Nepali Times Asian Paints
From The Nepali Press
Corruption at the core

I received an unusual number of calls from early in the morning on 22 October, inquiring about the suspension of four police personnel in Chitwan. The suspended personnel were not the sons of politicians, administrators or millionaires. I don't think they had amassed a fortune by penalising public vehicles plying on the highway, to be deposited in foreign banks. And I don't believe punishing those who extract money from public vehicles will curb the prevailing corruption.

The reality is high officials in Nepal amass a huge amount through their juniors, like these suspended personnel deployed in the field. This is how they ensure a regular income for themselves while appearing clean before the law. The juniors readily accept the deal as it is an opportunity for them to earn extra money under the protection of their seniors. This is how corruption expands and establishes itself as a culture. Corruption in the workplace will prevail as long as junior officials submit themselves to their seniors and agree to be their pawns.

I have sympathy for those suspended personnel. But there is no place for sympathy or consideration in running an administration. It should be guided by law and justice, in the absence of which we face lawlessness.
I am one of the few secretaries who use public transporation to travel outside the valley, in this case to my ancestral home in Gulmi. The government bus fare between Kathmandu and Gulmi is fixed at Rs 750. But people were charged Rs 1,150 for the route. Since all tickets to Gulmi were sold out in Dasain, six families hired a microbus.

When I saw police personnel collecting money from public vehicles at different places on the highway, I called the police chief and chief district officer of Chitwan district to inform them about the incident. Having overheard my phone conversation, our microbus driver requested me not to take the issue any further. He feared that police would harass him later on the same route.

After I called the police chief, an SP of Chitwan district called me to inform me that the traffic police had given our vehicle a receipt for the fee collected. I told him I needed no explanation of the incident, as I had witnessed what had happened myself. He asked for our vehicle number and kept calling to ask us where we were. It became apparent later that he would produce receipts from the receipt book he had with him to cover up the money we paid at different places.

On entering Gulmi in Ridhi Bajar, our vehicle was levied Rs 100 as vehicle tax. When I told the collector that was the rate for buses, he looked at me angrily, banged on our vehicle and left without a word while police stood by as mere spectators. We felt insecure and left quietly. There were many other such incidents along the route of arbitrary fees being collected with or without receipts.

I have a government Toyota car . I can drive. But I often take a public bus to go back to my village. I am shocked by police behaviour in Chitwan district, and am concerned about just how the general public can respond to police misdemeanours when even someone who has access to the police chief is helpless before corrupt officials.
I hope the incident and subsequent suspensions will encourage honest police personnel across the force.

The author is Secretary at the Prime Minister's Office.

Corruption, Inc.
Blame game
The cow herder
Deplorable airport
Traffic in a jam
Khukuris to ploughshares
Employment in employment

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)