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Woman seat reservations in public transport: Did we fail to understand?

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Photo by Manki Kim on Unsplash

Few weeks ago, as most of the population of Kathmandu does, I also was travelling using a public vehicle. My destination being Kalanki, I got on the bus on Balkot-Kalanki route. As I struggled my way into the bus, I saw an unusual reservation provided on the bus. The bus has provision for “mother-of-an-infant” seat reservation for two. According to the law, public transport should have at least two seat reservations for women, one for elderly, and four seats for differently-abled. I looked around in surprise as the “mother-of-an-infant” reservation was a very new concept to me. I managed my way deep into the crowded bus alley and was still trying to make something out of that reservation. As usual, the bus was brim packed and few young ladies were having a hard time standing.

A survey conducted in 2013 by the World Bank group with Australian aid pointed out that 33% of woman felt personal insecurities in public transport. The survey also noted 26% of the entire survey of women aged 19-35 years had had direct experience of inappropriate touching on public transport in the year 2012. The number itself is disappointing but the condition has not improved. The condition has worsened since the survey has been conducted. Those aren’t the only concern to women on public vehicle. Biologically, most women are fragile and more susceptible to fatigue and fainting. Also, statistically, more female are found to be suffering from arthritis. Also, all women need to experience menstruation once a month and that also comes with different short-term problems. Not forgetting, pregnancy also puts woman in a position where she can’t manage to stand in such crowded vehicles.

Considering all these factors as an inevitable problem, mostly exclusive to women, female seat reservation seemed to be justified. But is that all that concerns to a society? If woman seat reservation was really effective solving the problem, why did the “Kalanki-Balkot” route felt the necessity to explicitly define seat for “mother-of-an-infant”? That should have come under the woman seat reservation and should have managed the problem. Did we fail to understand the reservation?

The need for female seat reservation in public vehicle clearly shows the problem is not just about how difficult public transportation is but how undisciplined and immoral our society is. Female seat was allocated for women in need. But somehow those who need it are still struggling as they cannot voice their need and we don’t have the morality to acknowledge something that directly won’t affect us. Not only that, but the seat reservation has brought about general air of mistrust between the genders. As long as there is provision for female seat reservation on a fully packed bus, no “male” on the bus feel obliged to give up their seat for a female in actually need.

The segregation of seat was supposed to be like, female seat reserved and rest of the seats are general where any gender will have equal rights. But the misunderstood reservation has made it so that as long as the female seat is empty, any woman to climb the bus should occupy only that seat just so another  seat remains empty for a “male”. That wasn’t the original purpose of the seat, I reckon. I have barely seen a person having a second thought before taking up the elderly reserved, or differently-abled reserved. The reservation meant the same to all categories but the fact that female reservation is taken as an act of gender inclusion more than the solution to the problem of woman difficulties in travel goes out and shows the ignorance prevailing in the society.

When a person gets on a bus and sees two females seating on the woman reserved seat, we assume that our responsibility towards any other female to climb the bus has ended. If a public vehicle has just two seats where woman can have comfortable journey without the fear of being harassed and misbehaved, we failed as a society. The reservation is provided to give woman in need an easier travel but the real solution for all woman would be; a society where all the people in the vehicle recognize the need of another and is willing to help irrespective of their gender.

Next time when you see a woman with an infant standing in the bus, don’t wait for the girl in woman seat to stand. Have an experience to share with us? Tell us in the comment.

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Opinion

Youth migration: Shrinking or swelling local development?

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Image: Unsplash (Only for decorative purpose)

The ministry of youth and sports in its report data released on the occasion of
International Youth Day on August 13, 2017, revealed that 1,600 Nepali youth leave the
country for foreign employment each day and this number is nowhere close to slowing
down.

Hundred years down the line, imagine the youths migrate out of their villages or small towns. They do not lead the simple “gaule jiwan” as we call it. They have stable incomes and they live with their families in a town or at least nearby a market.

