Honour sans honourNational honours have become an object of ridicule rather than a matter of pride.
Over the past three decades, Nepal has gone through a sea change, but what has not changed over the years is the same old mindset of the people in power. Since the restoration of democracy in 1990, the same set of leaders of the same political parties have been in power, promising something new but invariably failing to deliver. After the country abolished the centuries-old monarchy and ushered in republicanism, there were hopes that the common citizenry will benefit.
The 2015 constitution that was adopted at the expense of two constitution assemblies, billions of rupees and lives of dozens of people turned five on Sunday. But the anniversary function that was organised with pomp and pageantry made a mockery of the system and those who indeed have made fine contributions from their fields of expertise to effect real changes in the society and national life.
Then the Oli administration continued the age-old trend, a copy from the Panchayat regime, of honouring' those who made 'extraordinary contributions' to the country and society. Barring a few individuals including the likes of Dr Sanduk Ruit and those working on the frontlines in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, a majority of the people to be decorated are apparently those who either have close links with the government or have invested their time and energy in singing paeans to the leadership, particularly Prime Minister Oli.
The government on Sunday honoured as many as 594 individuals on the occasion of the Constitution Day. According to the Decoration Act 2007, honours and titles, decorations and medals on behalf of the country can be awarded by the state to any citizen of Nepal who has rendered special contribution to the political, economic, social, cultural and research aspects of national life as well as other walks or international sectors. But the members of the public, academicians, former judges and political analysts say they wondered how the government justified the majority of the names, as their contributions to the nation and society were hardly visible.
The decision to award them was made by a nine-member decoration committee, which is led by deputy prime minister Ishwar Pokhrel, and includes home minister Ram Bahadur Thapa and six members nominated by the Cabinet—at least one of them a woman, with the home secretary as the member secretary of the committee.
Despite the provision saying the state can honour up to 200 individuals every year, the committee decided to change it days before the Constitution Day with a view to recommending names as per the wish of the government, to include them in the list not for their real contributions to the society and the state but for their fawning behavior and servile flattery. Unless Nepal’s politicians and leaders in power change the mindset and comprehend the true meaning of honouring the citizens, conferring decorations and medals will be tantamount to undermining the state.
Many countries in the world do a fine job of recognising the achievements of their citizens. Such honours inspire the society and help the outstanding national heroes get recognition beyond the borders. If the Nepali government fails to comprehend why citizens are awarded and fulfil the true objective of honouring them, it should better pull the plug on the tradition, which has become an object of ridicule rather than a matter of pride.
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