April 17, 2013 Sujeev Shakya

The Show Goes On

In an article published in this paper on March 17, I had discussed 10 suggestions for the project management team led by Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi that included requests for them to stay away from inaugurations and ceremonials. But during the last couple of weeks, we have seen newspapers and television channels flooded with pictures and footage of ministers lighting lamps, speaking at inaugurations and meeting different delegations.

While the country did away with the king five years ago, the feudal structures and the way we conduct ourselves have not changed. At the Lalitpur festival, when political figures arrived, we continued to felicitate them like they were members of the royal family. We continue to have political figures at religious functions in a so-called secular country, and the icing on the cake is the way we crowd the stage during functions. If you look at the stage set-up of a government-owned corporation or a private sector association celebrating their anniversaries or annual general meetings (AGM), the seat meant for the erstwhile king remains, only the people have changed.

Look at an AGM picture of a state-owned corporation or a business association 20 years ago and now, nothing has changed! I still cannot figure out why so many people have to sit on the dais and don those ugly badges. And calling out the names by each speaker takes up half the time of one’s speech. The greatest surprise is that development actors in Nepal who are supposed to introduce globally contemporary practices are the ones who continue to propagate these decade-old practices. Earlier, during NTV and state media only days, inviting ministers guaranteed TV crews and state media reporters. Now with many private media houses, you don’t need ministers to get your event covered!

Unfortunately, the young people are aping the old and not innovating. A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to a three-hour programme 24 hours before it was scheduled to begin. Now, either the assumption is that most business professionals in Nepal have nothing to do and are just twiddling their thumbs and waiting for an invitation to fall on their lap, or the organizers thought that they were holding such a great programme that people will jump to attend. People need to ape innovation brought in by organizations like Nepalaya which has taken professionalism in event management to a different level, or Entrepreneurs for Nepal (E4N) that has efficiently conducted more than 50 Last Thursday’s with diverse entrepreneurs in a format that is refreshing. It is about starting the programme on time, knowing what the audience wants and delivering the best given the limited resources.

One of the other things that continues to baffle me is why on earth do people have to put up so many congratulatory messages. This is a practice that supposedly began by sending greetings messages to the king and queen and letting the whole world know how loyal you were. The practice continued for all democratic leaders during the constitutional monarchy as well as the republic. When unheard of people put up advertisements felicitating political leaders, the message used to be that “I know this guy”, well, I can get work done. Now, why do we have to do that to the Election Project Management team?

In business circles, I am told that people get congratulatory messages printed when they become directors of banks and other institutions so that they are letting the world know that these are the folks to contact if you want a contract with the institutions. This is nothing different from how political actors behave! This entire behavior stems from the “sycophancy” traits of a feudal society very well institutionalized as “chakari” and propagated during the autocratic Rana regime.

Feudal structures and behavior are omnipresent. Political parties that propagate democracy do not practice it within their own political parties. The way party chiefs behave at times, we wonder if we should rename the group “Shree Char”. In businesses, non-executive chairmen of institutions practically poke their nose into everything, wondering what is the use of the chief executive officer. In a majority of NGOs, people know that it is closer to a social venture where you have managed to pull in kith, kin and acquaintances to endorse all your decisions. In development organizations, the boss rules, and there are new kings in the development business who can get bids cancelled or awarded based on how much “chakari” you can do or share the booty.

While we have many people commenting on the larger issues of politics, society and development, as a student coaching and exploring human behavior, I am continuously questioning the fundamentals. We don’t need a CA election or a new constitution to just start programmes on time and not to have ceremonial functions that waste people’s time. The time is to introspect and see where the smaller changes that we can bring about are. When we do small things right, big things will surely happen.

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