Sunday, August 29, 2010

Busy in Exam

dear all,

i know you are following my blog and thinking why he is not uploading any articles?
i am very much busy these days for the prepration of exams. Its starting from the day after tomorrow. so most probably i will be away from the internete and bloging.

appology for that



Monday, August 23, 2010

The only option

Ashe Brooks-cook
It has been called many names—reservation, special privilege, quotas, affirmative action, etc.—but whatever you’d like to call it, this concept is currently in deep debate amongst academics and politicians of Nepal.
Depending on who you are the perception of reservation is seen as either the eliminator of individual rights or the great equaliser of the people. Those in congruence with the ruling elite of Nepal, regardless of caste or ethnicity, are for the most part against the idea of reservation. Opponents argue that it infringes on the rights of individuals and therefore is counterproductive. Proponents of reservation believe that reservation is a way of bridging the gap of inequality between the have and the haves not’s, as well as providing an outlet toward bringing about democracy for a country that craves it with such intensity.
Reservation has the potential to benefit more than half of the population of Nepal mainly Dalits at 14.99 percent, indigenous groups at 36.31 percent and women at 52 percent of the population, and by benefiting these groups it will undoubtedly benefit Nepal as a whole. Reservation is an endeavour that would allow individuals access to opportunities that they otherwise would never have had based solely on a criteria measured by their genetics. These individuals would have right of entry in sectors such as education, civil service, government, the Army and most importantly a chance at a better life. People shouldn’t be questioning the legitimacy of reservation, what they should be doing is questioning why it has not been implemented sooner.
I recently encountered first hand the fear that will stifle Nepal’s nascent modernity at a conference on Dalit issues last month. During a break I spoke to a participant who commented that since the implementation of reservation in Nepal that certain castes were actually being turned down from opportunities over less qualified applicants due to their ethnicity. What I thought was interesting about the statement was that for one, it was coming from a Brahmin who had just received a Fulbright scholarship to study and live in the United States. Secondly, that she automatically assumed that those persons who are getting job opportunities over other castes were undoubtedly less qualified, and therefore were receiving these positions only due to their ethnicity and not because of their merit. The concept of merit is a structuralised concept, created by the elite to keep others out. What they fail to realise is that ethnic preferences in sectors enhance the experience not only of minority students but of elites, too.
There is no denying the fact that there is a need for reservation in Nepal. Statistics overwhelmingly show that Nepal has been dominated by a small minority in any and all sectors, both public and private, historically as well as currently. For example Brahmin/Chhetri make up 88.8 percent of the Supreme Court justices, 68.4 percent of ministers, the mass majority of majors and above ranks in the Army, 70.9 percent of the Nepali Congress, 87.5 percent of CPN-UML and so on, but only consist of 30.89 percent of the total population in Nepal.

Since reservation in Nepal is so new there is not much empirical data on whether or not it has made any difference or what the implications of it will be with regards to the future. But what I can derive based upon my own research in Nepal and my observations of reservation in other countries is that although controversial, reservation can and has been in many areas highly beneficial. As an African American I know all too well the repercussions of oppression and the benefits as well as controversies that affirmative action has caused in my country.
Affirmative action was first established in the United States in 1961 as an executive order. Many people in the United States were greatly affected by this order but if not for affirmative action, if not for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or even the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, my race would potentially still be stuck in a past filled with injustice and inferiority with even greater limited opportunities to education and jobs. I personally would still be made to drink out of a coloureds only water fountain, or still would not be able to vote, or even still be an enslaved person as others that have come before me have faced. As a result of the implementation of affirmative action in the US the percentage of African Americans began to increase in higher education, job placement, as well as the middle class.
Prominent American figures whose advancement were in part the result of affirmative action are Sonia Sotomayor (Princeton, Yale), Barack and Michelle Obama (Columbia, Princeton, Harvard), and Eric Holder (Columbia) - all of whom who have advocated for the importance of considering ethnicity in judicial selection, hiring and admission. Bill Gates, another prominent American figure, has acknowledged the need for affirmative action by creating the Gates Millennium Scholars programme. This programme grants scholarships for 1,000 minority students to attend college each year for the next 20 years.
I have heard many times during my stay in Nepal of a concept of a “New Nepal” and how Nepal has transcended from a Nepal of exclusiveness and oppression to that of inclusion and democracy. It is not truly possible for Nepal to become a “New Nepal” if only a small percentage of Nepalis are benefiting from this
so-called newness. Nearly 250 years of elite rule does not change overnight, but in order to effect true change and come to a point of equality, certain provisions need to be made and various forms of dominance by particular ethnic groups needs to be neutralised. The only way to do this in a pace quicker than the 250 years that it took to get there is to implement reservation as an amendment to the constitution as well as put into practice protocols that would ensure that it would be followed. It is true that eventually these issues will work themselves out, the bridge of equality in Nepal will eventually be built, domination by elite ethnicities will eventually quell, but until then reservation is the only answer.
Brooks-Cook is a graduate student at The New School University, New York. He recently spent the summer in Nepal researching contemporary Nepali politics

