Ordinary Nepalis vent anger at political elite
MAY 31 -
As summer approached street vendor Binod Paudyal withdrew his life savings and decided to pursue his dream of opening a restaurant serving authentic Nepal i cuisine to backpackers and tourists.
Two months later his business is floundering because of civil unrest and the 39-year-old, like millions of ordinary Nepal is, has seen his optimism crushed by what he believes is the intransigence and corruption of the political elite.
"I took a huge risk and invested 1.5 million rupees ($17,500). But there was a series of strikes which crippled me," said Paudyal, who has a wife and two young children.
"The customers stayed indoors and we often had to close the restaurant. At times like these when there are strikes and political uncertainty, no one wants to venture out to enjoy the evening at a restaurant."
On Sunday Nepal 's political leaders failed after years of wrangling to meet a deadline to write its first post-war constitution and parliament was dissolved, leaving the country with no legal government.
Nepal is elected the 601-member assembly in 2008 to draw up the constitution, but the collapse dashed their hopes for a new social and political order in a country that remains deeply unequal.
"I am worried because the situation is very uncertain," Paudyal, who used to operate a street booth in Kathmandu selling passport photographs, told AFP.
"I'm not sure whether I will be able to continue in such dismal conditions."
Nepal 's main parties have squabbled over power and positions for decades, and political corruption has led to widespread disillusionment in a country hobbled by strikes and chronic power shortages.
Six years after the end of the civil war, which claimed 16,000 lives, and four years after the abolition of Nepal 's Hindu monarchy, regular street protests are a symptom of growing public anger with the government.
While the politicians argue, the problems faced by ordinary Nepal is are mounting.
The political turmoil has sharply slowed growth in an economy heavily dependent on foreign aid and tourism revenue, trimming the increase to a meagre 3.5 percent in the financial year to 2011, a four-year low.
Cars and motorbikes queue at petrol stations due to fuel shortages, power cuts force shops to use candlelight after dark, food inflation is rocketing and the state-run oil monopoly has hiked prices after running out of cash.
"Four years ago, when there were elections for the Constituent Assembly, there was optimism and euphoria," said engineer Bibek Raj Kandel, 33.
"But what we got was more violence and now the entire process has collapsed. People are being fooled by their leaders."
The demise of the assembly could herald a six-month leadership vacuum, with the Maoists struggling to hold onto power.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai has called new elections, vowing to lead a caretaker government to the November polls, but political opponents say that the interim constitution has no provision for such a move.
Nepal has more than 100 different ethnic groups, and marginalised lower castes are looking for a greater say in running the country and increased access to jobs and education.
Ethnically-driven organisations with varying demands have organised increasingly violent protests, with recent deaths in bomb attacks in Kathmandu and in the southern plains, known as the Terai.
While the Maoists want the creation of up to 14 states named after ethnic groups, their rivals say dividing Nepal along such lines will fuel unrest. It is this issue that led to parliament's demise.
"The dissolution of the assembly means that the parties want to deny the rights to the marginalised ethnic groups," said Ramdas Dong Tamang, 52, a Maoist party member from central Nepal .
"They say that if the rights are granted, the country will disintegrate, but that's wrong. Only now have people started to be aware of their rights. Until a few years ago, we even didn't know we were denied opportunities."
Posted on: 2012-05-31 11:52