Keep the changeLawmakers should work to better the lives of the people rather than making token gestures.
In a Bollywood comedy flick released a few years ago, the protagonist, a jobless man, hires a small time actor as an accomplice to help portray him as a highly paid engineer in the city. But the overzealous actor does more than what he is told to do, nearly ruining the entire act. Once the act is over, the protagonist orders that Rs50 be deducted from the actor's fee for overacting. The movie’s name is Phir Hera Pheri, which loosely translates as ‘monkey business again’. Recent announcements by lawmakers from various parties to return Dashain allowances reek of Bollywood-style overacting.
The Members of Parliament have decided to forfeit Rs64,070 each, equivalent to a month's salary, claiming it wouldn't be appropriate to take the allowances amid the pandemic. They have given the impression that they are guided by conscience—a commitment to ensuring that they do not keep pocketing money when the people are facing a zillion problems. They may also be guided by guilt for having made close to zero effort to better the lives of the people. Whatever the reason, the announcements expose their hypocrisy.
The opposition Nepali Congress has been a no-show right since the beginning of the lockdown as if we were in a 'Congress-mukta Nepal' already. The party has remained silent even as the government began to flounder in its response to the pandemic and abdicated its responsibility to feed the poor hit hard by the lockdown and to upgrade health facilities across the country.
Enough has already been said about the ruling Nepal Communist Party that has spent most of the time and energy since the beginning of the lockdown in managing its internal politics. Frankly, people have spent all adjectives to describe the ruling party that has crossed all limits of apathy, recklessness, ruthlessness and criminal negligence as people lay hungry, angry, bedridden and dying.
The announcement by the major parties and their lawmakers to return the Dashain allowances is just eyewash, even a political drama, enacted not by a genuine will to help the people. Rather, it is a result of a huge public outcry on mainstream and social media. If they have not listened to the people of the lowest strata of society who have died of hunger and lack of medical care, they would as well avoid listening to the media and social media warriors. Let fake gestures be forbidden during these tough times.
Although Rs64,070 may sound like huge money for the people dying of hunger or illness, it is not too big a sum if we consider the amount of money the lawmakers receive each year just for putting salt to the wounds of the people. Their returning a month's salary to the government is not going to make much of a difference. At most, the lawmakers will use it as a pretext for further grandstanding.
In any case, there is no guarantee that the money returned will be used towards serving the people in these trying times as the government has said it would not bear the cost of tests and treatment for Covid-19. The government should, thus, pay the lawmakers their allowances and instead make them work hard for the people in return for the payment. If at all, as the protagonist of the Bollywood hit would want to say, the government should deposit Rs64,020 each to the lawmakers' accounts after deducting Rs50 for overacting.