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

No ‘graceful exit’

In his book, The Promise, about President Obama’s first year in office, Jonathan Alter describes a brief conversation between the president and Vice President Jœ Biden that took place last November at the end of Obama’s long deliberation about what to do in Afghanistan. Biden asked whether the new policy of beginning a significant withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan in 2011 was a direct presidential order that could not be countermanded by the military. The president said yes. The two men were on their way to a meeting in the Oval Office with members of the Pentagon brass who would be tasked with carrying out Obama’s orders. Among those at the meeting was Gen. David Petraeus, then the chief of the United States Central Command, which included oversight of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to Alter, the president said to General Petraeus: “David, tell me now. I want you to be honest with me. You can do this in 18 months?” Petraeus replied: “Sir, I’m confident we can train and hand over to the A.N.A. [Afghan National Army] in that time frame.” The president went on: “If you can’t do the things you say you can in 18 months, then no one is going to suggest we stay, right?” “Yes, sir, in agreement,” said General Petraeus. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was also at the meeting, and he added his own crisp, “Yes, sir.” That was then. The brass was just blowing smoke, telling the commander in chief whatever it was that he wanted to hear. Over the past several days, at meetings with one news media outlet after another, General Petraeus has been singing a decidedly different song. The lead headline in The Times on Monday said: General Opposes a Rapid Pullout in Afghanistan. Having taken over command of US forces in Afghanistan after the ouster of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Petraeus is now saying he did not take that job in order to preside over a “graceful exit.” His goal now appears to be to rally public opinion against the very orders that President Obama insisted, as he told Jœ Biden, could not be countermanded. Who’s in charge here? The truth is that we have no idea how the president really feels about the deadline he imposed for beginning a troop withdrawal. It always seemed peculiar to telegraph the start of a troop pullout while fighting (in this case, escalating) a war. And Obama has always been careful to ratchet up the ambiguity quotient by saying the start of any withdrawal would depend on conditions on the ground. Anyone who has been paying attention knows that conditions on the ground are awful, so it looks as though we’re going to be there for a long, long while. This is a terrible thing to contemplate because in addition to the human toll (nearly half of all the American troop deaths in Afghanistan have occurred since Obama took office), the war is a giant roadblock in the way of efforts to deal effectively with deteriorating economic and social conditions here in the United States. Look around at the economy, the public school system, the federal budget deficits, the fiscal conditions plaguing America’s state and local governments. We are giving short shrift to all of these problems and more while pouring staggering amounts of money (the rate is now scores of billions of dollars a year) into a treacherous, unforgiving and hopelessly corrupt sinkhole in Afghanistan. (I stand in awe of the heights of hypocrisy scaled by conservative politicians and strategists who demand that budget deficits be brought under control while cheering the escalation in Afghanistan and calling for ever more tax cuts here at home.) The reason you hear so little about Lyndon Johnson nowadays despite his stupendous achievements— Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965—is that Vietnam laid his reputation low. Johnson’s war on poverty was derailed by Vietnam, and it was Vietnam that tragically split the Democratic Party and opened the door to the antiwar candidacies of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy. The ultimate beneficiaries, of course, were Richard Nixon and the Republicans. President Obama dœs not buy the comparison of Afghanistan to Vietnam, and he has a point when he says that the US was not attacked from Vietnam. But Sept. 11, 2001, was nearly a decade ago, and the war in Afghanistan was hopelessly bungled by the Bush crowd. There is no upside to Obama’s escalation of this world-class fiasco. We will never build a stable, flourishing society in Afghanistan. What we desperately need is a campaign of nation-building to counteract the growing instability and deterioration in the United States.

