Nepali Times
Rebels without a cause

We tend to ignore alarmist forecasts because we think something will always come up to avert a future crisis.
Here in Nepal, we have a head-in-the sand attitude over the political gridlock because, as in the past two years, something always happens at the last moment to pull us back from the edge.

But statistics contained in the State of the World's Population Report 2008 released last week by UNFPA in Kathmandu should make politicians all sit up and take notice.

Nepal's current population of 28 million will reach 52 million by 2050. The population pyramid shows a growing 'youth bulge' with half the people below 30. Rising female literacy and improved child survival rates widening the demographic gap and keeping population growth rate at above two percent, with the fertility rate at a still high 3.24.

It is when you combine these statistics with projections for food production, economic growth and job-creation that it gets even more frightening. Nepal's food productivity is the lowest in South Asia and is falling due to deficient inputs, fragmentation of land holdings and out-migration of males.

The war set development back by decades, investors fled and haven't come back. There hasn't been any new employment generation, and an estimated two million young Nepalis are jobless. In the next ten years, 500,000 new people will be entering the job market every year. Not all will make it to the Gulf.

All this can only mean one thing: social unrest and political instability. It is hard to find a more convincing case for working together politically to chart out emergency measures for decentralised job creation, boosting food production and ensuring investment and economic growth.

Instead, we just hear more speeches and lip service. It's not that the political parties don't see the writing on the wall, but their response has been to control the youth by setting up militant groups like the YCL and YF to keep young cadres under control and use them to arm-twist opponents.

This has unleashed anarchy across the country. In the past three months there have been 30 armed clashes between the YCL and YF and other ethnic-based militancies. Factories, bus companies, hotels, schools, hospitals, cable car operators, casinos have all fallen victim. On Sunday night, arsonists attacked our sister publication, Himal Khabarpatrika, and disrupted the distribution of an issue that carried an expose of young militant groups.

These rebels are without a cause. Nepal's rulers need the political will to understand the demographic transition we are going through, and together plan to avert it and be prepared for its socio-political consequences.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)