the EPOCH JOURNAL
VOLUME V ISSUE IV
GUNS in a LAND of PEACE by Erin Shadowens IT’S GETTING DARK in NEPAL by Shikshya Adhikari + a LETTER from the EDITOR + a REVIEW of MARK P. LEONE’S “the ARCHEOLOGY of LIBERTY in an AMERICAN CAPITAL” SUMMER 2011
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the EPOCH JOURNAL summer 2011
volume v, issue iv EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Tex Pasley MANAGING EDITOR
Erin Shadowens VISUAL DIRECTOR
John Vining DESIGN EDITOR
J. Keenan Trotter BUSINESS MANAGERS
Shikshya Adhikari Andrew Donders FOUNDING EDITOR
Zachary Fryer-Biggs © 2011, The Epoch Journal DISCLAIMER
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from the editor:
in the fall, I wrote in this space to introduce you to the re-styled Epoch. Now I am writing in farewell, with the hope that in my year as Editor-in-Chief, the magazine has become more relevant and important to the students of St. John’s College. it is not my place to judge what role current events, and thus current events coverage, has within our program. In general, I appreciate the fact that our community attempts to keep itself above the fray of current events. As students, our time here is going to be a small portion of our entire lives. I think it is important, that, in that time, we make some effort to sequester ourselves from time. By entering and embracing the bubble, we allow ourselves to be cultivated in a manner that is not possible for people who are intertwined with the spirit of their times. I recall overhearing a discussion on CNN about the Supreme Court nomination hearings for Elena Kagan. One of the senators had asked her, to paraphrase: Do you think human beings are endowed with natural rights outside of society? Of course, the political setting did not allow Kagan to answer sincerely. If she said anything resembling “No,” her position would have been vilified, since the Declaration of Independence, of course, asserts the opposite. After showing the clip, the two commentators briefly discussed natural rights in an abstract manner, before one of them ended the conversation with saying “This is the kind of conversation more Americans need to be having.” My point in telling this anecdote is to encourage us in our study of the important questions, even if we sense that our education is lacking in application.
Through going to St. John’s and keeping a cursory eye on current events while I have been here, I have come to believe that the meaningful questions of our time are better informed when we have considered the abstract foundations underlying our immediate, practical concerns. We may not have an answer prepared one way or the other to the question of natural rights of man, but we can have a conversation in a way that transcends politics or national identity. I truly believe that this education in the abstract can only serve to be helpful to all of us as citizens in the future. To this end, I have tried to fashion The Epoch as a place where our big questions can be given some grounding in the present. I do not claim that we have managed to unify the temporal and the eternal in any meaningful way, but I do hope that some of our content this year has helped you recognize where you can find your place in the present. This last issue will also feature content relating to both Annapolis and St. John’s College. In the past, we have tried to minimize our coverage of what is around us, and I think this change will only help us understand how our location is also a part of the world around us. I want to thank the St. John’s College community for supporting The Epoch for the past four years, and to encourage those who remain in the bubble to enjoy their brief stay.
—Tex Pasley SUMMER 2011
“There are so many problems— instability in the government, lack of petrol, lack of water, poor economic condition, huge trade deficit, government inefficiencies,” says Aseem Shrestha, a business management student in Nepal. “What should we focus on or what can be focused on are not questions that can get answers.”
Light in Kathmandu by Shikshya Adhikari 6
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according to the BBC, one of Nepal's top television networks has begun broadcasting its nightly news bulletin in semi-darkness to highlight the effects of massive power cuts. They report that Kantipur Television using only a kerosene lantern to broadcast its thirty minutes long 7 pm news bulletin to put pressure on the government to tackle the ongoing problem of power outage in Kathmandu and other major cities. Nepal has been facing the problem for many years and it is not a small problem. According to CBS News, Nepal produces only about half its electricity needs in part because of unusually low levels this year in reservoirs that feed the country's hydroelectric plants. Nepal has a potential of producing 83,000 Megawatts of hydro-electricity and about 53,000 Megawatts can be produced with its financial and technical resources.The current electricity demand is that of 780 Megawatts; but, Nepal has only been able to produce 250 Megawatts so far. The people of Nepal have always undergone this problem; however, the power cuts were only two to three hours every week and that too only in dry seasons. For the last four to five years, this problem has worsened to where the people are not getting any electricity for up to fourteen hours a day. The next four and a half years have been declared as a period of energy crisis by the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bharat Mohan Adhikary. When asked how often people can access electricity, Anita Dhungana, a high-school English teacher says, “Only ten hours, and not when we need the most.” There have been reports of people sometimes not having electricity for a whole day and getting it only at night. Dhungana says, “It is the same all over Kathmandu. Life is difficult; modernity has taken a back seat and I feel pushed back into my grandparents' generation.”
