations with Indian government. This should be done through both formal and informal contacts even as Nepal continues to make other arrangements for diversifying our links to the international markets.

2. Protection of sovereignty, territorial integrity and governance
We further observe that India, our neighbor to the south, has been consistently creating hurdles for landlocked Nepal, including clamping of embargo at regular intervals. We are convinced that Nepal must seek other external support to countervail India when our own sovereignty and territorial integrity is at stake. To that end we make the following recommendations:
2.1. Sign a strong friendship pact with China

Since Nepal has all along been seen as a "yam between two boulders" and has entered into a very strong peace and friendship treaty with India, it is only logical that Nepal also sign similar far-reaching treaty with China, so that in times of crisis, Nepal has recourse to two neighbors to the north and to the south. We believe that such an arrangement would go a long way towards securing our sovereignty, territorial integrity and state of peace in the country.

2.2. Deepen relationship with China in a multi-faceted manner
Since the emerging super power to our north, the People Republic of China, has been kind, generous and supportive of our national aspirations historically, we further recommend that the government go for further deepening of cultural and economies ties with China in a multifaceted manner. This should include opening up of many transport and communication links with that country along the entire range of our northern border.

2.3. Set up citizenship investigation commission
We believe the current turmoil in the Tarai has much to do with the fact that citizenship certificates have been indiscriminately distributed in the region in the past with the result that many bonafide citizens of India have also obtained Nepali citizenship certificate, and some of the holders of such certificates have been known to misuse it for criminal purposes detrimental to both Nepal and India. Therefore, in order to nullify the citizen certificates obtained by ineligible people and also to grant such certificates to those who have not received it despite being legally eligible, the government should set up a high powered commission composed of known experts to go into the matter on priority basis.

2.4. Regulate southern border
We further note that the open border between Nepal and India has often been problematical for Nepal with criminal elements moving to and fro across the border without any difficulty. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that the government consider regulating the border in such a way that the border crossing does not become too problematical for the local people, even as the government has the information base about the movement of the people between the two countries.

2.4. Take lawful action against law breakers
While the overall governance situation of the country has left much to be desired over the years, in recent months the people have been witness to even graver violations of law and order in some sections of Tarai in the name of protests and blockade, with the culprits getting away with them with impunity. Therefore, in order to assure the countrymen of their personal safety and the proper conduct of society, the government must swing into action and take appropriate legal actions against those law breakers as a matter of urgency.

3. Streamlining development priorities and strategies
Much of the problems today also have their roots in lack of effective development over the decades in the country. This has made easy for the ethnic leaders to attract following among various ethnic groups by alleging discrimination being inflicted by the state or various privileged groups. Therefore, we recommend that the following measures be implemented with high priority.
3.1. Hydropower projects to meet Nepal's power needs first

While Nepal remains a chronically and acutely power deficit country, there have been recent decisions to award power project to foreign developers for export rather than helping ameliorate Nepal’s chronic loadshedding. We consider this absolutely wrong morally as well as a development priority. Since power is an absolutely necessary condition for country's development, we strongly urge the government to commit itself to a policy that all hydropower projects would be installed exclusively for the purpose of meeting Nepal's own ever expending power needs first and considering export only after Nepal’s needs have been met.

3.2. Institute participatory development at the grassroots to enable all communities to preside over their own destiny

One of the reasons for ethnicity-based demands has been that most people in the country have been unable to experience improvements in their living standards all these years. They have only been witness to the continued prosperity of a handful of feudal elites in their own communities as well as nationally both in the hills and in the Tarai. Therefore, in order to end this development-deficit condition in the country once and for all, we ask that a widely participatory process of development be instituted so that all individuals in the country get to participate in the development process leading to sustained and equitable improvements in the living conditions of all the people in the country. In this regard, we find it necessary to draw the attention of the government to the internationally-applauded success of several sets of participatory organizations at the grassroots, the forest user groups, community electricity users’ group, the mothers' groups as well as other community managed natural resource systems. While the first has dramatically restored Nepal's once totally depleted forests, the second has reduced theft to zero where implemented besides promoting local industry, the third have put Nepal at the top of international ranking in achieving MDGs in child survival and maternal mortality reduction. Nepal has enough success stories it can draw on for its own rapid development if only the political leadership turns its eyes towards Nepal’s inherent strengths rather than look only for international donations.
Yours truly,

1. Marshal Julum Shakya
2. Hiranya Lall Shrestha
3. Dipak Gyawali
4. Prof. Dr. Surendra K.C
5. Prof. Bhupa Prasad Tripathi
6. Bharat Basnet
7. Ratna Sansar Shrestha
8. Ratan Bhandari
9. Sadhya Bahadur Bhandari
10. Mani Thapa
11. Tanka Nath Paudel
12. Achyut Gyawali
13. Ananda Ram Paudel
14. Babu Ram Singh Thapa
15. Aditya Man Shrestha
16. Bihari Krishna Shrestha
17. Leela Mani Paudel
18. Sheetal Babu Regmi
19. Buddhi Narayan Shrestha
20. Jagat Bhusal
21. Dwarika Nath Dhungel
22. Dr Surya Raj Acharya
23. Punya Gautam ‘Bishwas’
24. Govinda Upadhyaya

November 21, 2015 submitted on the auspices of Rastriya Jagaran Parishad-Nepal

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