Three weeks ago, I had my first visit to Syangja. I was invited by my phupaaju to witness the interaction program between Butwal Power Company(BPC) and the locals regarding the BPC’s decision to hike the price of electricity consumed by the locals. My fupaaju was the representative of the commission that had its final say regarding fixing the electricity consumption rate. As an audience, I was anxiously hearing what the locals and the company had to say.
|Discussing the upgradation status of Aandikhola HPP at the
The BPC reported some figures related to its profit/loss as compared to the previous fiscal years. It cited the upgradation cost of Aandikhola Hydropower Project(HPP) as the major reason to hike the rates. As for the locals, they prioritized the venue for the program as completely irrelevant over the sudden hike in the electricity rates. They were furious that the commission failed to include most of the locals that were going to be directly affected by finalizing venue that was 2-3 hours away from them.
Most of the fifty locals who attended had the same single reason to argue with the commission. And, I was in their favor too. After all, shouldn’t an issue be discussed in the affected area instead of conducting in an area that only pahunchwaala can attend with notable amenities?
It makes more sense. An issue has to be discussed with directly affected folks rather than the invited representatives who just condemn everything they hear. It should not discriminate between those who can talk without fear and those who wished they could but don’t as they fear someone will come to hunt them for insulting their pride in a large hall.
Clearly, I was not giving any attention to where the discussion was leading. After all, it was the wrong venue to hear things out. Maybe it was about enjoying the cool air inside a hall than getting tanned by the afternoon heat. Maybe it was all planned by the commission and the company to limit the complaints they had to face. Maybe it was about the pahunchwaala trying to make a point regarding how they ‘are’ the perfect representatives of the locals or why they should be catching the eyes of the top politicians as it might prove they are a reputed ‘Don’ in the area. Or maybe these are just my amateur assumptions. Maybe or maybe not!
There is still something to think about when you analyze from the commission’s or the company’s perspective. Surely, they realized that giving a damn to what the locals had to say would invite stones being thrown at them. Or taking a decision without the consent of the locals would create animosity between the locals and the company. Hence, security was the key point in deciding the venue. Both the commission and the company accepted to be condemned throughout the program than fixing the venue to where their lives would be staked.
Amidst all these, I began to make a bigger picture of the incidents unfolding in my eyes and the correlation it had with the government’s plans. There, permissions have to be taken with the ministers before hearing what the locals demand while construction of infrastructures begin to take real shape. Decisions are finalized regarding building an international airport before hearing out any other splendid additions or before addressing the roles that locals could play in it. Students are forced to move to another school which is five hours’ walk away from their previous school just because the government thinks it’s better to merge schools for quality education. The metropolitan office decides to ban footpath business without holding talks with the businessmen. Enthusiasts get thrilled to organize events in rural areas but forget to reach a mutual consensus with them.
|The electricity station of Aandikhola HPP, Galyang, Syangja
It seems that we take less care to understand where the real problem lies. We forget that it would be easier to address the issues faced by the Karnalis in their own territory and not by listening to what non-Karnalis sympathize about. We have to ‘feel/endure’ the challenge to devise some concrete steps in solving the matter. That is why an issue should be conducted in the area where it has victims not five-starred facilities. It’s just the genuine action before addressing an issue..