At around 12 o’clock midday on the 18th of August when Mr. Nepal (who surprisingly is the nation’s Premier as well) along with the jumbo team had just taken off from TIA airport in Kathmandu, at least one thousand students if not more were appearing for the 240 minutes long ‘State & Rural Development’ TU exam all over the country. Apart from the noticeable fact that both TIA (Tribhuvan International Airport) and TU (Tribhuvan University) derive their names from Late King Tribhuvan, the events seem to be mutually exclusive. But what I intend to write is not about their inter-relation. It’s just the irony surrounding the event I wish to express..
12 o’clock sharp, the questions of RD 503 are handed out to the students. The same time around, Mr. Nepal, the ( un-elected) Prime minister ( as shown in the TV) seemed to be in ‘Cloud no 9’ , his face unable to hold back the ‘pleased expression’ talking to the Nepali press.
The very first question carrying 20 marks asks the students to ‘evaluate’ the role of state in development in general and rural development in particular. Were they somewhere outside the examination hall discussing the same issue they would have surely been discussing the PM’s India visit, its role in development. And if ever, faced with a hypothetical question about what exactly they would be thinking of if they were the PM on his/her way to India, they would undoubtedly ‘believe’ that they would be thinking of the ‘state’s role’ in ‘development’ as well. But somewhere in between the wooden desks where the student’s vision of ‘State & RD’ is furiously scribbled on paper and the 35,000ft gap between the desk and the aircraft is the world of reality which doesn’t link the two at all.
To begin with, a state is sovereign. Suppose states are indeed the outcome of a social-contract and people think that the ‘state of nature’ would really be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’. If you are willing to respect and obey the state, it is the duty of state to provide stability and security. Now that’s theory. But high up in the skies whilst on a pilgrimage to South Block to pay homage to the Gods and Goddesses residing in it you well know that the state is only feigning sovereignty. It’s not a territorial association; well you’re too confused about the territory to begin with. Some say there’s a map, some say there’s none, Sujata says no problem and newspapers report displacement. It’s all too much hassle to bother the Lord with. One needs to stick to the rituals: prostrate before the Lord and gladly accept whatever ‘Prasad’ is offered in return. Your existence, after all is a manifestation of the Divine Will. And development is an amoebaean concept! Whether it is ‘development’ for the mass or for the number ’70’ it’s still development! There will always a handful of ‘ex’ failed attempts at the so-called ‘development’ to be stirred and fool the mass. Wasn’t it Heywood who said “Politics is interesting because people argue”? That’s the catch! Let everyone get to know how interesting it is so let’s talk Pancheshwor from the ‘dead’ Treaty. Let’s debate on a non-issue and engage the fools who are ruled by ruled by a loser, vanquished by the unknown Jhakku! Rural areas…Hopefully it will see the light of day…someday…
On the earth below, students keep writing furiously on all possible roles the state can play. Some go on to argue how market mechanisms can’t be trusted with development in rural areas. Others move on to explain its roles classifying them into the usual ‘development formula’: social, economic, political, environmental etc. Some are trying hard to remember how the word ‘state’ first came into existence. Latin ? Greek? Who used it? It’s a TU exam after all you never know what is expected so you better ‘throw up’ everything you know on the ‘term’ itself on paper. Time is running out but students are far from running out on ideas. It only seems to get better with time. They can’t be stopped now that they are on a writing frenzy. What can’t a state do with a bit of political will? It can move mountains! But examination answer sheets are probably the last thing that will ever awaken the state to realize its role in rural development.
Out of the examination hall and in the real world serious questions can be raised about the ‘state presence’ in rural areas. Where is the state when people still have to walk for days to reach the hills not connected to roads? Where is the state while people die of dysentery? Where is the state when men are killed over the fight for Yarsagumba in the mountains? And where is the state when the examination for ‘State & Rural Development ‘ under the government owned university takes place in almost 2 years time? Where is the sustainable impact of the ‘state’ in ‘rural development’ other than in hurried writings of students pouring their heart and souls just to get a ‘Degree’?
Thankfully, someone in TU had the brains to keep the relationship between ‘State & RD’ alive by having an entire course on it! We can at least offer the course book to our Premier to go through now and then. The book, in spite of its bad language and repetitive cum redundant arguments should befit the situation. Well, if a person thinks ‘electricity can be brought in through satellite in Nepal’ , the superfluous arguments in the book which are far from being at par with such proclamations should be the perfect start !