Kathmandu: The incident took place right in front of the Federal Parliament building of Nepal in Kathmandu, at a time when the Prime Minister was passing by with a carcade. It was not just another act of “self-immolation”. It was a symbolic protest. It was an expression of frustration and pessimism. And, many people believe, it was a clear indication that the state is failing.
The death of Prem Prasad Acharya, a young enterpreneur from Ilam, the district in eastern Nepal, has shaken the Nepali consciousness to the core, raising the fresh debate about the failure of the state to provide enabling environment for doing business to the aspiring Nepali youths and exposing the ills of the government system and the modus operandi of the private sector business regime.
Prem Acharya died of burn injuries in Kathmandu Wednesday morning following his failed attempt to self-immolate himself in front of the parliament building by sprinkling petrol on his body and setting himself on flames.
On Tuesday afternoon Acharya, 36, set himself on fire as the Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda was getting out of the parliament building. Acharya was rushed to the hospital for treatment on Tuesday, but he succumbed to the burn injuries Wednesday morning.
Acharya’s suicide has taken the Nepali society by storm. While political actors, including the ministers in the government, have expressed deep sorrows and condolences over Acharya’s death, anger in the streets are brewing and people have faulted the irresponsible political actors in power, corrupt and unaccountable private business regime and the failing state system for the death of a promising Nepali youth entrepreneur.
The public anger and frustration has been triggered by a heart-wrenching note that Acharya had posted on his Facebook page before he self-immolated himself. In his note, Acharya has stated the causes and situations that killed his hope and pushed him to the decision of taking his own life.
His Facebook status has exposed the exclusively extractive nature of Nepali state. In over 6000-word note written in Nepali language, he has categorically revealed deep rooted cronyism and nexus between businesses and politicians for the gain of a handful of people. He has clearly mentioned his dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur and how he failed over the time due to corruption in the system, cronyism, process-oriented bureaucratic hurdles and dozens of other issues.
Why he killed himself
Nepal Live Today summarizes the content of his note in the following paragraphs.
According to the note, Acharya started his career by working in a Thamel based Travel Agency in 2010. Then he sold his house in Ilam, built one in Budhanilkantha in Kathmandu and started his own Travel Agency. Initially, he was doing well but soon his parties–including the private educational institutions–whose tour programs he managed started delaying payment and stopped it. He says some of these institutions still owe him thousands of rupees.
Soon his business collapsed and he sold the travel agency and left for Qatar for employment. With whatever he earned in Qatar, he returned to Nepal in 2017 and started his own enterprise named Suryodaya Agro Industries and Farm House Pvt Ltd in Ilam. He started to supply his products to department stores and marts. But again he had to sell his products on credit and buyers never paid him on time, which led him to take further loans from the banks. He was broke.
Then he started to attempt suicide. “I attempted suicide hundreds of times but failed. I tried to end my life by pushing the vehicle I was driving into an accident. But I could not die because of the love for children and wife,” Acharya’s note reads. “I was suffering from depression for the last two to three years but nobody understood me.”
Then he thought he would do dealership business. But the government authorities never cooperated with him, instead they created hurdles. “When I brought vegetables from Kathmandu to Ilam, I had to bribe the police along the way. They would ride on the vehicle and take the vegetables,” he has written. “They all loot in this country. The police and the government in the name of tax.”
He applied for government grants and subsidies for agriculture enterprises in the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Management in Province-1. His company would also be shortlisted but it was never provided any grant, while the enterprises run by those affiliated with political parties would be given grants in millions every year. “I then realized that for one to be able to get the government grant, one either has to be a political representative, or a political cadre or be able to bribe the officials who provide such grants,” Acharya mentions in his note.
Acharya has written about how the famous department stores in Kathmandu cheated him by making payment extremely late or by not paying at all, while they sold his goods with huge profit margins and made money. In his note, he has implicated the owners of big shopping outlets such as Bhat Bhateni, Big Mart, Golyan Agro, Saathi Mart, Dabur Nepal Private Ltd among others. According to him, insurance companies also cheated him. He approached banks for help but in vain, he sought help from office bearers of FNCCI as well but nobody listened to him.
Acharya, then, began to receive phone calls from banks and employees but he had no means to pay them. “I have a six million rupees loan. My wife felt tortured and she also started to attempt suicide,” he writes. “It felt like me and my wife were competing to end life first. I decided to end this life. Do not try to save me. Even if I do not die from this attempt, I will kill myself later anyway. If the police arrest me, I will kill myself in jail.”
In a heart-wrenching message, he writes. “I tried every means to live but failed. I lost hope and decided to kill myself. Forgive me.”
Appeal to the government
Acharya in his note has also left some recommendations to the political leaders and the government. In a paragraph addressed to Prime Minister Prachanda, he writes: You led the people’s war taking the lives of 17000 people and led the country to federal republic but could do nothing for the youths like us who want to do something on our own in the country. “If Europe, America, Canada, Australia and Japan easily provide visas to the Nepalis, there will be nobody in this country. The country will be empty. You become the PM of an empty country,” he says to PM Prachanda.
In his note, he has set forth some demands to the government of Nepal. “Before I set my body on fire I would like to make following demands to the government of Nepal and appeal that those demands are fulfilled,” Acharya writes. “My appeal to all. Let this country enable people to work and live, let those who work hard be rewarded, let there be good to all.”
