The world is your oysterThe authorities' shambolic management of affairs cannot put people's lives on hold.
One should consider oneself fortunate if one hasn't had the experience of dealing with government officials who treat their fellow citizens with condescension. But the blessed few are a rare breed of people, possibly with the right connections, who hover around in elevated social circles where life is free from the tangles of the daily grind. They are the ones who never have to step into sordid government offices to suffer any such indignation. For the multitudes, it is a daily dose of hardship, even if it is for something as critical yet straightforward as getting a licence or a passport.
After years of cancellation of tenders and a scandal that cost the minister of communication his job, Nepal is finally in a position to issue e-passports. The current machine-readable passports will soon be replaced with biometric passports. For the scores of people applying for the new version of the passport, its relevance will not be measured per the security features contained within it, but the hassle-free speed of access to the document. Many have been left scarred by the experience of having to wait for hours on end exposed to the elements; and now with Covid-19, the situation has become more precarious.
If you have ever travelled internationally using an ordinary Nepali passport, you would be familiar with the barrage of questions you may have had to face at various immigration and security checkpoints worldwide. That is when we realise our standing amongst the nations of the world. As per reports published in The Henley Passport Index, Nepal ranks a lowly 110th in global rankings, alongside Palestine and lower than North Korea, and has access to a mere 37 countries. And yet, the authorities have the gall to declare that with the issuance of new e-passports, Nepal's global rankings will definitely see an improvement.
A cheap, meaningless remark does nothing to alleviate the hardships faced by the multitudes of brethren that have to face indignation, first at home when applying for the passport, and secondly when entering a third country, often seen with a scrutinising lens. Conforming to international standards is a step in the right direction; but the added security features, design and changes to the colour of the passport will not allow citizens to avail of seamless, hassle-free travel. If only the authorities worked more on improving the country's economic situation, we would undoubtedly be in a position to command more leverage.
It is assuring to read that with the introduction of e-passports, incidences of theft and misuse will see a reduction. But now, the authorities will have to ensure that people have untroubled access to essential documents that are often life-changing. There seems to be a lax attitude when it comes to the distribution of such documents. The authorities' shambolic management of affairs cannot put people's lives and expectations on hold. It is time they got off their high horse and concentrated their efforts on fulfilling the essential needs of the people.