Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Terai Lags Behind

English: "Malnourishment in Niger" M...
English: "Malnourishment in Niger" Malnourished children in Niger, during the 2005 famine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Help, not hinder
Almost all statistics including population density, literacy rate, annual income, unemployment, infant mortality rate, malnourished children, wasted status of children (20.4 percent in Tarai vs. 6.9 percent in Hills), anaemic women (42.0 in Tarai vs. 26.9 in Hills), families without toilet (51.2 in Tarai vs. 24.8 in Hills), Human Development Indicator, Human Poverty Index and Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) demonstrate much worse condition in Tarai compared to Hills. Despite this, only a small fraction of foreign aids and grants is allocated for Tarai. 51 percent of Nepal’s population lives in this region and carries the same proportion of burden of the loans by the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and other donor agencies. Moreover, international agencies fare much worse than Nepal government’s structures in regards to the inclusion of Madheshis. According to the UNDP data published in 2001 about the manpower involved in 30 major multilateral agencies and 61 projects, they had only 5.2 percent of Madheshis. Foreign tourists, volunteers and journalists often flock to Nepal with their backpacks, full of stereotypes. Their Nepal revolves around mountains, monks and medieval temples. They crave for virgin goddess and yetis, for trekking on trails and resting in resorts. Madhesh is no Nepal-like for them. They are not ready to buy tickets to Nepal and then end up in a place that looks much like India, as a European friend of mine remarked after looking at the landscape and people of Tarai. “If I have to see this and spend time with these types of people, I’ll go to India. Why bother about Nepal?”
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Saturday, March 01, 2014

5,000 Members

The United States possibly was one of the last countries for the Non Resident Nepali movement to enter. It flourished on all continents except this one for years. And finally when it arrived it had managed to accumulate 400 members in four years.

But looks like those days are over. A recent membership drive has put the membership past 3,000. And that is in large measure because you can get your membership online. Estimates of Nepalis in America put the number at 200,000. I think to expect the NRNA will get at least 5,000 members is modest. The NRNA deserves to become the largest Nepali organization in America.

The organization suffered because the democratic process was disallowed. But some recent changes are welcome. You should be able to get your membership online. Any member should be able to contest for Officer positions, and all members should be able to directly vote for those Officer positions. The committees that run the association should organize online meetings. You put those basics into place and the next thing you know you have a truly pan American organization. Geography is no longer holding you back. All book keeping should be kept transparent and online.

The empowerment of the community comes from the organization’s commitment to the basic democratic process itself. Such a commitment to democracy and transparency will jack up the membership base to consistently large numbers. People running for Officer positions would engage in membership drives to boost their chances, and that would be swell.

The annual ANA Convention has a long tradition, and it deserves to continue with it. That convention is as good a platform as any for the NRNA as well.

The dual citizenship issue remains the unfinished business of the NRNA. And that mystifies me. Because making dual citizenship possible for global Nepalis is the easiest and the single biggest step the government in Nepal can take for Nepal’s rapid economic growth. Nepali politicians who oppose Foreign Direct Investment, either through active opposition or, more likely, plain inaction, and those who stand against dual citizenship for global Nepalis are directly responsible for Nepali women ending up in the brothels in Mumbai, and Nepalis landing in body bags from the Gulf states. Those politicians are standing in the way of job creation inside the country.

Only a mass based NRNA in America can help with the cause of dual citizenship. A NRNA with 200 members simply does not have legitimacy. At 5,000 members you are finally talking. At 10,000 members you matter. The membership drive has to be ongoing.

There are more than 30 Nepali organizations just in New York City. There are tens of Nepali organizations in most major urban areas across the country. The NRNA could be that umbrella organization that brings Nepalis together across this country. And it is a good thing the association asks for individual and not organizational membership.

There is power in numbers. For the first time I have some respect for the NRNA in America. 5,000 has been that magic number for me. The membership number has to go past that for me to take the NRNA seriously. Leaders contesting elections and winning after massive membership drives have legitimacy. Enough of backroom deals and undemocratic appointments and shady court actions.

Once the NRNA in America gets the basics of democracy and transparency right and goes past 5,000 members, it will become a serious national chapter of the global NRN movement for the first time. And it might even claim leadership of the global movement at some point. It will be able to add muscle to the dual citizenship debate.

In a culturally diverse country like America, and especially in cities like New York, a well run NRNA will bring up opportunities for alliance building with organizations that represent other countries. Transparent and online book keeping will create opportunities for massive fundraising and creating new programs.

If the Officers of NRNA America will hold online meetings, that means the gulf between the NRNA chapters in the 60 plus countries is going to be zero. Everyone can come on Skype. It is amazing how Viber has taken off. The NRN movement was always meant to be global. But lack of robust coordination has kept the movement in the doldrums. I am for more skyping and less air travel. Use social media to the max. Keep all interested members in the know. Publish meeting minutes and money details on Facebook groups.

5,000 members spread across the country might mean those running for Office might also have to conduct primarily online campaigns. That would be interesting. That would also be cheap. Which means anyone could participate, and that would be a good thing.

I have wondered out loud many times in many places as to why the top global Nepali entrepreneurs are not out of America but rather Second World countries like Russia. If America is the ultimate country, what gives? One of the things holding the community back has been a lack of large, mass based, democratic, transparent, robust organizations. Minus that the community has been nimbling along with some sort of an inferiority complex.

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