Nepal’s PM warns of action in case of unnecessary delay in service delivery. Then Passport Department announces system failure. Is this only a coincidence?

Nepal’s democratization processes have failed to foster effective civil service reform. Largely characterized as a conformist force, bureaucracy is politically divided and less accountable to people.


NL Today

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: On Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) warned of action against responsible authorities in case of their failure to ensure effective service delivery within a month. 

He explicitly took examples of anomalies in the course of issuing passports by the government agencies and expressed his concern about the hassles the people face to obtain passports. 

“The media reports suggest that people are in the queue since 2 am in the morning just to obtain their passports. This speaks volume of their plight,” the PM said. “If people are forced to take a long queue just to get the service after a month, the government has to take stringent action against those responsible for the mismanagement.”

The same day, Nepal’s Department of Passport, a department under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that issues passports to Nepalis, issued a public notice of system collapse. 

Earlier, Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane had also visited the department and underlined the need for immediate reforms in the distribution system. 

Many social media users are of the view that the Department of Passport gave a cold response to the government’s appeal in the pretext of system collapse. 

Astrologer Suneel Sitaula wrote: Passport distribution has been halted for an uncertain period of time after the unplanned visit by the Home Minister and directive from the Prime Minister. 

In his sarcastic Tweet, Gyanendra Khadka states: Department of Passport cleared all queues following the directive from the Prime Minister and Home Minister. Needless to mention that both the PM and Home Minister had instructed authorities concerned to take immediate measures to ease the passport distribution process. 

Pawan Barsha Shah also thinks that the system collapse is a created problem. She opines on Twitter: Even if some leaders come forward with a plan to deliver services, some corrupt bureaucrats become obstacles [to execute the plans]. The example is the passport [incident].

Dr Govind Subedi, who introduces himself as Professor and Social Activist, seconds the idea of overhauling the bureaucracy. He writes: There are massive complaints of poor service delivery by the Nepal government such as passport, transport and land registration. This also demands massive reforms in our bureaucracy.

Journalist Sama Thapa has expressed her dissatisfaction over the lethargic working style of the government. She tweets: Passport Department closed after glitches in the system. The country is closed for even foreign guests after Corona. In case of the condition of compromise on commission, import of goods is also halted. Do these people know any other options than the closure [of service]? 

Anil Sapkota writes: Mobile sets were confiscated even after the directive from the Prime Minister. Passport distribution has been halted showing the technical glitches in the system following the directive from the Home Minister. So the status of the country is that even directives from the PM and Home Minister can be ignored?

Dr Umesh Shrestha is also critical of the attitude of the bureaucracy. His tweet reads: Bureaucracy is more corrupt than politics. Closure of services of printing and distribution of passports is clear evidence of this. This is apparent retaliation before exposure [of anomalies].

Writer and commentator Binod Neupane believes that the notice of system failure comes as a part of ‘setting’. He writes: The problem in the system of the Department of Passport is a created one. It is done for the money in collusion with agents. We call this a setting. 

Earlier today, the directive of PM Prachanda not to impose taxes on the mobile phones brought to Nepal by the Nepalis returning home from foreign countries was given a cold shoulder by the customs officials at Tribhuvan International Airport. 

The Department of Passport could have faced the system glitch. But public reactions over the notice by the Department speak volumes about people’s frustration with the bureaucracy and its modus operandi of delivering service. Clearly, this also speaks of how challenging it could be for the new government to initiate reforms in the system.