Businesses stunned as ruling party launches extortion drive
RUPAK D SHARMA
KATHMANDU, Jan 23: The business community, which is currently under extreme pressure from the extortion drive launched by Mohan Baidya-led Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, is now in a state of despair, as the ruling party, the UCPN (Maoist), has also started a similar campaign backed by issuing of threats.
In letters issued to members of the business fraternity, the ruling party has said funds were being collected to finance its upcoming general convention scheduled for the first week of February.
"We hope you will cooperate in this endeavor," state the letters issued by local-, district- and central-level committees of the UCPN (Maoist).
"It is pathetic that the ruling party, which was supposed to provide security to the business sector, is engaged in a donation drive," a senior member of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) told Republica on condition of anonymity. "Nobody expected this from them."
The party has launched the drive at a time when it has been boasting that it would bring in more foreign investment, attain double-digit growth and making Nepal an economically prosperous nation.
"But looking at their actions, one can easily conclude that whatever they are saying is only rhetoric and nothing else," said the member of the FNCCI, the largest umbrella body of the private sector.
As of now, the requests for donations have been made to almost every firm in banking and manufacturing sectors to small and medium businesses.
"No one is spared. Even self-employed individuals have been dragged into this campaign," the FNCCI member said. "And the amount they are demanding ranges from tens of thousands of rupees to hundreds of thousands of rupees depending on the size of business."
One industrialist told Republica that he has received same request letter from five different committees and sister wings of the ruling party. "Concurrently, they also phone us and ask us to support their cause," the industrialist said. "I sometimes don´t feel like entertaining calls coming from unknown numbers."
Industrialists that Republica talked to said the entire party is well aware of the extortion drive but is doing nothing to stop it.
"A letter issued by the central committee of the UCPN (Maoist) was signed by former information and communications minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who is the party´s politburo member," another industrialist said on condition of anonymity. "It is frustrating to see involvement of such a high-profile person in such a disgusting act."
The business community has long demanded that donation campaigns launched by political parties be governed by law, with a cap on donation amount.
"It is time we discuss these matters with the ruling party to end the problem once and for all," Industrialist Ravi Bhakta Shrestha said, partially blaming the business sector for not taking proper initiatives in finding a long-term solution to address the problem.
"So far we have only raised voice after confronting the problem. And we never tried to create a system that is capable of automatically tackling such issues," Shrestha, also a former FNCCI president, said. "We should now hold talks with parties and put such a system in place so that these donation campaigns do not affect us in the future."