A powerful earth quake of 7.8 magnitude hit Nepal on April 25, 2015. The human death reached over 9, 000, wounded other 28,000 and crippled the nation’s precious cultural sites. This quake followed by series of aftershocks destroyed vital infrastructures turning countless Nepalese homeless. Over 3,000 avalanches and landslides added other woes. A preliminary estimated reveal that 20 percent of Nepal’s 27.8 million population suffered. It added 800,000 poor into its poverty inventory of 25 percent of population who have $ 1.25 income.
Nepal’s security forces, local communities, youth and international community immediately engaged in rescue, relief and construction of temporarily shelters for the local people. Before the arrival of monsoon season quake affected citizens must have all wherewithals to survive and defend themselves. This is the phase of national construction to minimize the man-made consequences of the quake as a refinement and renewal process for Nepal. To make Nepal resilient in the future required a broad-base political, economic and social process and the management of nature. It is a time for vision-building which requires the strength and wisdom of statesman, not short-sighted power calculating, constituency-oriented politicians. The mega question is: how to evolve and expedite this construction of infrastructures which is interlocked with strengthening social cohesion and nation-building? What are the critical bottlenecks at the local and national levels? Are the political condition favorable ?
The quake evoked the sentiments of Nepali nationalities and humanity. First, the mass of Nepali citizens came together to help those who were affected by the quake irrespective of caste, class, geography, religion, ethnicity and gender distinctions. Second, volunteerism of youth, workers and minorities were exemplary in relief and rescue. At the level of ordinary citizens there was a sense of national unity and affinity. It subdued sub-nationalism of ethnicity and regionalism. If central bodypolitik is not renewed and adapted to rebuilding then the surge of ethnicity might surge back in the future. Many of them are less educated with the notion of citizenship equality in right, duties and identities. The challenge by single bench of Supreme Court to 16-point deal of four political parties- Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal Unified Marxist-Leninist, United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum ( Democratic)-indicates their partial victory in the federal concept. The ethnic, Madhesi, Dalits and women within the ruling parties are seeking the implementation of previous agreements. But by no means has it signaled the guarantee of ethnic self-determination or prior use rights. It only complicated the constitution drafting process and provided breathing space who wanted to stick to power. Nepal’s political system must be based on citizenship-based model.
Building resilient Nepal requires strengthening the basic foundation of Nepali statehood--ward, VDC, neighborhood, communities and district. The fundamental question is: Are top leaders interested in system change for this and bring new generation of leaders who are inclusive, democratic and capable of undertaking their responsibilities? The present scenario indicates that they are not. Politics in Nepal is largely a money making business. Leaders are, therefore, interested in power without looking into its legitimate base and accountability. In this context, national resilience cannot be achieved if youth, women, Dalit, indigenous people and the general stakeholders of society cannot exert pressure for the change of political structure and political culture that landed Nepal to this stage of underdevelopment. Local and intermediate levels of society have a greater role in rebuilding and greater stake in sustainability of this resilience. If youth volunteerism is not fostered Nepal’s future will become its past.
Nation building demands reform of fundamental issues akin to cohesion of populace, democratization and economic reconstruction. Within these three factors lie several issues of societal concerns with the citizens’ self-advancement. Without it citizen’s nation cannot exist. In the context of Nepal, nation building first relates with the functioning political environment to unite the base of social, economic, cultural, institutional as well as linguistic sphere of society in commensurate native needs, rights and shared aspirations. It is long term and complex process. It requires gluing identity politics along caste, class, ethnicity, religion, region and political ideology into the firmament of nation-state whose primary units are citizens.
Reconstruction of conflict and rebuilding of earthquake resilient society including peace building demand livelihood guarantee, economic renewal and rebuilding social relationship in the web of all development infrastructures- school, health, community library, electricity, drinking water, irrigation, etc around. All these demand a political framework such as constitution to govern and socialize citizens for habitual compliance to the state. Constitutional democracy requires accountability, responsibility and transparency of the of the state’s institutions by solving underlying structural problems of the citizens and sound bases of social justice. Local resources, skill and capital can contribute to both rebuilding and reconstruction supported by the resources of international community. Earthquake resilient rebuilding of cultural sites, buildings and bridges are essential to avoid future risk. But without addressing the misfortunate circumstances of victims, promoting their legitimate interest and maintaining cohesive social order, nation building becomes fragile. Equally important is to respect their priority and eagerness to stay united like in disaster period and to adopt the inclusive politics of cooperative action. Nation building in reconciling the micro issue including managing the disaster and link it with macro issue like politics, economic and democracy. Stable nation building demand local election, creation of employment to youth, income generation, health, security, renovation of cultural sites and everyday communication.
(Bishnu Devi Memorial Trust, Kathmandu, Nepal)