By Sarbendra Khanal

Corruption is the biggest crime of all as it results in creating more criminals in the society leading to an intertwined nexus. It creates a strong unparalleled syndicate and this leads to further corruption. Struggle for power is a global phenomenon irrespective of the political system in place. These challenges are a plague to the working class, making them lose faith on the system over time. The nexus of criminality runs deep, gradually descending to common individuals.

Numerous cases of corruption and deep-rooted criminal networking were dealt under my tenure serving in law enforcement.

The tripod of the criminal nexus has its foundations on every level reaching out to varied sectors, including the government, policymakers, and middlemen (brokers), which forms a larger syndicate actively controlling all spheres of social life. Throughout Nepal’s various political transitions beginning from the monarchs and Rana regime to the Republican set-up, power-hogging and maintaining the status quo has been the general tendency in Nepal among the people in power.

Our fundamental question is: with so many transitions in place and sweeping changes brought by federalism, who are the actual beneficiaries? Are taxes paid by the general masses being utilized, and are we setting policies that benefit the common citizens?

The answer being: there is a surge in disappointment among the general masses and especially the youth of the nation who require gainful employment. The challenges posed by COVID-19 have not been dealt as per people’s expectations.

A large number of civil servants have been charged and action has been initiated against many by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) the only institution under the government to check on corruption. This system has not been able to control corruption in private sector or end the syndicate who are clutching on to power.

The tendency to control power structures and share the spoils among authorities has denied equal opportunity to the common folks. It has laid a system where individuals have to knock on the doors of political leaders to gain justice. Nepal’s foremost anthropologist Dor Bahadur Bista in his book “Fatalism and Development” has termed this as the “Chakari System”, which is prevalent to this day.

Throughout history, Nepal has always been dependent on its youth — be them serving as mercenaries or, in recent times, several decades of moving abroad for foreign employment. This is a direct result of the state’s negligence towards its population due to the criminal nexus in place.

Though policies favorable to the youth have been put in place under the KP Sharma Oli-led government, these policies need to be implemented with honesty. Resources should be made available in equity for people facing dire poverty as the national economy will further deteriorate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are at a critical juncture where urgent intervention for self-reliance and to create an environment for gainful employment of our youth is needed. This can only be possible with equal distribution of opportunities among all and sundry, irrespective of their proximity to the power structures.

Democracy as well as the federal structure are meant so that people can participate in and reap the benefits from a pro-people governance structure. However, the intention as of now has been maintaining the status quo where only certain groups have access to power, leading to widespread corruption. Partisan middle-men have always wielded substantial power with access to resources provided by the state.

Containing corruption is an individual responsibility. While serving in law enforcement, I did manage to go after various criminal syndicates that were involved in trans-border smuggling, money laundering, faking educational qualifications, transport fraud, and human-trafficking which are still tremendous challenges for Nepal. Many cases regarding irregularities in fuel supply were brought to justice.

These cases were rampant and went unabated for decades, but have now come into a systematic control. Stringent measures of monitoring and an action mechanism in continuity to avoid these malpractices should be made more effective.

The restoration of democracy that paved way for power-sharing has not been able to cater to the larger cause. Corruption has paralyzed the functioning of various social service sectors critical for the survival of the larger population.

Various other sectors have imbibed corruption, and when the system is corrupt the state becomes weak leading to the strengthening of criminal factions in every sphere of government and social life. Revenue generated through corrupt means never reaches our national coffers. The entire system then becomes counterproductive toward internal security.

The decade-long civil war rendered Nepal fragile, and criminal nexus along with illegal finance has managed to penetrate deeper into the political system. This in turn has corrupted our political leaders and the entire state apparatus. Several decades of systematic corruption without aggressive implementation of check and balance of power and control has crippled the system.

Public disappointment towards the state’s inept response to curb COVID-19 is relevant. We saw it spill out in the streets on several occasions. The state should seriously work on curbing criminality and corruption, dismantling the syndicate system, and tackling the possession of small firearms.

Under my tenure, a law was enacted where illegal possession of small arms led to an immediate jail sentence. There were over several dozen cases during the first Constituent Assembly election in the capital city. Several criminal cases have shocked the society in the past decade. The murder of Justice Rana Bahadur Bom, the killing of Mahmud Alam by Ram Chandra Pyasi, along with the brick kiln murders by Mohammed Aftab Alam have exposed a gaping hole in our security apparatus.

Combating the perils of corruption and criminality is essential for the future growth of Nepal. Revenue generation should be made accountable and the government along with the bureaucracy should make an effort to genuinely understand and address the problems of the general masses.

With the pandemic still in place, the future holds further challenges. There are reports of people skipping meals due to their dependence on dwindling remittance, which has taken a massive hit due to the lockdown.

Curbing corruption is the first and only means that will lead to fewer criminal activities. Our youth are under enormous pressure due to the lack of opportunities. We are creating a system that benefits phony manpower agencies that pry on innocent migrant workers. The pandemic has further increased unemployment and with global travel restrictions still in place, the government will have to double its efforts to ensure livelihood generating opportunities at home.

We certainly cannot foresee the complete end of organized corruption. We have to show personal restraint and resilience individually to tackle and combat it. It will take a concentrated effort from the members of the civil society along with their participation with their community law enforcement. Tackling the syndicate is an essential factor in Nepal’s case. These syndicates still exist in all spheres including education, hospitality, health, and human resource recruitment.

The state machinery has to work to accommodate and prioritize essential services for the common masses. With time, the population will see massive changes. Adequate stringent measures must be taken to ensure that we meet the demands that will arise in the due course of time.

Khanal is a former Inspector General of Nepal Police. He was appointed as the Chief of Nepal Police on 10 April, 2018 by the Government of Nepal.