By Bob Herbert
The New York Times ( Repritend by The Kathmandu Post)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Job to do

By Mukesh Khanal

In the United States, the technology boom in the 1990s brought an abundance of money. With so much money at their disposal, banks started lending almost for free to whoever wanted them. People started buying houses and land with the loans, and real estate prices were artificially inflated. Around 2005-07, the entire real estate market in the US crashed. People were thrown out into the streets from their houses that they could never have afforded in the first place if not for reckless loans from banks.
The exact scenario is unfolding in Nepal. We have experienced a growth in remittance income. Banks are overflowing with remittance deposits, and have no idea what to do with it. Brokers are being given house and land loans at very low interest rates. ‘Plotting’ has become a popular vernacular, and real estate is being bought and sold at artificially inflated prices. This real estate bubble in Nepal will burst; it’s only a question of when. We will not be able to handle such a crisis as our savings are low and most of the remittance money
has gone into unproductive sector. Once the bubble bursts, millions of Nepalis will see their entire life savings vanish in thin air.
One good thing about remittances is that it gives people some capital. Some use it to send their children to school and some invest it. However, most of the remittance money that enters Nepal has been spent on consumption of goods and services, and does not contribute much to the economic and social growth. Thus, for the nation as a whole, our labour going overseas for employment and sending back remittance money is not desirable for many reasons.
Nations all over the world have been feeling the impact of globalisation, and most are struggling to provide jobs to their citizens. Nepalis who go to work overseas should know that they are going there as a cheaper substitute of the local labour force. There have been news reports, and issues have been raised about Nepalis workers being treated unfairly in some Middle Eastern countries. Nepali workers have complained that their passports get taken away. In many instances, the workers have not been paid for months, and have returned with no savings at all.
The fact that we have a system geared for remittance inflow at the expense of health and dignity of our citizens raises ethical, moral and legal questions. Also, we should understand the reason why many Nepalis migrate. Although highly educated andhigh-skill people have also left Nepal, the focus here is not on exceptions but on the majority. Most of Nepali labour force is uneducated (or undereducated) and low-skilled (or un-skilled). We have a difficult time finding them well-paying jobs in Nepal because of these shortcomings. Until these shortcomings are addressed via regular and vocational education and training, we will always have to find them places overseas in labour-intensive jobs. This is not a desirable outcome for Nepal.
We also have a labour force that is mostly employed in agriculture. The agricultural labour force is the most uneducated and unskilled out of all sectors in our economy. Most of this labour force lives in rural areas, and therefore, lacks basic education, training and healthcare. Public spending on education and health has not increased since 1990. As a result, our labour force has low education, low skill and poor health. Until the government increases its efforts and expenditure on educating and training, Nepalis will always be looking for low skilled jobs overseas.
We still rely on animal and human labour while others use technology in farming and irrigation. In this situation, agriculture in Nepal cannot compete with advanced agricultural practices in countries like US, Australia and China. Our crops and grains are never going to fetch us profitable prices in the market due to heavy competition.
Declining sales and productivity in agriculture has resulted in falling agricultural contribution to GDP, and high unemployment among the agricultural labour force. An average agricultural labourer’s skills are not easily transferable. As a result, most Nepalis who seek jobs overseas are agricultural labourers who have become unemployed.
As nationalistic fervor heats up in many countries in the wake of worldwide increasing unemployment rates, inflation, and sagging economic growth, the pressure in most foreign countries is sure to mount against employing foreign labour. Some countries like Malaysia and Singapore are already feeling the heat, and have reduced the number of Nepalis employed there. Iraq and Afghanistan have been attracting and employing many Nepali workers these days.
But the wars and reconstruction efforts in those countries are surely going to end some day. In addition, Dubai and Qatar will eventually complete their massive construction efforts, and the Nepali labour will not be needed anymore.
Nepalis will, eventually, have to return to their own country. Job creation in Nepal is the only surefire way of keeping the Nepali labour force employed in the long run. There is a widespread belief that remittance income is beneficial to the society, that it lowers poverty and reduces inequality. While remittance income has encouraged an increased consumption and expenditure on education, studies have shown that it does not contribute to lowering poverty or inequality, nor help in job creation.
Remittance has already exceeded 20 percent of GDP, and while this statistic is easy on the eyes (and our pockets), it’s bad news overall. Remittance income depends on foreign workers, and foreign workers depend on demand of workers in the respective countries. If a large destination country suddenly decides that it does not need Nepali labour, we’re in trouble. That is the main problem with foreign employment: the demand for our labour is uncertain and could end any time.
Despite the criticisms, we should be thankful to the remittance income for sustaining our economy during the time of intense crisis in the last few years. If it were not for remittance income, our economy would have collapsed during these turbulent times. However, remittance income has not created jobs, and has made no significant impact in lowering poverty and inequality. It is stupid to let remittance become the largest contributor in our GDP because it is uncertain and volatile.
We cannot afford to lose our laborers in their prime and productive years to some other country. Sending our laborers to other countries because they lack skills, training and education is not a healthy option in the long run. Shouldn’t the government be responsible for the health, education and training of its citizens? Such issues need to be addressed quickly, and solutions need to be found. The best way forward is to educate and train our labour force, and create jobs at home. Otherwise, few years down the road, the country is likely to find itself in hot waters.
The author is an economist at the Institute for Integrated Development Studies (IIDS)
From The Kathmandu Post

