To contact us CLICK HERE
View Kalimpong News at
Citizen reporters may send photographs related to news with proper information to

Sunday, March 21, 2010

G.P. Koirala passes away

TH, KATHMANDU: Girija Prasad Koirala, Nepal's freedom fighter and political hero, who played a major role in ending the Maoists' decade-long People's War and restoring peace in the country, died here on Saturday, aged 86.
The Nepali Congress president, who served as Prime Minister four times and as head of state once, had been suffering from chronic asthma and Common Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
His health deteriorated recently. He had been unconscious since morning and breathed his last at the house of his only child, daughter Sujata Koirala. Thousands of party cadres, leaders of different parties, and diplomats paid their last respects. The funeral will take place on Sunday.
To build a consensus among the political parties for completing the task of peace process, Koirala recently formed a high-level body consisting of top leaders of the major political parties.
Koirala, popularly known as Girija babu, was considered a ‘national guardian.'
 Koirala's death robs Nepali politics of its centre
Prashant Jha, TH: Girija Prasad Koirala's death on Saturday afternoon marks the end of an era in not only Nepali but also sub-continental politics. As a warrior for democracy over six decades, a five-time Prime Minister and architect of the ongoing peace process with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Koirala was an integral part of Nepal's modern political history. But he has passed away at a time when the task of institutionalising the democracy he fought for remains incomplete.
G.P. Koirala, or GPK, was born in Bihar in 1925, where his father, Krishna Prasad Koirala, was in exile for defying the autocratic clan-based Rana regime. His father believed that Nepal could not be free of despotic Rana rule as long as their patrons, the British, ruled India. G.P. Koirala's elder brother, B.P. Koirala (also known as BP), was imprisoned in the Quit India Movement. In early 1947, Nepali exiles in India and Kathmandu-based dissenters formed the Nepali National Congress.
G.P. Koirala joined politics in this broader setting. In March 1947, he led Nepal's first workers strike at Biratnagar Jute Mills. Though firmly opposed to the use of violence, he accepted the party's decision to launch an insurrection against the Ranas in 1950. He served as the political commissar on the far-eastern front in the country's first democratic revolution.
But the tenuous democracy did not last. B.P. Koirala was sworn in as Nepal's first democratically elected Prime Minister in 1959 but King Mahendra engineered a royal coup soon after. Both BP and GPK were arrested and spent seven years in prison. They subsequently went back to live in exile in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, and struggle for democracy from there.
In the early 1970s, the party decided to use violence against the autocratic regime. Under G.P. Koirala's leadership, NC hijacked a Nepali state-owned aircraft which was ferrying cash. Koirala also printed fake Indian currency, and procured weapons. But this phase did not last long. After emergency was declared in India in 1975, the Koiralas returned to Nepal and continued their movement in a non-violent manner.
Long seen as BP's ‘havaldar', Girija Koirala finally came into his own after his brother's death in the early 1980s. Along with Ganesh Man Singh and Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, he became a part of the troika that constituted the Nepali Congress leadership. As general secretary, he tirelessly expanded the party organisation. Koirala accepted Ganesh Man's lead in forging an alliance with left groups against autocracy. With mass people's participation, and support of Indian politicians like Chandra Shekhar, democracy was restored in 1990. A new constitution was drafted instituting constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy.
The Nepali Congress won a majority in the 1991 elections. But senior leader and interim Prime Minister Bhattarai lost his seat. Koirala was the next natural candidate to lead the government. From fighting against the state, Koirala was now in charge of governance.
As Prime Minister, Koirala is credited with creating a democratic environment which enabled media and civil society to take roots. He opened up the economy, and expanded services outside Kathmandu. But he did little to ensure independence of public institutions and dumped the party's socialist commitment for a neo-liberal trajectory. He was blind to the nascent, but growing, assertion of marginalised ethnic communities. Koirala practised ‘ coterie' politics; relatives and associates indulged in large-scale corruption; and he marginalised senior party leaders. He finally had to resign after an intra-party rebellion three years into his tenure.
This failure to institute democratic norms and political instability would cost Nepal dearly. The Maoist insurgency had picked up. Royalist forces became active. Koirala took over as Prime Minister twice again in 1998 and 2000. His stewardship of the country after the royal massacre in 2001, and willingness to stand up to the Royal Nepal Army's allegiance to the palace instead of the democratic government deserve appreciation. But his working style remained authoritarian and he paid little attention to key governance and policy issues.
The weaknesses and infighting of the democratic forces and growing Maoist violence allowed the new and ambitious monarch, Gyanendra, to assume an active role. He dismissed a democratic government in 2002 and appointed hand-picked nominees. To his credit, Koirala saw it as a ‘regressive' step and firmly opposed it. When Gyanendra assumed executive power through a coup in 2005, Koirala's instincts were proven right.
GPK was now back to doing what he knew best — fighting for democracy. Since 2002, he had also been talking to the Maoist chairman, Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda', to convince him to give up violence and concentrate on democratic politics. The royal regime created a context for the parliamentary parties to join hands with the Maoists. With Indian help, they signed the 12-point agreement in Delhi in November 2005. Older parties agreed to dump the monarchy and support the formation of a Constituent Assembly while the Maoists committed themselves to multiparty democracy.
This paved the way for the April 2006 People's Movement. The king was forced to concede that sovereignty rested with the people, and Girija Koirala became the Prime Minister one more time. This was truly Koirala's defining moment. All his sins of the 1990s seemed to be forgiven for his bold leadership in restoring peace and democracy in Nepal. He had stood firm against the right wing dictatorship, and had also helped a violent, ultra-left group accept the necessity of democracy. In November 2006, Koirala signed the peace agreement with Prachanda formally announcing the end of the civil war.