Can you picture a prosperous life for them? Sure, it can be said that they live a prosperous life with stable incomes and access to the market and facilities. But let us take a moment to think about the village they were originally from. 

From my recent experience of volunteering with Raleigh Nepal, it has been alarmingly established in my mind that migration practice in Nepal is detrimental to the future of the country. I stayed in a semi-rural community of Dal Bhanjyang, Gorkha. The village was sparsely populated, mostly comprising elderly, women, and children. Most of the young people of the village, particularly men, were out of the village in bigger cities or foreign countries for employment.

A gap in the active working-age population was evident due to the rampant migration. This gap created by the lack of active working people has affected the agricultural yield of the farm-based community. Many farmers leave their cultivable land barren because they do not have enough helping hands to farm.

I would like to give you an example of my host family in the village. Khadi Maya Thapa lived with her daughter Sarita and mother in law Pampha Devi Thapa in the village. She has a son who lived in Gorkha city for education while her husband works and lives in the Middle East.

They have plenty of land in the village but they do not have enough helping hands to help in agriculture. They look after a few livestock and practice subsistence farming only in a small section of the land they have, leaving the rest of the land barren.

Another important aspect to be considered is not just the current lack of young people in the village, but the future demography of the village. There is already a huge number of youths who have migrated to a place where they have a more comfortable life. Plus there are more young people who are planning to migrate in the future. So, this rampant migration will ultimately displace families to a more comfortable location. 

Therefore, in the span of a few decades when the now old generation will pass away, the current middle-age population will be senior citizens, and the current new generation will be migrating and moving, these villages will be empty. The now middle-aged population is already working hard in the country and abroad to invest in their children. Either to send them to foreign employment or for their education. Which further perpetuates the migration of the newer generations into the cities away from villages.

Let us look at another example from the village, Narayan Thapa was a local of Dal Bhanjyang who came back from Qatar for a few months break. He looks forward to going back to Qatar because he believes he would be able to earn a good living for his wife and his children in the future. When I asked him if he wants to settle somewhere or live in Dal Bhanjyang all his life, he replied that he is working hard in a foreign land so that his children, wife, and himself can enjoy a comfortable life in a city or at least a small town.

From villages to towns, from towns to cities, and from cities to a foreign city. There is always a better place one can strive for. But at what cost are we striving for a comfortable life is the question. The bottom line could also come to causing a major shortage of agro-based families and causing problems of food security as well. 

Moreover, we need to understand that these communities without the presence of an active young population can cause a gap in the smooth function of a society. Because it is the youths who are the torchbearers of the future and the ones who bring innovations and new ideas to communities. Nowadays, the villages in our country are facing a big gap in innovation. The children are growing up without having to look up to youths and families are separated.

Even though the situation seems to be distressing, we cannot deny that people in these villages have no other choice but to try to keep pace with the world that is innovating and changing. So when they cannot do that from their villages, they opt for a bigger place. On the other hand, the ramifications of such choices may be too hard on the country. Therefore, decentralization and empowerment of youth in the local communities are a must.

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Opinion

American life, Nepali salary — does not work

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I carry a phone, have a computer, decent pair of clothes and shoes. In my room, there is a TV hanging on wall, and in kitchen, a micro oven to warm my foods and refrigerator to preserve left over. To go around, I have a bike. I sometimes drop by cafe, which serves me coffee made from coffee machine. Love to watch movies and go to near by multiplex with cozy ambiance and lights and world-class sound system. Need to take my parents sometimes to doctors and they do the check-up using the modern equipment. A typical middle-class life I live. There are millions out there in this country with same pattern and possession.