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Burkas and bikinis

Time magazine’s cover is the latest cynical attempt to oversimplify the reality of Afghan lives

Reprising a legendary 1985 National Geographic cover, this week’s Time magazine cover girl is another beautiful young Afghan woman. But this time there is a gaping hole where her nose used to be before it was cut off under Taliban direction. A stark caption reads: “What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan”. A careful editorial insists that the image is not shown “either in support of the US war effort or in opposition to it”. The stated intention is to counterbalance damaging the WikiLeaks revelations—91,000 documents that, Time believes, cannot provide “emotional truth and insight into the way life is lived in that difficult land”. Feminists have long argued that invoking the condition of women to justify occupation is a cynical ploy, and the Time cover already stands accused of it. Interestingly, the WikiLeaks documents reveal CIA advice to use the plight of Afghan women as “pressure points”, an emotive way to rally flagging public support for the war. Misogynist violence is unacceptable, but we must also be concerned by the continued insistence that the complexities of war, occupation and reality itself can be reduced to bedtime stories. Consultation with child psychologists apparently preceded Time’s decision to run the image, but the magazine decided that in the end it was more important for children (and us) to understand that “bad things do happen to people” and we must feel sorry for them. The WikiLeaks revelations of atrocities and civilian deaths are evidence of some rather terrible things that are done to people but are bizarrely judged not to provide a “window into the reality of what is happening”. Time is not alone in condensing Afghan reality into simplistic morality tales. A deplorable number of recent works habituate us to thinking about Afghanistan as what Liam Fox, Britain’s defence secretary, called a “broken 13th-century country”, defined solely by pathologically violent men and silently brutalised women. While Afghans have been silenced and further disempowered by being reduced to objects of western chastisement, a recent judgment against Asne Seierstad’s The Bookseller of Kabul has raised the possibility of challenging their depictions. Based on her stay in the eponymous protagonist’s home, Seierstad’s memoir uses offensive commercial language to describe ordinary marital negotiations and refers to female characters as “the burka”. The tone implies even the most anti-Taliban Afghan men are irredeemably vicious patriarchs. Predictably, some critical reaction deemed Afghanistan a “horrible society”. While there exists a colonial tradition of relegating the non-west to the past of the west—and some suggest leaving it to rot in hopelessness—the trendier option involves incorporating Afghans into modernity by teaching them to live in a globalised present. In non-fiction bestsellers such as Deborah Rodriguez’s Kabul Beauty School, an American woman teaches Afghan women the intricacies of hair colour, sexiness, and resisting oppression. “To all appearances, there is no sex life in Afghanistan,” writes Rodriguez, obsessed—like Seierstad—with the nuptial habits of Afghans. Sex and the City in the Middle East may have tanked as a movie, but as ideology it has displaced meaningful global feminism. Acceptable Afghan-American voices such as Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner) and Awista Ayub (Kabul Girls Soccer Club) reiterate the notion that suburban America can “infuse” Afghans with freedom. Formulaic narratives are populated by tireless Western humanitarians, sex-crazed polygamous paedophiles (most Afghan men) and burka-clad “child-women” who are broken in body and spirit or have just enough doughtiness to be scripted into a triumphal Hollywood narrative. The real effects of the Nato occupation, including the worsening of many women’s lives under the lethally violent combination of old patriarchal feudalism and new corporate militarism are rarely discussed. The mutilated Afghan woman ultimately fills a symbolic void where there should be ideas for real change. The truth is that the US and allied regimes do not have anything substantial to offer Afghanistan beyond feeding the gargantuan war machine they have unleashed. And how could they? In the affluent west itself, modernity is now about dismantling welfare systems, increasing inequality (disproportionately disenfranchising women in the process), and subsidising corporate profits. Other ideas once associated with modernity— social justice, economic fairness, peace, all of which would enfranchise Afghan women— have been relegated to the past in the name of progress. This bankrupt version of modernity has little to offer Afghans other than bikini waxes and Oprah-imitators. A radical people’s modernity is called for—and not only for the embattled denizens of Afghanistan.

The Guardian