After weeks of anger and frustration, a group of young people took to the streets of Baluwatar to demand accountability from this government. The COVID-19 response from this government has been dismal: testing rates are low, RDTs reign over PCR tests, quarantines are poorly managed – hotbeds for disease-- and there seems to be no real strategy to address the impending economic fallout and the long-term management of returning migrant workers. Nepali Congress MP Gagan Thapa rightly repeated what was being said all over social media the last few weeks yesterday in parliament: Where did the $1.3 billion spent on COVID-19 response go? Are the border quarantines fast becoming ‘concentration camps’? A series of failures have emerged as a result of what seems to be a reactive approach to governance.
In late 2016, I was travelling in some remote villages of Zimbabwe to interview women living with depression and HIV/AIDS. Most of the women were either widowed or divorced as a result of the conflict and HIV/AIDS. Despite their dual burden of disease and social isolation, their happiness and entrepreneurial spirit was amazing, an inspiring takeaway for me. I had spent two weeks talking hours upon hours with different groups about their struggles with depression and HIV/AIDS. In one conversation, a middle-aged woman asked me, “Does depression exist in your country?”
This is a great tragedy of our loktantra, where entire generations, many of whom are already in their mid-30s, have never participated in local level elections nor do they remember what local governance looks and feels like.