BY D. M. THAPA
Nepal is a tough country for the differently challenged persons. There are hardly any facilities for them. Not in the roads, not at homes or even at many other public places. The only facility they have is in hospitals, where they can be carried on a stretcher or on a wheel chair, where facilities have been made for them to move with more ease. Not that our doctors or nurses are sympathetic to them, in fact it is almost the opposite, where they have to face humiliations and extreme curtness, whether from the nurses or also small time attendants who look after them.
One stand-up comedian had said that life in foreign countries is “tough”, but for the differently able persons, life in Nepal is also tough. Even families mostly ignore them and treat them badly. Yes, of course we have many INGOs and NGOs who work for the welfare of the weaker sections of the society. But most of their work is either focused on a small community, or they just make grand reports of such people, who must be really suffering because of some handicaps they may have.
The government has a separate ministry to look after such people with little help and also the elderly who really require support, but most the ministry or the government is doing is for pure publicity and giving reports to donor agencies and governments to ask for more aid.
This is simply not enough. A real statistics should be made about the physically challenged people, the minorities and specially the elderly citizens. But the political parties in power now, think picking up a few women, some marginalized individuals and some persons from remote areas for some posts is enough. The ironic factor is that all these people who come into the sights of the government or the political parties are pure cadres of one party or the other, they know how to talk, but they actually don’t represent the total community. Forget about the remote areas and the hill areas, even in the Madhes region, only elitists and those close to political leaders have come to power. This will not improve the lot of those people who have suffered during different regimes, specially now, when parties promised of big things for such people but actually did nothing.
There are reports of how some individuals have been outcast from the community and also abused just because of what caste they belong to, but the government, the rights activists and our elitist civil society leaders have remained either quiet or as mere witness to such horrible dishonor of human rights. They focus on issues which are only political or are the issues forced down their throats by the donors who pay them handsome salaries.
Now to come to the problems of the elderly people, apart from the government promising them of a “handsome” three thousand rupees per month, actually, no one has made any special study about their conditions.
The government has made many promises to them, like getting special privileges while wanting government service, not having to stay in line and getting quick attention in any government institutions. But this is far from the truth. To be considered an “elderly” one has to reach seventy years. But there are many people older than them and many younger, they may require special treatment from the government, but no one seems to care about such issues.
Mostly affected are those who have become sick and who are suffering from different diseases, but the government authorities turn a blind eye to such people, only relying on the small prints of what is written in the regulations. These same people could be sick and old some day, but they never think about such a time which may come their way. That is why Nepal is in such a deplorable condition, because we have no politicians, bureaucrats, security officials or others, who think only of the present, how to earn more money and do nothing for those who really need help.
The main reason why I am writing this article is because a friend told me how a bank insisted his mother should be present at the bank before she could get her pension. She is ninety five years old and can hardly move from her bed. That also she is the wife of a highly respected government official and all her sons are doing well in their own respect without any stigma of corruption or irregular activities.
But the bank insists she come over to guarantee that she receives the pension. This is a time when one can talk to any person in any part of the world with ease, the bank could have easily done this and asked her about whether she receives her pension or not. If they are really in doubt, one person from the bank could come over and check the reality. But no, even while the government is saying Singha Durbar, the government secretariat, is going to be present at every villages and homes in the country, the situation is so bad in Kathmandu itself it is astonishing. One can imagine the plight of others who have to walk a far distance just to get any government service. Why doesn’t the government think of such hardships of the people? After all, the pensioners have made a huge contribution to the country and they deserve to be treated well, whether in the banks or elsewhere.
What about the banks? They regularly boast of how customer friendly they are and they even advertise of how loans can be gotten easily from them, but why this distinct negative attitude towards the elderly? It is their responsibility to be at least nice to such people and not only flout the regulations in their faces. Yes, there could be some case of fraud, but now technology has helped make the world much, much smaller, so why can’t they go out of their way to provide quick and efficient services to the elders? I can firmly say that the attitude of the bureaucrats is wrong, whether in the banks or in the government.
The big ambitions and plans of the government are all fine, but if they don’t think of those who have been physically challenged, specially the elderly, then other achievements will mean nothing.