the epoch asked people as to what they do when 'modernity takes a back seat'; Shaileshwori Sharma, a development worker in Nepal replied, “I usually sleep, watch movies on my laptop or read by the candle light. I have heard of people (especially students) altering their sleep schedules accordingly.” Shrestha says, “There is seriously nothing to do when you do not have electricity, especially at night. One can manage during the day. My laptop has eight to nine hours of battery life. However, with there being no electricity for seven hours twice a day, even my laptop cannot be charged for a long time. Having an inverter or electricity generator is helpful, but not everybody can own them.” Electricity generators have become a very useful device for the people of Kathmandu. The use of inverters has increased from people's annoyance at having to plan their day in accordance with the power cuts. Shaileshwori Sharma says, “... but one has to keep track of the loadshedding schedule constantly in order to know when to charge mobile phones, iron clothes, or operate other electric goods including kitchen appliances. We aren't completely transported to the dark ages. The inverter helps.” due to the widespread use of inverters, the government had also indicated the possibility of banning the import of inverters to the country last year. The government's concern was the overuse of whatever little electricity that the people of Nepal get for basic utility purposes. This law has not been implemented so far and people continue using it. “We only use inverters when it is absolutely necessary. We manage to spend time in the dark one way or the other,” says Dhungana. “Yes, we do manage to occupy ourselves with things that does not involve electricity and plan accordingly. Having said that, doing so is
extremely difficult. For students like us, we cannot work on our reports and presentations. Everybody understands the problem, but we are somehow expected to complete everything on time,” says Shrestha. Sharma tells us of students having to study and do their homework by the candle light. Along with the education sector, the electricity cuts have affected different sectors of the country. Nepal is not an industrialized nation. The cottage industries in Nepal greatly outnumber the large-scale industries; however, they need electricity in one form or the other to operate their machines. Sharma says, “Since businesses have been forced to resort to generators as back-up sources, the price of production has increased due to the extra usage of fuel. As a result, the extra-cost is then transferred onto the consumers.” “Restaurants, shopping malls and fast food centers run for very short periods. Due to a double digit inflationary trend in Nepal, they have not been able to maintain their expensive services for a long time”, says Shrestha. The service industry also seems to be affected along with the production industry. It has been reported that these industries have had to face limitations in terms of number, duration and quality of services that they can provide. Education and Industrial sectors have also been hugely affected. However, the biggest problem that the people of Kathmandu have been facing is the problem of drinking water. Most houses have a separate tap for receiving highly purified drinking water. The government controls the distribution of this water. Some households have underground wells which provide ample amount of drinking water, whereas some households have machines to help pull the supplied clean water. This is not possible without electricity. Since the times of power outage changes on a regular C O N T I NSUUEMDMO EN R PAG 2011E 15 7
current production (250 Megawatts)
financial and technical potential (53,000 MW)
current demand (780 MW)
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y in Nepal
hydro-electricity potential (53,000 MW)
u.s. consumption (469, 208 MW)
Machiavelli famously said that because Switzerland is the most armed, it is the most free. In February, a referendum challenged the general armament of the populace by requiring that all military weapons be stored not in homes, but in local depots. Fifty-six percent of voters rejected the referendum, which points to a lack of unanimity among voters on this issue.
