Increasingly, we trade in intellectual goods as much as in physical goods. We buy books and CDs not for their paper or plastic, but for the ideas they store within. Due to the increasing capacity and usage of internet, the means of sharing intellectual goods have proliferated rapidly in the last decade. The protection of intellectual property (IP) rights like copyrights, trademarks, patents, etc has become very important in this context. This applies even more in international trade, since many of our international imports like music, books, and movies are intellectual goods. Nepal has had a copyright law since 1965, but it has been largely ignored. Pirated versions of music and movies, photocopies of books, and fake designer wear continue to flood our markets.
In the Western world, copyrights and patents are the means of livelihood for many individuals. Writers, singers, artists and inventors hold exclusive rights to the reproduction of their work, and anyone who reproduces their work pays them royalty. In the absence of such mechanisms, as in Nepal, one often does not know who the inventor of a particular intellectual product is, let alone them gaining any profit from it. Our copyright law itself has been criticized for being weak, incomprehensive, and outdated, but in Nepal, the problem may not be just the way the law is worded, but in how it is implemented. Or if it is implemented at all. Nepal ranks 108th out of 130 countries on the protection of IP rights. If there is a case of infringement on IP, it is hardly raised. Even if it is, it is not taken seriously by the implementing agencies, leaving one with few legal remedies. Lack of IP protection also discourages scientific and industrial innovation. If researchers and organizations have nothing to gain from innovation, their invention can be easily copied without any royalty coming back to them, they are not motivated to continue. Just one patent was registered in Nepal in the fiscal year 2060/70.
American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. once said “there comes a time when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of humiliation, when they experience the bleakness of nagging despair.” The outcome of elections last month is a verdict of the tired, humiliated, frustrated, misled, and the disillusioned. It reflects the betrayal and false hopes shown by the Maoists. Maoists shunned violence to achieve political power in 2006, but quickly resorted to ethnic politics, which was refused by the people.
The first sentence in the election manifestos of three major parties—Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal (UML) and Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) begins with the need for a second constituent assembly election, which otherwise occurs only once in a nation’s history, after the first one failed to draft the constitution. The November election reaffirmed the mandate of Janaandolan 2006. The verdict also included the parties’ commitments to deliver a constitution within a year, reduce load-shedding in three years, ban shutdowns and strikes, and expedite the process of socio-economic transformation within a democratic framework. While constitutional and development issues were highlighted, nowhere was the tenure of the President and Vice President mentioned, either in the manifestos or during the campaigns.
Following the much-publicized and widely supported fast-unto-death of Dr Govinda KC, a teacher at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) at Maharajgunj, the Baburam Bhattarai government appointed Dr Prakash Sayami as the institution’s dean, breaking with the tradition of political appointments to the coveted post. KC had started his fast in protest against an earlier decision of the same government to install another political nominee as the head of what is widely considered the premier medical college in the country. The government, in appointing Sayami, a respected medical professional and administrator, had also vowed to stop political interference in the day to day functioning of the institution. But there are troubling signs that some vested interests are bent on reversing all the positive changes at IOM. Dean Sayami has been forced to tender his resignation once again (the first time was last November) as the government has once again tried to impose its decisions on the IOM and impede its normal functioning. Most recently, crucial promotions that Sayami had wanted have been blocked, apparently in retaliation of the college management’s stand against granting affiliations to new medical colleges.
For UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Heads I win, tails you lose” has been the central dictum of political career. Normally, such Machiavellian strategy only works for a short period. On the evening of November 19, 2013, after completion of CA II elections, Dahal was bubbling with happiness and congratulated all Nepalis on peaceful, fair and free elections. However, he changed his congratulatory tone in less than 36 hours, as soon as the initial results started to come in and UCPN (Maoist) appeared to be trailing other major parties. While Dahal was unable to bear the shock, the people at large were jubilant, exchanging greetings at his party’s lagging behind in vote count.
When their prospects appeared bleak, UCPN (Maoist) hurriedly asked their representatives to leave vote counting centers. At a press conference next day, Dahal, with an ashen face, appeared in public with other senior leaders of his party to allege that there had been widespread vote fraud and demanded the counting be halted. He claimed national and international elements were in cahoots to defeat his party, but failed to explain why international forces would want to do so.
Nepal and its people have been blessed with some pleasant surprises lately. The enthusiastic mass participation in the CA election, contrary to popular predictions, is in itself a victory of the democratic process. Moreover, the people’s verdict has given a clear direction to constitution writing. However, some expressions by the leaders and political parties, both participants as well as boycotters of the election, have raised serious concerns. It is unfortunate to hear them make a mockery of people’s mandate so early.
It is not surprising that the UCPN (Maoist) has brought forth the proposal of consensus politics. Their demand for amendment of Interim Constitution to ensure all decisions regarding governance and constitution be made through consensus is a ploy derived from their defeated status, which has made them paranoid. They want to have a share in power so that they can avoid investigations into the property they amassed illegally during their time in government. Besides, there is the deep-rooted fear that at some point war-time atrocities may be brought up at the international court.
A more pathetic expression came from CPN-Maoist, the party determined to foil election process by hook and crook. They were smart enough to predict that if they participated in the election, they would suffer shameful defeat. Now they want to be a part of the CA through an unconstitutional back door. The party has no moral ground to enter the assembly created through the people’s verdict.