--By Madan Lamsal
Like every dark cloud has a silver lining, India’s blockade against Nepal, too, has a bright side. It has several benefits. One of the several good things that it has brought about is the grand start of the great debate of making the country self-reliant. The debate started quickly on facebook and Twitter, and has already spread to the country’s newspapers whose pages are filled with formulas to become self-reliant.
It seems everybody knows how to make the country self-reliant! Nothing except the blockade could have given this debate this grand get-going. The only question is where were these experts hiding when the blockade was not there?
And what can you say about the strong sense of nationalist fervour that the blockade has triggered! I hear that many hakim saaps and government ministers whose hearts melted with nationalism, thanks to the blockade, have penned several poems and songs on nationalism and patriotism. So far I haven’t had the great fortune of reading or listening to them, so I can’t vouch for their value.
On the other hand, Nepalis too have proven that they too can blockade India - by shutting down Indian television channels, even if it was short-lived. Wow! We did not know that we had such great powers in our hands before! We owe special thanks to our southern neighbour and the Madhesi leaders for this.
Listen to their public speeches and you will know that some Nepali politicians have come up with some really interesting suggestions for becoming self-reliant. “So what if India cuts off the fuel supply…We’ll ride bicycles,” one of them went off-script and passionately blurted out in parliament! Other suggestions are: “Just stop eating rice, salt and oil if the same stops coming from India” and “We’ll build roads linking to China and just import everything we need from there.”
By staging a by no means a mammoth protest of 10-20 people in front of the neighbour country’s embassy in Kathmandu, other politicians, too, have publicly said, “We’ll show India how we become self-reliant.”
Our Former Industry Minister went a step further. “Soon Nepal will not only stop importing petrol and gas but will also start exporting the same,” he declared. According to him, there is a stockpile of gas below the ground where I am standing and writing these lines. Coming from the mouth of the then Industry Minister, it must be true. The only question that puzzles me is if we have such a vast deposit of petrol and gas then why didn’t we try to extract it before?
Whatever! Let’s not boggle our mind with such questions. US-based Nepali scientist Lujendra Ojha has already spotted water on Mars. That means humans can settle down on the Red Planet. If a neighbour does a bit too much, we can migrate to Mars! However, before deciding to move to Mars, we should make sure that we have access to the sea there so that no blockade by any country will affect us like this one.
Only now do the Nepalis know that it won’t matter much even if nothing comes from India. Though they say 65 per cent of Nepal’s international trade is dependent on India, it’s mainly 8-10 items that we are dependent on India for. For example, salt, petroleum, fuel, paan masala, tobacoo, Hindi songs and tele-serials, medicines, made-in-India vehicles, chemical fertilizers, food grains, garments, construction materials, employment etc. The list is not that long.
How much salt do you need anyway? We can bring it in airplanes from any country. If we can produce electricity from our rivers, we do not need oil at all. We don’t have the money to buy Indian vehicles anyway. You need cars because you see others driving them. If your neighbour doesn’t have a car, the urge to get your own car is not there.
And in the case of some Nepalis, especially women, suddenly getting serious because they can’t watch their Hindi serials, well, nothing need be said!
Chemical fertilizers, too, are no more needed. This is the age of organic food. In case of garments, we should start a revolution – something like Gandhi’s charkha revolution, based on his spinning wheel. We should encourage Nepali women to wear the Kirtipur-made Haku Patasi (a black sari with red borders). If not, then the Nepali paper, too, can be used to make clothing. This will be unique and fashionable as well. We should call Prabal Gurung back from New York. He will surely make it even more fashionable and hip.
That leaves us with the construction material and employment issues. Earthquake has made building big buildings inappropriate. If building or rebuilding buildings were a priority, the government would have set up the Reconstruction Authority straight after the earthquake. As for small houses and schools, we already have stones, clay and pebbles. And for bridges, we can always fly in Bailey bridges from Europe and America. The issue of employment is even simpler. The street protests being organised by the Madhesi front and those to be orgainsed by the politician urging one and all to ride bicycles will require many youths and children. If not, the youth can always go the Gulf countries.
No need to worry about these matters anymore. However, a small story comes to mind that goes along with the sudden tide of nationalism and self-reliant economy. “There was no paddy harvest this year. How are we going to feed the children rice?” the father asked the mother. The son replied, “Don’t worry dad, we will eat chiura (beaten rice) instead!”