Though the Maoists unexpectedly won the Constituent Assembly elections, GPK expected to become Nepal's first president for his role in ensuring a smooth transition to a republic. But the Maoists did not support him, triggering a rupture that would later widen. His decision to foist his unpopular daughter, Sujata, as the NC's leader in the present government in 2009 eroded his credibility significantly. His party today is facing a deep existential and leadership crisis.
More crucially, the Maoist-non Maoist polarisation has increased. The peace process (which involves integrating and rehabilitating former Maoist combatants and addressing conflict crimes and justice) and constitution writing (for which the deadline is May 28, 2010) are in limbo. Realising the gravity of the situation, Koirala had recently taken a lead in setting up a High Level Political Mechanism which included the Maoists, who are otherwise in opposition, to address these issues.
Girija Prasad Koirala has left at a time when his centrist politics would have been a moderating influence on all sides. Only he could stand up to the spoilers — the right wing within his party, Nepal Army hawks, Maoist dogmatists and even Indian security hawks. The greatest tribute to him, and his six-decade-long political life, would be for Nepal to institutionalise peace and write a democratic constitution.
Spill neither water nor blood 
(on the occasion of World water day-22March shared from CNS)
Shobha Shukla: One gives life, while the other sustains it. One flows in our veins making us living beings, and the other percolates around us, making this planet livable. The possibility of finding water on Mars and Moon excites the scientific community no end. But, Alas! We don’t seem to be caring for either of them. Political leaders have not shied away in giving patriotic slogans like ‘you give me blood and I will give you freedom’, or ‘we want blood for blood’. We do not hesitate to label a non aggressive person as one who has water flowing in her/his veins instead of blood. Rhetoric apart, I really admire George Bernard Shaw for having had the courage to say “Fight if you must, but do not glorify war”. And yet it is being strongly felt that if at all there is going to be a third world war, it will be fought for water. So water, or the lack of it, is likely to spill rivers of blood.
I was really shocked to read recently in a national daily that Thai protesters, including monks, poured several jugs of their own blood on the front gate of the government head quarters in Bangkok, in a symbolic sacrifice to press their demands for early polls in Thailand..  Their leaders vowed to collect 1000 litres of blood (drawing a few teaspoons from each volunteer) and pour it out on the roads. One of the protest leaders proudly claimed that ‘the blood of the common people is mixing together to fight for democracy’.
I do not know about Thailand, but in India there is a perpetual shortage of blood for patients who are in need of it. It is a pity that litres of blood simply went down the drains, when it could have been used to give life to someone in desperate need of it. Wouldn’t that have been a better gesture to save democracy? People are very circumspect about donating blood for others, but they do not bat an eyelid when it comes to wasting it on the streets. I think that all of us should resolve  to donate blood (and not spill it) to hospitals on our birthdays and other solemn occasions, thus strengthening human bonds and not pay mere lip service to democracy.
It is equally unpardonable to waste water. It is through our own wicked deeds that water has become such a priced commodity which is becoming scarcer day by day. As a youngster, I remember the taps in our homes never went dry. Now it is a miracle if they trickle for 2 or 3 hours in the entire day. In some cities of India, the condition becomes so bad that water in very limited quantities is supplied through government tankers only once or twice a week during the summer months. People are being forced to buy water, not only for drinking purposes, but also for their daily chores. The public water supply system is almost on the verge of extinction and slowly passing into private hands. People resort to installing water pumps and/or digging tube wells / hand pumps in their houses and feel encouraged to use it more indiscriminately.
Even as we refuse to reduce its consumption, we can at least curb the wastage of water. It is heart rending to see water flowing into drains from over filled overhead water tanks, as the household pumps remain switched on for long. I wish there was some mechanism to stop this criminal waste of a precious thing. I wonder if some study has been carried out to measure the amount of water wasted if a water storage tank overflows at full force for just about 5 minutes. Talks of rain water harvesting seem ludicrous if we cannot switch off our water pumps, when not needed, and prevent this criminal waste of water.
Every year, 1,500 cubic kilometres of waste water are produced globally. While waste and waste water can be reused productively for energy and irrigation, it usually is not. In developing countries 80 percent of all waste is being discharged untreated, because of lack of regulations and resources.. Human and environmental health, drinking and agricultural water supplies for the present and future are at stake. Still, water pollution rarely warrants mention as a pressing issue. An estimated 1.1 billion people of the world rely on unsafe drinking-water sources.
Keeping this dismal scenario in mind, UN-Water has chosen 
Clean Water for a Healthy World’ as the theme for World Water Day 2010. The overall goal of the World Water Day on 22 March 2010 campaign is to focus on raising awareness about the profile of water quality at the political level so that water quality considerations are made alongside those of water quantity.
In fact potable drinking water should not be a demand or a need, but a basic human right, just like clean breathing air. Yet, it has become a commercial product, like oil, thanks to a lack of political will and abundance of citizens’ apathy. We take it as a sign of upward mobility to buy and drink bottled water (whose purity is also doubtful). Mineral water (what does it actually mean?) is the buzzword these days, thanks to sustained advertisement propaganda by multinationals.
As the UN and other international bodies seek solutions to this crisis of potable water at government levels, let us just be a bit more sensitive and sensible in our daily lives. It would merely require a little bit of conscious effort on our part to turn off the taps while brushing our teeth, and mend the leaking ones; switch off the pumps when tanks are full; use the shower in the bathroom judiciously; do not leave the hose in the garden to water it overnight; and prevent household waste from being thrown in ponds and rivers.
Let water not turn into rivers of blood and let blood not be spilled on roads – figuratively and literally.

No comments:

Post a Comment