The Guns of Switzerland by Erin Shadowens 10
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the epoch asked Ueli Graf , a Swiss citizen from the village of Brienz, in what way guns signify an important liberty for the Swiss populace: “Yes, I think the Swiss as a people consider guns an important liberty— but for different reasons. The conservatives in Switzerland state that guns should be kept at home because it is a very defining tradition to do so. That tradition goes all the way back to Wilhelm Tell, who was a Swiss national hero who—according to the legend— lived in the 13th and 14th century and was always armed by a crossbow. At that time, Switzerland was tyrannized by the Austrian emperor Gessler. When Gessler forced Tell to shoot an apple of his son's head with his crossbow, Tell decided to kill Gessler. Eventually he succeeded, thus liberating the Swiss people—and the Swiss have been free ever since.” Graf explains that this independence story is used to support gun ownership. “The right wing conservative parties in Switzerland try to unify the people behind that legend, they want us to feel like invasion is imminent and that we should be prepared to protect ourselves at all times. Alright, keeping guns at home is a tradition that supposedly dates back to the 13th century—but of what use is a gun without ammunition? It works as a symbol for independence but not as a weapon.” Every male citizen must do compulsory military, or alternatively civil, service. As part of the military, citizens are then required to keep a gun in their home—granted, an unloaded gun. In addition, many citizens elect to privately own guns, for the purpose of hunting or popular shooting competitions. In a 2007 study, the Geneva Graduate Institute of International Studies estimated there were 45.7 guns per 100 citizens, giving the country one of the highest rates of guns per capita in the world, second only to countries like the United
States and Yemen. The high gun ownership rate worries churches and women’s groups in Switzerland, who claim that there has been an uptick in gun assisted suicides in recent years. The easy access to a weapon in the home doesn’t help. They argue that while keeping a gun in the home was necessary in the past when Switzerland faced constant threat of invasion, guns provide no additional protection when no threat exists. In fact, supporters of the February referendum claim that guns themselves have become the threat. The referendum would not only have removed military related weapons from homes, but the referendum would also have mandated a national firearms registry, as well as a demonstration of competency to own a gun. Nevertheless, opponents to the referendum argue that the tradition is not merely symbolic, but is directly responsible for Switzerland’s low crime rate—one gun crime for every 250,000 people; in fact, there are more crimes committed with bladed weapons, and gun crimes, when they do happen, often involve illegally obtained guns, not the government issued ones targeted by the referendum. The argument, essentially, is that guns protect people; moreover, guns deter crime; however, as Graf points out, “In my opinion, guns are not the reason why it is safe to live here, it's rather a coincidence—the population of a prosperous and very safe state happens to keep their guns at home. You mustn't forget that while most keep their rifle at home, it is extremely hard to get the ammunition needed to turn a rifle into a dangerous weapons. So they are not necessary for safety, neither are they for hunting, since hunters usually use different rifles.” Despite the fact that some Swiss citizens see the army issued guns as redundant protection, the referendum was ultimately rejected because it threatened to disarm homes. “When it comes to weapons, con-
trol measures are always good but many voters felt that the gun initiative went too far by storing all guns centrally and thereby disarming the people so they turned it down,” explains Graf. “This does not mean the Swiss don't accept any form of control when it comes to guns.” In fact, the Swiss military is incredibly diligent about inspecting government issued guns and ammunition, which are only intended to be used in case of an invasion. Private ownership is also subject to regulation. Under the 1999 Gun Act, any person who needs to carry a weapon on their person must have a government issued permit. A permit requires that the applicant can articulate a real need for the gun, either to protect their person or property, and that they are capable of using a gun with competence. A permit is necessary even just to acquire, not simply to carry a gun. Acquisition permits are only available to applicants without a criminal record. Automatic weapons cannot be sold commercially, but can be obtained through a special permit process. Granted, there is a large loophole to these regulations: they only apply to commercial gun dealers. Guns exchanged and purchased between individual persons are not subject to these regulations, nor are single-shot, antique, or hunting rifles. Guns are yet another example of the Swiss government trusting its citizens. Forbes magazine ranked Switzerland as the Eighth happiest country in the world, due to the strength of its institutions and relationship between government and citizens. “I have to admit, I don't really know,” replies Graf, when asked why Switzerland is such a happy country. “Switzerland is wealthy and prosperous, health insurances and pension plans are very well organized and mandatory for Swiss citizens and anyone can influence the constitution or national policy by an initiative or a referendum.” C O N T I NSUUEMDMO ER N 2PAG 0 1 1 E 1141
Books Annapolism John Vining
those things like “seeing/watching, reading/talking, and eating/etiquette” that “create and maintain the self.” Leone sums up Deetz’s argument thus: “On the table’s surface, everything was modular, but behind the uniformity of shape and style was the conception that people were not modular at all, but uniquely individual. They should therefore have separate, hierarchically ordered private spaces. In this way, the individual became the building block of the society.” This is the crucial theoretical link for Leone, because this theorizing allows him to connect small, findable things like silver ware, flatware, and printer’s materials to the ideology of the time.
