What Jumla apples and Kathmandu politics should have in common.
An apple farmer in Jumla has to protect his saplings through three harsh winters before they start bearing fruit. When mature, one tree can yield as much as 100kg of apples, and they sell for Rs 15 per kg in the Khalanga Bazar. These are packed into boxes and transported to Kathmandu where the apples sell for Rs 250 per kg.
The solution is not to tell Jumla farmers not to grow apples, but to put into place a price mechanism so that the producer is not cheated, and the consumer gets more apples for the same price. This means finding ways to connect farmers more effectively to market, cutting out or minimising the impact of middlemen, so that the farmers in Jumla get a fair share of the margin.
Similarly, in politics too, 28 million Nepalis who put their faith and aspirations in the hands of our political middlemen have been let down. Thousands of young Nepalis even sacrificed their lives to be part of a revolution and a people's movement to start afresh with a new constitution. Having done so, they went back to their hard lives eking out a living from the harsh land, putting their fate in the hands of those they elected. Four years and billions of rupees later, they are still waiting.
The question here is no longer why did a new constitution not get passed and who is to blame, but are we okay with exercising our valuable democratic right of casting our vote for the same people, parties, and ideologies all over again?
Just because elected leaders were not able to deliver on a new constitution, it doesn't mean that we should start doubting or looking for alternatives to our democratic system of governance. And the solution will also not come from merely finding fault and criticising our political leadership and parties.
Maybe the time has come to decide whether the political brokers on whom we had faith to deliver a better nation have been leading us astray. Like the apple middlemen, politicians have been taking advantage of the Nepali people's trust in them.
But change is happening in Jumla. A group of pioneering entrepreneurs with capital and market linkages in Kathmandu have got together with young farmers in Jumla, bought a large plot of land and started planting apple saplings. By taking the resources and value additions of urban Kathmandu and combining them with local skills and knowledge, the profit-sharing will be fairer. Who knows, maybe apples will also be cheaper in Kathmandu.
If only we could find such a bridge to bring together Nepal's political brokers with the people. But for that to happen, one of two things needs to be in place.
Option One is a realisation among the political forces that they have wronged the people whom they represent. It hasn't sunk into the current leadership that Nepalis are no longer interested in who is going to be the next prime minister, who are going to be ministers, or which parties are going to be in government. Those things make no difference on whether there is food on the plate.
A good starting point is for the leaders individually and collectively apologise to the Nepali people for letting them down. There needs to be an attitudinal change so leaders don't see themselves as "rulers" anymore, but as "servants" of the people. That is the only way they will win back the people's confidence, a prerequisite to facing the electorate in the next polls.
Many of you may be shaking your heads, thinking this will never happen in your lifetime. If so, you have to think of Option Two: the formation of a completely new political force made up of individuals who have excelled in their respective fields, Nepalis who have proven themselves and through their work, earned the trust of the people.
Individuals like you and me who have successful, comfortable lives will need to step out of our cosy cocoons to take on not only the challenges facing our nation, but also the political forces that are wasting time and squandering their mandates. No matter how fragmented they may seem now, when it comes to choosing the next prime minister, you can be sure the politicians will circle the wagons when their power is challenged.
Or there could be a combination of Options One and Two so young forward-looking individuals currently in the political parties, and individuals not currently in mainstream politics come together to forge an alliance.
Just like the apple farmers in Jumla forged a partnership with entrepreneurs from Kathmandu, the time has come to bypass the political middlemen.
Anil Keshary Shah is a banker and a concerned Nepali citizen.
(Courtesy: Nepali Times)