The formation of Nepal Engineering Infrastructure Development Society (NEIDS) in the year 2006 is historic as it has taken birth when Nepal is going through birth pang to get out of feudalist mode of production to national capitalist mode of production. At this point it is important to note that NEIDS played historical role in identifying appropriate strategic places for locating seven cantonments for keeping People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as according to Comprehensive Peace Accord between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoism) and Agreement on Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies. Not only that they prepared preliminary estimation of the cost of construction, rough design of the cantonment. What was remarkable is that the members of NEIDS not only showed that they are red but also expert. They gave formidable challenge to the technical bureocrats from government who thought members of NEIDS were incompetent.
This proud background of NEIDS sets it poised to make history in technical field fused with social responsibilities. Thus the task of NEIDS is to identify what the country really NEEDS in order to come out of absolute poverty and backwardness. At the outset it is important to observe that the cause of underdevelopment of this state is mainly internal rather than external. It is important to go to history to find out the trend of underdevelopment.
Nepal was a vibrant country till 1816 before the signing of Sugauli Treaty. Nepal was in fact exporting many articles, ranging from food stuffs to metals, artifacts, ammunition. However signing of Sugauli Treaty between the Government of Nepal and the then British Indian government reduced this vibrant country into semi-colonial state. This was followed by installation of consequent puppet Rana oligarchic dynastic rule with the backing of British India. They ruled Nepal for 104 years. This period not only saw strengthening of feudalism but also kept Nepal in darkness by keeping it totally isolated from the world. With liberation of India from the British rule Rana regime too fell under the pressure of people’s movement. However semi-feudal and semi-colonial condition continued to prevail but with Indian ruling class replacing British Indian ruling class. The brief two years civilian rule under direct supervision of the King too soon gave way to direct King’s rule in the form of one Party, the Panchayat system. This system lasted for 30 years. It was during this period that 5 year’s planning concept was introduced. Similarly emphasis was laid on development as a campaign to dissociate it from politics. But in absence of democratic exercises, multiparty political exercise, development became merely slogan mongering movement with no sense of ownership by the people. This lead to increase in alienation resulting in overthrow of Panchayat system. This was replaced by monarchical parliamentary system in 1990. Not satisfied with half baked liberation, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) launched 10 years of People’s War in the year 1996 to do away with monarchy. In the course of movement it destroyed feudal base in rural areas and started exercising local administration based on anti-feudal and anti-colonial principal.
Amidst war, in the year 2006, the takeover of power by the king Gyanendra lead to further alienation of political parties giving space for joint front between CPN (M) and seven party alliance leading to second people’s movement which prepared background for removing monarchy completely.
Now that Nepal has been declared Federal, Democratic, Republic State, it is time to prepare physical infrastructure to transform the society from archaic feudal society to vibrant 21st century society.
Talking on federalism, it is important to do away with Kathmandu-centric development orientation which is the outcome of unitary state based on one religion, one language, one race. Today’s federalism must reflect the aspirations of people who have been so far oppressed in the form of class, region, ethnicity, language. Since Dalits and women do not have their own specific geography their oppression should be addressed in autonomous regions by giving them special rights.
Today at this historical juncture engineers and technical workers have been given enormous task of preparing infrastructure so as to lay and distribute network of roads, settlements, resource allotments, basic amenities etc to match with the proposed form of federalism. It has to come up with scientific master plan of physical infrastructure which will not only satisfy the aspirations of people living in autonomous states but will also unify the whole country more strongly than the previous unitary state. This will make Nepal not only strong internally but also externally.
What is important at this point is that the constitution has declared basic health, education and right to employment as fundament right. This fundament right can only be made possible with planned concentrated settlements in rural areas. At this point it is important to relate democracy with engineering field. It is the engineers, and technical staffs who act as bridge between the politicians and the people, hence they must respect and practice democratic norms to engage people in developmental processes. It is important that the local people take the ownership of the project meant for their well beings and this can be only done by involving them as early as possible in the whole process of development. It is equally important engineers and technical staffs listen to the elected representatives so that people can be mobilized through their channels as well. At the same time it is important that elected political members seek expert’s advises, technical advises. It is equally important that the engineers and technical staffs be sensitive to class, gender, Dalit, region, ethnic issues as being democratic means being inclusive in the mindset too. Today it is not enough for engineers to become only technical engineers but social engineers as well.
The hallmark of democracy is also allowing competition based on ability to perform unlike in monarchy system which had monopolist decision making system thus killing the skills of competent technical staffs. Thus today in order to unleash new blood to the bureaucracy, facility for VRS should be given to senior bureaucrats with attractive packages so that young competent people with new vision can come on the basis of competition. And those valuable senior bureaucrats can be retained through contract system. This is especially vital to discourage brain drain of technical manpower. They need to be retained to build New Nepal which is so important at this historical juncture.
Also it is important to note that feudal mindset prevalent in most of the political parties and bureaucracy are still biased against science and technology developments. It is no wonder that in public sector bureaucrats, civilians with art background enjoy their monopoly at the cost of bureocrats and civilians with technical background. In places where technology prevails often it is seen that there too bureocrats, civilians with art background predominates. This needs to be corrected if New Nepal is to be made.
There is a belief that development should be kept away from politics. Development is after all not a natural process but an intentional process which should match with the objective demand derived out of objective condition. The objective demand is to do away with the remnant of feudalism, pre-capitalism as soon as possible so as to pave way for new mode of production where national capital should develop to prepare ground for social uplift of the masses. In Nepal’s case it is to do away with all land-ownership relationship which prevents industrial development. It is also doing away with barren land holdings, slavery, bonded labor system, unproductive use of landholding, making scientific land use, making amendments in land law for easy procurement of land for public use etc. It is important to transform backward agriculture based on sustainability into agriculture leading to agro-industry. This will prepare ground to produce surplus out of the agriculture resources. The surplus thus achieved can then be used to industrialize the country in other fields. At this juncture it is important to do concrete analysis of concrete situation whereby the limited resources Nepal has is concentrated where Nepal has competitive advantage over India and China who are booming economies in Asia. From this perspective agriculture, hydropower, tourism has been rightly placed as top priority in national development of Nepal.
NEIDS has lot of role to play at this juncture. It has at one end to play a constructive role of go-in between political leaders, political organizations and the people and at the same time it has also to fight against feudal mind set prevalent amongst political leaders and parties and the old bureocrats who are hostile to science and technology. More than any thing else it has to fight against its own fellow workers who are status quoits advocating old feudal Nepal in place of new federal democratic republic Nepal. NEIDS has to bring sharp polarization between those who advocate New Nepal and those who advocate Old Nepal. This can be done by actively participating in Nepal Engineering Association’s election, activities and various forums related to development. It is only through struggle unity and transformation that new engineers and technology staffs can make New Nepal a reality. NEIDS should actively seek intervention in planning commission, in different legislature committees, be in touch different parties. In short it should be part and parcel of New Nepal in making. NEIDS also must train its members; encourage them to join the field of politics so that real fusion of politics and technology takes place where it should take place. This is especially important at this historic juncture where the political achievements derived from 10 year’s of People’s War and 19 days People’s Movement has to be backed by economic revolution. The key to transformation of Nepal from feudal state to national capital state can only take place with economy backed by new mode of production based on high production and equal distribution.