I believe in Bikalpa, a positive alternative for Nepal and am part of it. It is a political think tank and a youth network. I urge you to join it if you like what it believes in and stands for.
Here is an introduction by the young Shailesh Dhungana who is the brains behind the concept of Bikalpa. Here is the facebook group of Bikalpa if you want to join.
NEPAL AND BIKALPA
Nepal is awesome. That is the sense you get after reading Devkota’s “K Nepal Sano Cha?”. The feeling stayed with me for years. Then, this proud Nepali landed in New York for the first time. I had only seen America in movies, TV shows and computer games. But, seeing skyscrapers and subways in real life changed me completely. Those things had existed in my head as if they were imaginary. Now, I was with them. I felt like I was inside one of those Hollywood movies. The sense of amazement did not last long, though, because I started to question myself “Why doesn’t Nepal have these things?”
I reached my university. The campus was wonderful with beautiful buildings. The professors were amazing. Everything was great. One would have enjoyed being there. But, something else happened for me. Whenever I saw something good, I would think, “This thing cannot be found anywhere in Nepal.” Is Nepal still awesome? Now, I had found a country to compare it with, and the comparison was very harsh. But, I still maintained that Nepal was beautiful and had some good things.
Then, I came back to Nepal for the summer. I started noticing things I had not noticed before. The streets of Kathmandu were full of uncollected garbage. I had never noticed things like traffic jams, power cuts, and insufficient water so clearly. Were there strikes so frequently? Were politicians so bad before I left? Nepal had not changed much, but it felt like a completely different place. I could no longer maintain that Nepal was awesome. When I returned to America, I started feeling inferior. There were some other personal reasons too, but the condition of my country added to the sense of inferiority. It caused me to go into a state of depression and I came back to Nepal.
I was still depressed when I got back. But, my parents did a wonderful thing. They wanted me to cheer up, so they took me on a trip towards Mount Everest. We went to Namche Bazaar, the last town before Mount Everest. There, I saw it for the first time – Mount Everest along the majestic Himalayan Range. Then, I realized something: Nepal might not be awesome at the moment, but it has a huge potential to be awesome. We just need to search for alternatives(Bikalpas) to the current situation and implement them:
Right now, the economic condition of Nepal is terrible. The per capita GDP is roughly 300 US dollars. Most of the people in the country are under the poverty line. This seems like a contradiction to the fact that Nepal has a huge potential for tourism.
Tourism is the only thing that can save Nepal’s economy. For this, we need to revolutionize the tourism sector. From my visits to Annapurna, Langtang, Helambu and Sagarmatha regions, I have realized that Nepal has been gifted by nature with an amazing landscape. We just need to utilize them.
The first thing we need to do is to improve our airlines and airports. High cost in airfare has been a deterrent to many potential tourists. It might be hard for Nepal to send millions of dollars and buy airplanes, but it would be relatively easy to build a better international airport, which will attract more airlines and more tourists.
The current international airport is located in Kathmandu valley, which geologically is not the best place for an airport. We could build an airport somewhere in the Terai region. And, this time, it should be a multi-runway international-standard airport with transit space. Tribhuwan International Airport’s lack of transit space has been a major problem. If there was a transit space, Nepal could serve as a transit hub. Who would not want to stay a few days in Nepal on their trip from Middle East to East Asia or Europe to Australia?
Also, we need to rethink our tourism market. We have been focusing on Americans and Europeans, but we have completely ignored Indians and Chinese as potential tourists. They are the closest to us and it would cost us less to advertise in India and China. A huge influx of tourists from these two countries can be great for Nepal’s economy.
Apart from these, we need to build our infrastructures to accommodate tourists. We need to build hill-stations in the Hill region. There are a lot of places in Nepal, which are as good as Darjeeling or Simla. We just need to develop those places a little. We should make transportation available in those places.
Agriculture is still the highest contributing factor in Nepal’s GDP. But, we have made no effort to modernize it. We should modernize the way farming is done. Instead of subsistence farming, large-scale farming (owned by corporations or co-ops) could increase agricultural production a lot. Also, use of modern equipments and modern technology can be helpful in decreasing the import of food from outside.
Nepal has not reached the level of technological development to excel in manufacturing. However, we could invite foreign companies to establish industries in Nepal by decreasing tax to a very low level. This would create a lot of job opportunities.
Nepal’s education system needs change. First, everyone should be provided with the opportunity to be educated. Also, the education system should be revised. There are a lot of students who do not find traditional education compatible. We should provide technical educations to them. Every district, at the very least, should have a technical school to produce craftsmen, electricians, plumbers, construction workers, etc. Those are the building blocks of infrastructural development.
Even the normal education has flaws. Right now, the educational system of Nepal focuses on memorizing. Memorizing is an important part of education, but more important is the ability to analyze and make decisions. Classes should be interactive and classes should focus on discussions. These changes will help create better citizens.
Also, students should be offered variety of courses. Right now, everyone has to take the same courses and take almost the same exams in SLC. This is frankly awful. There could be someone who is good at philosophy but bad at science. Why should he/she be forced to take science courses?
I return to my question I had in my mind when I first reached New York and saw skyscrapers. “Why doesn’t Nepal have these things?” For a long time, I used to think that our isolation from rest of the world and limited opportunity in our own country due to geological factors were the reasons. But, if we look at other developing countries in the world, we will realize that they have developed pretty fast in the last 50 years despite those problems in the past. So, why? I think the answer lies in politics. The political leaders of the country (kings, Ranas and politicians) have never looked for the benefit of the country and countrymen. Yes, Nepal was not the most prosperous civilization to begin with, but we could have done something in the past 100 years. Instead of developing the country, our leaders were busy being corrupt and amassing wealth for themselves.
Lets look at the present situation. There are 3 major parties and numerous small ones. But, I can’t find anyone to support. Nepali Congress claims to be democratic, but they are filled with corruption and nepotism. UML claims to take the middle path of social democracy, but it is as corrupt as Nepali Congress. The Maoists have not done a lot of corruption yet, but it could be because of lack of opportunity. Even if they are not corrupt, they came from a bloody revolution after killing people and they still seem to be carrying a failed ideology.
So, what is the bikalpa in politics? I think it is the youth. The youth need to unite and rise up. We should not be divided by party names. For our country, we need to unite and throw away these old crooks. 2/3 of the population is youth at the moment. So, it not a question whether we can do it or not. The question is are you ready? Are you ready to be a Bikalpa?