Acharya wants his appeal to be known to all in the world. “This is my revolution, I challenge the concerned parties to prove what I have written above wrong. The problems I faced are the national problems. But why does nobody speak up?”
Acharya has put forth 25-point demands in his suicide note. They are as follows:
- Remove Value Added Tax (VAT) to national production and impose 20 percent VAT on imported goods. VAT has been the main cause of price rise of consumable goods.
- Introduce an attractive market purchase and sell policy such as Buyers Pay First. End the system of purchase on credit. Helpless local producers/suppliers are compelled to sell their products to big chains such as Bhatbhateni, Big Mart and Dabur Nepal. Local producers sell their goods on credit while these big companies, who pay back the credit of local producers only when they make additional profits, are investing the money in real estate and share market and putting money to save in fixed deposits for higher interests. Big chains pay back the credit amount only ensuring big profits for themselves. By that time, local producers/suppliers already go through difficulties such as interest on their loans, shortage of their operating capital and other problems.
- Implement the “Higher the Profit, Lower the Tax Rate” policy. This will motivate industrialists and businesspersons to maximize the profit.
- Implement the land leasing system.
- Revise the banking mortgage valuation system.
- Impose tax on house rent. It is not fair to levy 1 percent TDS to employees who hardly earn Rs 10,000 per month while exempting tax to landlords.
- Bring the big industrial and business houses such as Bhatbhateni, Big Mart, Patanjali, Dabur Nepal, Unilever to the radar of regulation. These big companies are controlling Nepali market.
- Close all online shops that are not registered.
- Remove the hurdles of labor permits to migrant workers. Thousands of skilled youths have been deprived of jobs due to the unnecessary permit system. Government, your paper is nothing more than a paper to show at the airport and a tool for agents to extract bribes.
- Government, you will realize the level of corruption if you seriously investigate older files of grants and subsidies. The grants and subsidies should be ensured to genuine ones instead of companies that exist only on paper.
- End the Bichauliya [generally referred to illicit agents and middlemen that have thrived in political and bureaucratic protection]. Initiate Palika Bajar as an online national web server to link all Palikas of the countries. This will help to end Bichauliya.
- Nepal exports raw products and imports finished products. Introduce a policy that enables us to brand products such as cardamom, ginger, tea in Nepal.
- Legalize cannabis farming. Cannabis products have high demand in the global market and Nepal can get advantage of that.
- Discourage privatization of education, health and public transport. These are basic services that the state must ensure to its citizens.
- Ensure housing facilities to all government employees and teachers or post them near their homes. Rs 40,000-Rs45,000 salary is not sufficient for them to ensure food, shelter, education and treatment of their children. What can they do other than corruption in such a situation?
- Amend the provisions of the public procurement act. Instead of granting contracts to the lowest bidder, ensure that those with scientific and modern ideas are awarded the contract.
- Parliament, ensure death penalty to those involved in corruption, gruesome murder and rape cases.
- Scrap the provision of caste-based reservation and start the reservation system based on level of poverty by distributing identity cards to the poor people.
- End open border with India.
- Promote export and import of domestic goods. Promote production industries in the country.
- Close saving and credit cooperatives and microfinance. Government, do you know, 60 percent of our country’s money has been mobilized through saving and credit cooperatives while only 40 percent is through private and government banking channels. Allow only agriculture, industry cooperatives.
- End the system of collecting 25 percent money from consumers.
- Start entrepreneurship subject right from grade six. Everyone needs skills and art for livelihood.
- Immediately introduce a system that ensures mandatory provision that government employees, teachers, employees of public enterprises, Members of Parliament, ministers and the Prime Ministers should enroll their children in government/community schools and colleges.
- Limit the interest rate on loan within the ceiling of seven percent. Do you know, big business leaders have controlled all the money of the country. They have investments in banks. Now, they have inflated the interest rate to get maximum benefits from the fixed deposit schemes.
We have witnessed many system changes in the country. We have gone through revolution, people were involved in people’s revolution. We participated in a mass movement. We killed people.
Now is the time to change the status of people. Dear government, now be focused on people’s livelihood and technical issues while governing the country. Let’s create a situation where even grassroots people can set up industry/business without hassle. Everyone can get the job. Everyone can do agricultural activities. Let people live happily. Baseless promises are not enough to build a nation. Dear government, these issues may look like tiny issues but these have great significance to people’s lives. Pay attention.
If you agree to my demands, please provide peaceful solidarity. My country has already gone through many movements and violence, please do not choose that method. Please keep on warning the government. Keep on reminding the government [its responsibilities]. This is a campaign by me imagining a beautiful country. Do not let this movement fade. A request to those who guided me in politics, please move ahead with my campaign. Please keep on trying to remind the government of its responsibilities. Please heal the wounds of the country.
My humble request to the Government of Nepal, new political parties and members of parliament who are trying to change the system, Rabi Lamichhane, Rajendra Lingden, Gyanendra Shahi, Sobita Gautam, Gagan Thapa, Biswa Prakash Sharma, Yogesh Bhattarai, Toshima Karki and other new faces: Competition should not be limited to form the government and becoming a minister. Please be mindful of the plights of people and find solutions to their problems.
I die but let my country live!