Leaders, including from the ruling party, criticise government for trivialising national awardsAnalysts call for ensuring transparency to make such awards prestigious so that recipients can take pride in the honour.
On the occasion of Constitution Day, the government on Friday announced various awards for 634 individuals from different walks of life for “their significant contributions to the nation”.
But announcements quickly ran into controversy, with many saying most of the awardees were close to the ruling party and that such awards are nothing but a continuation of what used to happen during the Panchayat era when the kings awarded their sycophants.
“It’s not that all those who were awarded did not deserve the awards, but most of them did not,” said Yubaraj Chaulagain, a central committee member of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), who has been a vocal critic of what he calls “award culture”.
The government has also awarded a Singaporean physician who attended to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli during his treatment at the National University Hospital recently. Three Indian doctors are also among the award recipients.
Oli, who had his kidney transplanted in India 12 years ago, had been to Singapore last month, twice, after some health complications.
While there is a practice among governments across the world of choosing some foreign nationals for national awards, many said the doctors awarded this time were recognised solely because they were involved in Oli’s treatment.
Former Maoist leader Biswobhakta Dulal, who is also a left-aligned litterateur, said such awards are just a continuation of the system introduced by feudal lords who rewarded them “for their services”.
“Feudal rulers used to reward their obsequious subjects,” said Dulal. “It’s sad that the trend has continued even after the country became a federal republic.”
Rajendra Shrestha, co-chair of the Samajbadi Party Nepal, however, questioned the government for the selection of the day to announce the awards.
“It’s wrong to award people on the day when some sections of the society were expressing their dissatisfaction at the constitution,” said Shrestha.
On Friday, when the country marked the fourth anniversary of constitution promulgation, some communities—Madhesis, Tharus and Janajatis—protested, saying that the charter is still a flawed document and that it needs amendments.
“One question over the awards could be the selection criteria but the government should have refrained from announcing awards when some groups were observing Friday [September 20] as a black day,” said Shrestha.
Analysts say successive governments in Nepal have trivialised national awards.
People should wear such awards as a badge of honour but the way they are distributed in Nepal makes even the recipients cringe, they say.
“It has become a permanent problem. Different countries award their citizens but they make these awards valuable, something the recipients can take pride in,” said Jhalak Subedi, a political analyst. “Civil servants and security personnel must not be clubbed together with individuals. If members from the public sphere are chosen for awards for their extraordinary contribution, it should make them proud that the state has recognised them.”
According to Subedi, the number of people getting awards should be limited and their names declared citing the contributions they have made.
“There is a need to make such awards prestigious and transparent,” said Subedi.
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