From morning till I go to sleep, everything I consume aren’t made in Nepal. They are imported from some other countries. Even the internet I am using or electricity, the system behind is based on device and technologies made somewhere else. To share my thoughts, I have this blog, the domain and server, are too based in other countries. Those phone, those computer, those clothes and shoes, those TV and refrigerator, bike and coffee machine, or the medical equipment, are not manufactured keeping Nepalese people in mind. While setting the price, they didn’t think if a person from the poorest country can afford or not. They simply set a price that people with earning of 1000 dollars per month (at least) can afford.

How can you have a lifestyle of 2-3000 dollars per month with 500 dollars income?

Standard of living that most Nepalese thrive for is influenced by standard of living that of country from high GDP and we consume the products made for those people with average income of 2-3000 dollars per month. Irony, however, is we barely earn 500 dollars per month at best. How can you have a lifestyle of 2-3000 dollars per month with 500 dollars income? This is the conflicting zone most of us are living in. We want perfect things like that of from country with high GDP or we will laugh. Office needs to be perfect, house needs to perfect, vehicle needs to be perfect, lifestyle needs to be perfect, like as seen in videos made from US citizens or from other developed countries. We forget to realize that perfection comes with a price, that being Nepali is hard to afford.

But then who cares. Wife does not care, children don’t care, neighbors and relatives do not, nor friends. We are constantly judged for what we posses, how we pose and how we present ourselves, and it must be like that from Youtube or Bollywood insta or else we will be laughed. We will be judged for being poor, being below the standard.

In macro level, this is the struggle that most middle-class Nepalese are facing. First, there is an obligation of buying products like refrigerator, phone, TV, etc, as a necessity, made for people with 1000 dollars income, from a 300-500 dollar salary. Second, there is a cultural psyche to look better, stand out better. Thus, we will rather thrive to meet that standard than settle with our reality. Thriving to meet that standard means finding an income source of 2000-3000 dollars per month. First we try in genuine way, and if is not working, we look for hook and crook.

Be it PM, or president, or mayor or bank CEO, designer or call center employee, everyone is walking that struggle to fit in. Outside we all may pretend to adore and admire people living with their own ability and affordability, but deep inside we don’t value people who can’t live the standard. We don’t value celebrity that we can find travelling in local bus. We don’t value government website that can’t afford high speed. We don’t value PM’s web conference with poor resolution. We don’t value relatives in government office who can’t afford to send their children to good school and college. We don’t value CEO that looks “khate pate” because can’t afford branded clothes and shoes. I can go on. We in reality have no space or respect for those who fail to live and act matching the modern standard.

All the standard comes with a price, price that is designed keeping people from high GDP. So what the people from low GDP supposed to do? Simple, find a way to earn at least 2000-3000 dollars per month to enjoy that standard or live in your cave as you truly belong.

An old man once told me, “timiharu lie chahiyeko chha bikasit desh ko subidha, kamaunu chha garib desh ko talab. Ka milcha ani?. In other words, you can’t have american life with Nepali earning. Either go to America to have that life or find the american income here in Nepal.

That’s what happening in Nepal. Everyone is looking for a way to get to that income bracket — school, college, businesses, cafes, parlors, everyone — without which you can’t afford iPhone, you can’t afford coffee from coffee machine, you can’t afford Nike shoes, you can’t afford a vacation, you can’t afford TV at home, you simply can’t afford anything made somewhere keeping in mind 2000 dollars income bracket.

There is no way out. Deal with it.

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Opinion

Underpaid elected representatives and the consequences

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No graphic designer wants to work for anything less than 25K salary. No programmers wants to work for anything less than 50K salary. Hire a marketing consultant to take care of your business marketing, s/he will not charge anything less than 50K.

A principal of a school take nothing less than 70-80K to lead the school. A CEO takes anywhere from 2 lakh and above to run a company. A bank CEO takes way way more.

Just try taking a decent flat in good locality, you will get nothing less than 35K. Want to take in a colony, will cost you nothing less than 40K.

To have a decent comfortable life financially, you need at least 2000 dollars of income, that you can send your children to good school, can take care of parents, can fulfill genuine needs of spouse and of self.

