April 17, 2019 02:00 AM NPT
Civilian awards 2019
When the state confers awards to civilians, bureaucrats and leaders of eminence it ideally means that the state has properly assessed suitability of the recipients, and they are among those who have made real contribution to the nation from their capacities, and they are men and women of high moral integrity. It ideally is the matter of pride for both the state and the recipients. Recipients are looked upon by the society as distinguished personalities. This is why nomination and selection process of award distribution have to be transparent, fair and widely acceptable and all the persons to receive such honors have to be of unquestionable moral character. This has not been the case in Nepal. Every year when the president confers such awards on behalf of the government few names stand out for infamy—either they may have been accused of corruption cases or even involved in openly anti-democratic activities. This is why annual conferral of state awards has always been riddled with controversy for it has rarely been fair and the awards have been presented to those close to party organizations or the government rather than those who have made special contribution to the society.
This trend has continued this year too. This year President Bidya Devi Bhandari conferred civilian honors on around 345 personalities but some of those to receive these honors are of questionable characters. Sharmila Parajuli Dhakal is a manpower agent-turned diplomat who is accused of swindling people while sending them abroad for foreign employment. Lucky Sherpa, another recipient of the award, was forced to resign over human trafficking scandal. And Min Bahadur Gurung, the owner of Bhatbhateni Supermarket, is currently under investigation over multi-billion rupees public land scam. Then there is Ram Chandra Thapa Chhetri, an MBBS graduate who has failed Nepal Medical Council’s licensing exam. We don’t intend to single out these names but the trend is really disturbing. Why did the government have to choose these controversial figures for high level awards? How does the government decide who should and should not be honored? Often political parties in power and top bureaucrats commonly use the awards to reward their loyalists. Some of those honored this year were themselves in award selection committee.
Needless to say, this has belittled the value of such honors. When even those suspected of wrongdoings are awarded by the state it does not help promote meritocracy and honesty. Experts have rightly demanded revision of Decoration Act-2007 to restore the sanctity of the civilian awards. As they have pointed out our award granting process and nomination process are not transparent and it is mostly done on the whims of ruling ministers. The state honors in the past used to be conferred by the kings to their loyalists. In Republican system it has to be different. Otherwise, the whole idea of state honors will lose meaning. Political parties in power should grant awards to such personalities, whom the society holds in high pedestal and who can become role model for the people instead of those with tainted past.