This week marks the second death anniversary of Girija Prasad Koirala. Leaders from across the political spectrum, including his erstwhile arch enemies the Maoists, agree that they could do with his anchoring role in today's fluid politics.
Love him or hate him, and there were many who did so in equal measure, GPK left a vacuum that has been hard to fill. Frustrated and disappointed about their inability to strike a compromise, today's leaders really mean it when they rue Koirala's absence.
We are coming up to another constitutional deadline and despite some progress on the peace process, things are pretty much stagnant again. All the main parties say they are not willing to give in on the 'national interest' and have stuck to their guns. At least GP would have had a cunning plan, but there isn't a single statesmanlike figure among the major parties who commands the authority to make others listen. Even with Dahal, who comes closest, there is mistrust and manipulation.
The protracted political stalemate is taking its toll on ordinary people. On Sunday, Ramita Chaudhary from Bara district strangled her two children and then committed suicide. Ramita and her husband, both daily wage earners, were struggling to feed their children while paying off their accumulating debt. Ramita has freed her husband Mukti, whose name ironically also means freedom, from at least one debt.
There isn't a day that goes by without mothers throwing babies off bridges and jumping off themselves, wives hanging themselves, young men selling off their kidneys, or patients jumping off hospital roofs because they can't afford dialysis treatment. These are not law and order problems, these are acts of violence that are tearing apart our social fabric which in turn are direct consequences of political deadlock that has affected governance, development, service delivery, economic growth and job creation.
An Asian Development Bank report released this week says rising inflation in South Asia has pushed over 35 million people below the poverty line. The region is now tailing in the human development index alongside sub-Saharan Africa. The lack of jobs and inflation in food price are making it increasingly difficult for many to provide for their families.
So everyday 1,000 Nepalis fly out of Kathmandu airport for jobs in the Gulf and Malaysia.Thousands more cross the border to India on foot, as they have done for generations. Some manage to send back a portion of their savings, others either make it back in wheelchairs, in body bags or in coma. In the past three years, nearly 1,400 Nepali migrant workers have lost their lives in the Gulf and Malaysia alone, and the figure would be higher if India is included.
It has become commonplace now to demean politicians and be cynical about democracy. But only the agency of politics can ensure structural changes needed to reduce inequality, institutionalise aspirations of the marginalised and harness our full human resource potential.
But when politics takes centre stage for too long, the state loses its human face. Political headlines grab our attention every day with ever more gloomy news, and the national debate focuses disproportionately on power struggles, drowning out stories of unfolding personal tragedies. Hopes about a better tomorrow does not satisfy today's hunger.
If the state has 20 million to fund an extravagant and meaningless 'peace expedition' to Mt Everest, it can certainly begin investing that money in a social safety net and planning to put into place a national health insurance scheme.
Nepal may meet its MDG targets by 2015, but more than half the citizens will still lack quality health care and affordable quality education. Thousands of children will continue to be denied opportunities for better lives.
If a family distressed by debt is unable to reach out to the state for help, the state has an obligation to find a way to reach out to them. We don't need to wait for a new constitution to do this.