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Reforming Agendas

K.V. Rajan

Edited by David Gellner ; Manfred Domroes
Social Science Press, New Delhi, 2003, pp. 383; pp. 312, Rs. 525.00 each


Is Nepal about to become South Asia’s first failed state? Many recent visitors to Nepal from the West, including senior World Bank officials, seem to think so. India, too is  concerned; if its publicly articulated assessments are less categorically pessimistic, it is for reasons not too difficult to understand.       While it is tempting to take the high ground and criticize Nepal for its apparent inability to extricate itself from the mess it has created or to bemoan its fate, it is useful to pause and reflect on how  things have come to this pass.  What combination of social, economic and political factors has contributed to the tragedy that is engulfing this one time Shangri-La? Could international aid, on which it was encouraged to become dependent to such an extraordinary degree, have been structured differently so that the tragedy could have been averted ? Before the tag of failed state is pinned on Nepal, shouldn’t there be talk of failed development, in which Nepal has at best been a junior partner with foreign donors over the past several decades?      Today,  world attention is riveted on the mountain kingdom  because of the continuing successes of the eight year old Maoist insurgency, the comprehensive collapse of governance, the unending confrontation between the various actual or prospective power centres— King and the political parties, between the palace and the Maoists, between the Maoists and multi-party democracy.       Any book on Nepal with the title Resistance and the State suggests  extreme topicality. But the underlying theme of Resistance seems  be a more philosophical one, namely that “States and Resistance go together”. The fact that the state is the centre of  power guarantees resistance from within the governing elite,  tension between those who govern and those who do not, noncooperation from individuals denied what they believe to be a fair share of the cake, and defiance from those who question the need for a state to dictate to them their rights and duties.      The complicating factor in Nepal has been the scale of  poverty and deprivation, the traditionally exclusive nature  of the power structure, and the insensitivity and inattention of successive  government systems (from the Ranas through the panchayat system,  democratic interregnum and back to King’s rule), to the need for sustained and structural socio-economic reforms.       The contributors to Resistance are acknowledged scholars—mainly social anthropologists from Europe, Krishna Hacchhethu being the lone Nepalese scholar ...

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