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People in Search of a Future

June 23, 2008

A desire for freedom, security and opportunity is sending many of Nepal's young people out of the county in search of better lives in India, the United States and Europe.

"I feel secure. My son goes to school regularly and my husband has started to work," she said. "At least no one will come in the middle of the night and threaten us like in Nepal. At least our lives are not in danger here."

Hundreds of thousands of Nepalis have left their country to work in India, US and Europe in recent decades, serving in the army, the police and other public services, as well as in industry, construction, agriculture and the service sector. In earlier times they were driven to leave home by poverty and lack of opportunity. During the 10-year Maoist insurgency they were driven by violence and instability.

Increasingly, uneducated young people are leaving to perform manual labor in Southeast Asia and Arab countries. The better educated from the middle and upper classes head for the United States and Europe, or to India.

Those who remain behind long for a better future too, of course. Many of the young people who remain in Nepal are drawn into the "dream."

Yet now, people are turning their hopes for change. If these are to succeed, the authorities must improve the security situation, control rampant corruption, and deal with the demands of various ethnic groups who feel they have been marginalized. In the midst of this unstable situation, the Young are misusing their youthful energy to threaten and instill fear in people. These unhealthy habits need to change.

So do the practices of politicians who exploit the people for their own benefit and to maintain their own power. According to the famous American president, Abraham Lincoln, democracy is government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." But in Nepal the definition is just the opposite. Democracy is off the people, buy the people, and far from the people.

Before an election, politicians instruct their supporters to buy the people's votes to ensure their win. After becoming members of Parliament, they live off the people, but remain far away from them. They seem to think, "We have already bought the people. Now we must gather our spending money and prepare for the next election." In actual fact, many Nepali people misunderstand the real meaning of democracy owing to illiteracy, poverty, and unemployment.

Still, there is no other direction for the country to go. Professor Jitendra Khand of the political science department at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu has expressed cautious optimism about the nation's future. He thinks that Nepal's cultural tradition holds the essence of individual liberty that should be reflected in its political system.

"Nepal is the birthplace of democracy," he has said. "Nepal is the root of the idea of liberation of the soul -- multiparty democracy is the fruit." The future of democracy in Nepal is bright due to the success of peace talks between the Maoists and the seven parties, Khand said. On the other hand, he acknowledged that conflicts between political factions and ethnic groups may disturb the elections in November.

"The task of putting Nepal firmly on the road toward a democratic, united, stable, secure, peaceful and prosperous nation is the obligation of all," the professor said. "It would be difficult to implement this historical accord without full cooperation of all Nepalis and of friendly countries. Hence, the future of democracy is based on cooperation."

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