“you either see slavery, racism, sexism, poverty, and joblessness as exploitation, or you see America as the land of limitless opportunity,” writes University of Maryland Anthropology professor Mark P. Leone in his 2005 book, The Archaeology of Liberty in an American Capital: Excavations in Annapolis (California; $45), “I see more of the first than of the second, and I want to understand how it works, as well as how to change it.” Throughout his book, Leone writes WORK DISCUSSED of Annapolis through the lens of exploifor many readers, the largest probtation and pervasive ideology. Leone’s The Archeology of Liberty in lem with Leone’s book will be that it repurpose is to understand how the idelies on Althusser’s version of Marxism an American Capital ology of “possessive individualism” inwithout making a strong case for doing Mark Leone fected people of different classes in Anso. Further, one gets the sense that Lenapolis, and how some groups were able University of California Press one has chosen the path of Marxist arsIn order for Archaeology to serve this 320 pages chaeology—and he says clearly that it’s purpose, Leone must lean heavily upon a choice—because it could then have the work of a handful of philosophers some political power. In a passage that and anthropologists before him, chief among them French may be much more candid than Leone intended, he writes philosopher Michel Foucault, American anthropologist “My family had thought [archaeology] was a low-paying James Deetz, and French Marxist philosopher Louis Al- job of luxurious irrelevance.” To overcome this, Leone thusser. Leone writes that “Possessive individualism is was to begin working with “people who new they could thus what Marx—and I use Althusser as his definition de- use [archaeology] for cultural and political purposes and scendant—calls ideology.” who were immediately ready to make an alliance based James Deetz’s work on New England serves as a para- on knowing what archaeology could do.” Leone concludes digm for Leone’s work. Deetz chronicles the change in that it is “the job of historical archaeologists ... to undertable settings of New England homes and how they be- stand how some groups ameliorated capitalist practices, came increasingly segmented. It became more and more and then to explain both that fact, and the means by which common to have serving dishes and individual settings they did so, to those who are aware that they need an alterfor each person at the table, and to differentiate between native, but do not have one, so that they can do so too. Our courses. This separation is seen as both an effect of the job is to translate to our own needy peers, which has been increasing individualization of people, and as a way to the mail goal of anthropology since its founding.” “train” those people to consider themselves in the idea of Because the Marxist interpretation of society is assumed possessive individualism. This in turn relies on Foucault’s at the beginning, Leone’s archaeological work cannot be technologies of the self, which according to Leone include thought of as an argument for that Marxism. If the reader 12
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is convinced by the theories of Marx, Althusser, Foucault, and Deetz, Leone has done useful and convincing work in Annapolis. However, Archaeology of Liberty cannot be thought of as an argument for any of those assumptions since it assumes them very early on itself. This is a sign of the paradox that cannot be disentangled from Marxism. It appears in Leone’s book as well. Leone writes “Nowhere in this book have I chosen to see society as functional.” It is this sort of “choosing” and “seeing,” also clear in Leone’s false dichotomy of exploitation/opportunity, that brings the problem to the fore. Marxism never pretends that real communication can happen between Marxists and the non-Marxists, and so those who do not see a strong connection between silverware and hierarchy are left behind in Leone’s account. It can be no other way. For Leone, some “see through” and others do not, and, at times, it seems that rationality and reasoning are only things for individualist true-believers. A large portion of the argument in Archaeology of Liberty is focused on the African spirit traditions set against the common practice of rationalism and the scientific spirit. After mentioning that many in Annapolis own scientific instruments for their gardening, Leone writes “my argument here is that using such instruments indicated being absorbed into the ideology of possessive individualism, because people saw themselves as either learning or controlling some external element for their own possession. Part of my argument is also that all these instruments measure hierarchical order, and when people believed that that was what was happening, they reproduced it as well.” This argument is played out in different respects. Leone emphasizes the geometric character of the city plan, and of gardens in the city as well as pointing out that science was widely practiced. Leone finds advertisements for public classes about science, along with many advertisements for guides, almanacs and instruments. This constitutes the “training” of a person into being an individual. Like much of Leone’s argument, this inference relies for the most part on a weak association between order and possession; it relies, for example, on calling to learn “to possess a skill.” If we assume that it is worthwhile, we’re left with the question of what “alternatives” there to the capitalist/individualist ideology in Annapolis. leone finds an alternative in African spirit traditions, which, he writes, “provided a complete separate identity and tied people from Africa to one another.” He builds the case for African spirit traditions by looking at found spirit materials and comparing them to accounts of African spiritualism found in different oral histories. He finds in the end that “there are no possessive individualism, no measurement, no self-improvement, virtually no property, and no rights in the world of people using African
