Stalling the Pandemic of Corruption

08.07.2020 | Articles | Sujeev Shakya

Introduction

On June 6, 2020, a frustrated young Nepali started a Facebook page entitled ‘Enough Is Enough.’ His frustrations were with government apathy towards the COVID 19 pandemic and continuous political wrangling, nationalistic jingoism in the form of redrawing maps, and corruption in government finances. The group quickly swelled in numbers. After just ten days it counted more than two hundred thousand members, and spontaneous protests sprung over all across Nepal. In a June 22 press release, the group made the following statement:

“In response to the Government of Nepal’s lack of urgency, transparency, and accountability concerning Covid-19 management, a series of non-violent, citizen-led, non-partisan protests have been catalyzed across the country. In the last 10 days, independent protests have been organized in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Biratnagar, Dhangadi, Chitwan, Surkhet, Birgunj, Dhankuta, Bhaktapur, Butwal, Dang, Palpa, Hetauda, Lalitpur among other places. These protests have been self-organized, leader-less and spontaneous”.

Citizens have come out in the streets to protest government decisions in the past and they have been successful on pushing major changes. In October 2016, a rogue anti-corruption body chief who abused his power to make money and victimize those who did not agree with him was removed through street protests. Similarly, government officials have resigned facing corruption charges. Practically every police chief or army chief has become embroiled, knowingly or unknowingly, in dealings that have led to corruption allegations and investigations.

International organizations were quick to remind Nepal of how it squandered the USD $4 billion aid committed after the April 2015 earthquake. Meenakshi Ganguly of Human Rights Watch urged the government not to repeat this with Covid-19 aid:

“Nepal had been suffering from corruption and inefficiency, long before the coronavirus crisis hit the country. In the woke of the 2015 earthquake, donors had committed over USD 4 billion to the humanitarian response, but reports have claimed that corruption, marginalization of vulnerable communities and inefficiency left millions in desperate need and deprived of their basic rights. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, an opportunity of not overlooking the vulnerable group again is created. However, there are already allegations of corruption in the procurement of medical supplies to combat the pandemic coupled with reports of food prices being manipulated, farmers being deprived of their income and workers strand hundreds of kilometers from home.“[1]

[1] Ganguly, Meenakshi. “Don’t Let Nepal’s Covid-19 Relief be Squandered”, Human Rights Watch, 16 April 2020. Retrieved from- https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/04/16/dont-let-nepals-covid-19-relief-be-squandered