(written for Vishwa Sandesh, the leading Nepali language newspaper in NYC)
I have an impressive track record as a Nepali in New York. I was the only full timer among the 200,000 Nepalis across America to have worked full time for the democracy movement back in 2005-06. It was not journalism, it was political work. It was digital activism. Then I did full time work for the Madhesi Movement a year later. Again, I was the only full timer among the 1,000 or so Madhesis that might be spread across America. That number is so discouraging. It is worse than the Madhesi representation in the Nepal Army, in the Nepali bureaucracy at large. A 1,000 to 200,000 ratio is not healthy. Madhesis are 40% of Nepal, but there is not proportionate representation in the diaspora any more than there is in the Nepali state apparatus. I have little patience with Madhesis with the Panche mindset, even for Madhesis with the Congress mindset. There is too much internalized prejudice going on.
Federalism has not happened yet. State restructuring has not happened yet. The agenda is very much alive. Although I personally feel like I have moved past all that to shift my focus to matters economic. What would be the lifestyle of someone who feels Nepal now needs to focus on economic development like a laser beam for the next 30 years?
Social justice for the DaMaJaMa - Dalit, Madhesi, Janajati, Mahila - is important in its own right, but it is also important because Nepal can not realize its full economic potential unless there is full blown social justice.
If the last election was a mandate for geographic federalism, I stand for Ek Madhesh Do Pradesh. Nawalparasi and west, Surkhet included, because Bhitri Madhesi is still Madhesh, could be a state called Western Terai. Chitwan and east, Udaypur included, could be Eastern Terai. Of course Jhapa and Morang will have to be part of it. You can’t take Surkhet, Chitwan, and Udaypur out of the Terai. Taking Morang, Jhapa, Kailali, Kanchanpur out of the Terai is outlandishly out of question.
Two states in the Terai, and four in the hills would work for me.
The more challenging part of state restructuring is where you eliminate several national ministries, where you downsize the Nepal Army to maybe 10,000 soldiers so as to open up funds for more teachers and health care workers, where you downsize ministries, because a federal setup should end up with at least one third fewer bureaucrats at all levels combined than what we have today. Federalism is supposed to be more efficient than the unitary state.
NRNs argue for dual citizenship the wrong way. They make it sound like they are these deprived people who need to be given their due rights. The truth is NRNs are the cream of the crop even when they go to some place like Qatar to do menial work; you have to at least be enterprising to be able to do that. The case for dual citizenship is that you put that arrangement in place so as to maximize the inflow of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) into Nepal. I took up Ram Sharan Mahat on this topic the last time he was in the city, and he did not seem to see the connection, and the dude is Finance Minister. Dual citizenship for NRNs truly is the magic bullet that would transform the Nepali economy. In this age of globalization all of the two million Nepalis spread across the world have to be thought of as ambassadors, and not just the less than 100 officially appointed ones.
And that brings me to the cream of the crop among the Nepalis in NYC. I have approached most of them for angel investing into this or that idea. You angel invest so an idea gets fruition enough that it is able to tap into the capital markets in this money capital of the world. But it is like the cream of the crop lack imagination. They don’t seem to connect the dots any more than Ram Sharan Mahat.
There is economic growth, and then there is economic revolution. Growth is around 5% whereas revolution is when you can make the Nepali economy grow at double digit rates year in year out for 30 years. That requires radical thinking, like angel investing.
A high school classmate/housemate of mine in Munich, Germany, across the pond, a biotech guy, recently wired 5,000 dollars to me to invest in my tech startup’s first round, and I am going to help him raise money for his biotech startup’s second round. What goes around comes around.
I highly recommend angel investing.