spirit traditions.” Annapolis has much to offer a project like Leone’s. Its “golden age,” according to Glenn Campbell, historian at the Historic Annapolis Foundation, culminated before the American revolution. Afterwards, the nation’s capital moved from Annapolis to Washington, D.C., and industrialization preferred the much better deep-water port of Baltimore. This period—called “Genteel Eclipse” by historian Walter B. Norris—had the lucky side-effect of preserving many of Annapolis’ buildings which, in another city, may have been destroyed. A full-strength preservation movement was able to secure those buildings when they were threatened again. “It started those couple years after World War II,” says Campbell, “a lot of cities nationwide were either going through urban renewal process, tearing down the old, building the new, stripping away the past—bright new modern future—and Annapolitans saw that there was a threat to a lot of architectural resources.” in 1952, the Historic Annapolis Foundation was founded as Historic Annapolis Inc. From then onwards, they begin buying buildings and preserving them, as well as arranging for other buildings to be saved, including the Charles Carroll Barrister House, which was moved to the campus of St. John’s College before it was going to be torn down. Because of efforts like these, Annapolis is particularly useful and interesting to a historian interested in all social classes. “Historic Annapolis was founded to put a stop to that wholesale destruction of historic architecture,” Campbell continues, “I think one of the things Mark [Leone] points out in the book is that where at the time, in the 1950’s and 60’s, it was it was a kind of unique approach because [there] was an emphasis on preserving the homes or business-places of those who weren’t at the highest level of society.“ The method adopted by Historic Annapolis, writes Leone, “gave great significance to vernacular buildings, those of no particular historical importance, worker housing, African American churches, the street pattern and its focus on vistas, and nineteenth and early twentieth-century domestic structures.” The current state of Annapolis makes a study like Leone’s possible. Annapolis’ particular history gives it two characteristics which are interesting to a writer like Leone, and likely interesting to many of those people who visit Annapolis. The first is that Annapolis never really had to be reconstructed like other historic towns, since most buildings could be purchased and preserved before they were going to be torn down. The second is that the buildings that are preserved in Annapolis come from throughout its history, and include the houses of people from the range of socio-economic levels. C O N T I N U ESDU M OM N ENRE 2 X0 T1 1PAG1 E 3
“There was a desire not to turn Annapolis into a colonial Williamsburg, where it was just the 18th century houses that were preserved or later buildings that were torn down so that reconstructions of 18th century buildings could be put up,” says Campbell. While Leone takes advantage of the preservation of Annapolis and the archaeological opportunities it affords him, the most convincing parts of his book are actually those that involve the least digging. Likely because it does not rely on tenuous connections like Foucault’s technologies of the self, and because it sets out to explain the action of certain people instead of whole societies, Leone’s arguments about the design of Annapolis are at once the most interesting and the most convincing. annapolis was designed with the two major circles: State Circle and Church Circle. Leone writes that “urban planning embodies a tension experienced as a desire for social control because the plan is based on the idea of citizens with sufficient individual freedom to recognize and respond to a summons by the monarch or the state... Annapolis is a place to see how individual liberty and central planning work together.” The circles were arranged such that looking down most of the main streets in Annapolis, someone walking on the street could see either the church, the State House, or a view of the water. “They created the illusions of power,” and State Circle, actually an egg, was meant to “create the illusion of harmony.” This argument is more convincing than others because it proposes an explanation for the work of a few people, those who designed Annapolis, instead of explaining the actions of the aggregate. Leone’s account of Annapolis seems at best like a possible account of the history of the city. Leone writes that the ideology of possessive individualism is so penetrating that people be14
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lieve it to be true, but does not make the analogous fundamental argument that class consciousness is a coherent, and more, correct idea. Annapolis is a town whose history is worth being investigated. Its particular history has left it well-preserved and waiting to be explored and learned from. And, as Leone and Campbell mention, its collection of vernacular buildings keeps a store of fascinating stories about the lives of common people, black and white, in Annapolis over the years. However, the account that Leone gives cannot be said to be complete, and neither can be his method. While it is imperative that historians study the lives of people in all classes, it seems that this can be done more fruitfully without the assumptions of Althusser, Foucault and Marx. !
