Everybody loves a good hartal
The season of shutdowns is upon us again, and it fills us with nostalgia for the good old days in the Roaring Nineties when Nepal used to grind to a halt at least 10 days a month.
Sometimes, bund days would clash, and we had to have a makeup day sitting home to do nothing. This unique form of protest started in Bangladesh and was perfected in Nepal, but we had let it lapse as our commitment to democracy wavered, and we took our freedoms for granted.
Thank goodness, the Nepal Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist-Polpotist-Maduroist-Kim Il-Sungist) – not to be confused with the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist-Stalinist-Titoist-Trotskyite-Dengist-Xi-ist, Hun Senist, Kim Jong-ilist) – has decided to revive this glorious tradition and keep the spirit of democracy alive and kicking.
The success of a hurtall hinges on people voluntarily keeping off the streets, exercising their freedom to do what the goondas want. The enforcers of our democracy must therefore gently persuade people not to drive on the streets by setting fire to a couple of taxis and leaving pressure cookers at strategic intersections early in the morning.
In the past, bicycles, rickshaws and planes have been allowed to merrily ply when all other forms of transport were grounded. We are glad to see that the concerned revolutionaries have now brought two- and three-wheelers, as well as twin-engine turboprops, under the ambit of a bund.
There are cynics who argue that shutdowns hurt the economy to the tune of Rs2.5 billion a day. Workaholics complain about not being able to get to office. They should learn to see the bright side. In fact, the NCP (MLSPMK) are the only communists with a commitment to cleaning up Kathmandu’s air pollution, and have allowed Nepal to reduce its carbon footprint by adhering to the emission reduction timetable in the Paris Rulebook agreed to in Krakow.
The result can already be seen in the measurements at the air pollution monitoring stations: a national shutdown brings air quality in Kathmandu to the ‘Good Enough To Breathe Without Dying’ level. And while most countries are hemming-and-hawing about meeting their Paris targets, with four shutdowns in the past three months, Nepal is well on its way to reducing its greenhouse gas emission to 1990 levels.
But we must not be complacent, we must enforce shutdowns every day to make Nepal carbon negative by bringing the country to a grinding halt. If nothing moves, we will not have to import any more petroleum either, and this will also solve our growing balance of trade deficit and bring the national economy back on track.
Let us turn petrol pumps into dairy outlets, spark plugs into cigarette lighters, motorcycles into hair dryers, micro buses into microwaves, and build a Communist Gun-tantra.