When your personal life is smooth with no guilt or regret or shame because of poor financial status, you are highly motivated, energetic and dedicated to your professional side. You must know that by now.

That’s the reality we live in.

Now think of a job, where you job responsibilities include waste management, infrastructure development, maintaining the social harmony, planning and executing projects, and salary offered is 60K.

That’s salary for a mayor.

I am sure no one with good experience and academic profile will take that job. Why should they when they deserve more and they can earn 3 times the amount? Only people who will take that job are those who can’t earn outside or the naive minds who have not tested the reality yet and are living in a bubble.

Salary of a PM is around 1.5 lakhs. A bank CEO gets 5 times that, whose job is just to take care of the bank and its few hundreds employee. And here, the person whose job is to manage the whole country and 3cr people gets barely 1500 dollar. HELLO!

Let’s for a while, flush off all the prejudice and hate towards elected representatives and think…think them as fellow human just like everyone of us, and ask, will we get best out of them by paying way way less?

We ended up in this situation because of our idealist concept “neta janata ko sewa garna ho….paisa kamaune bhaye jagir khaanu parthyo, business garnu parthyo” Our idea of leadership is Jogi-like figure who can sacrifice all the materialistic needs, compromise personal happiness and that of family, live that altruistic life, and we judge fellow human interested in politics and in public service based on those traits and characters. We look for that Jogi figure.

What we forget to realize is that, with that criteria, we will never attract someone who can lead bank, who can be country head of NGO/INGO, who are gold medalists. And instead will end up with good-for-nothing individuals to manage this country, manage our county, manager our city. And we wonder, why we only get a terrible incompetent person for the job. Because we set the criteria that attract only INCOMPETENTS and NAIVES.

A successful business man once told me, “if you don’t pay well, you will end up with bad team and with that bad team, you will never succeed. You should never be concerned about how fat paycheck is being taken. You should be concerned about are they doing what they are paid for. If you are paying them 15K, you will get 15K worth of work. You should not be complaining for them not doing 50K of work. If you want them to do 50K worth of work, you should know to pay them 50K.”

As a business consultant, I can relate that. I have seen many businesses going no where and the problem is in kind of team they have. To pay less, they hire freshers and dull employees and they wonder why their businesses are not growing.

I have also seen brightest and smartest indviduals failing to deliver a project because they took the project at very low cost, that when reality hit them, they lost the interest and the needed energy to deliver right.

The very same thing applies in country.

You don’t get Elon Musk in 200-dollar salary.

This realization comes with growing up. So may be it’s time for us to be realistic enough and not idealist, and speak for better paycheck, better facilities for our elected representatives, so that more bright and smart show interests. it’s time for us to acknowledge the fact that Mayor is a job, PM is a job, like CEO and Branch manager. Do you know that Ward Representatives don’t get salary??

We have messed up big time by chasing the idealist version of governance, which only has created more gossips, more lack of respects, more contents for media to taunt for them taking beggar way of sheltering in hotels, wearing gifted watch and shoes. What are they supposed to do with 60K salary?? Put yourself in that shoes and think. Money is the reality and we should not shy away from. Rather embrace it, articulate it, and get best out of. Pay best, pay enough that s/he can take care of her personal life without reaching out to donors and businesses, and then question if not performing per the amount paid.

We have been complaining a lot without ever thinking of what payment are they getting in return. It reminds me of a boss, who had so much of complaint against his employees but never thought from his side if he is paying enough to expect the result. He didn’t understand that you don’t get Elon Musk in 200 dollar salary.

Father of Singpore, Mr, Lee once said, ” Don’t underpay our ministers. To find able and committed men and women of integrity, willing to spend the prime of their lives, and going through the risky process of elections, we cannot underpay our ministers and argue that their sole reward should be their contribution to the public good.”

You want this country to be like Singapore? then start thinking like Mr. Lee.

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