THE GUNS OF SWITZERLAND one of the primary arguments against February’s referendum is that the Swiss government must continue to trust its citizens to use weapons responsibly. Similarly, Swiss citizens are trusted by their government to petition and call to a vote any piece of government legislation. There is a blend of democratic freedoms and strict civic duties, both of which in some way involve the ability to own a gun. Swiss men are raised with the expectation that they will serve their country. Graf talks about his experience growing up and joining the Swiss military: “I joined the Swiss armed forces on November 1, 2010. At that time, I was looking forward to military service, I expected it to be quite an exciting time. I thought I would learn a lot about camaraderie and about how
to cope with difficult situations. As I soon realized, that's not what military service is like. For six weeks, we went through basic combat training, learned how to use our weapons and studied the international law of war, we learned how to survive in a forest in the freezing cold and how to administer first aid and, last but not least, we learned how to clean our boots and how to service our guns properly. Yes, we really did learn quite a lot of things that, if war broke out in Switzerland, could suddenly become quite useful.” But war is probably not going to break out any time soon. “Most Swiss fathers tell their sons that they absolutely must serve in the army, that's where a boy becomes a man and where discipline and comradeship are taught. Nevertheless, the effects that armed service has on young adults is topic of much debate in Switzerland. Personally, I wouldn't expect an army officer to have better leading skills than any normal guy. Alright, in case of a sudden attack by some foreign army we would be prepared—but what's the price? Every young male has to serve for 21 weeks and there is an additional refresher course (3 weeks) every year until the age of 27. An economist once showed that this absence of three weeks per year has surprisingly bad effects on the national economy.” Graf explains that while he did go through military training, he ultimately chose to go down the alternative civil service path. “After 6 weeks of such training, I was told that I was to become an officer, which would have prolonged my service from 260 to 390 days—that's when I decided to do alternative (civil) service instead.” Graf is not a minority in choosing civil service over the military. “Every member of the Swiss army has the right to do civil service if he feels he can't serve in army, be it for political or religious reasons. When
they recently eased up the requirements a soldier had to meet to be allowed to do civil service, applications went up by about 300% immediately, although alternative service lasts for 400 days instead of just 260. I think this represents the attitude of most young Swiss men towards the Swiss army very well. Most are willing to work longer and earn less as long as they can see some purpose in what they are doing.” Switzerland is at a crossroads: how does a country justify compulsory military service when there is no military threat? At first glance, the issues of gun rights and mandated military service look like different problems —yet they both symbolize Swiss independence for nearly 800 years. While the world is certainly different, Switzerland has a profound heritage. There are no easy answers as to how the government will be able to navigate a new era where Switzerland, and the region that surrounds it, is at pea ce. !
LIGHT IN KATHMANDU basis, people manage to collect the drinking water for many days when they have electricity. However, sometimes the times for distribution of water and power outage clashes which forces people to use very sparsely. Shrestha says, “Most people buy water from their neighbours or have tanks and tanks of water delivered to their house at extra cost. What is the utility charge for?” He adds, “The visible utility taxes aren't that high, but the rate per usage is high enough.” When asked whether raising the annual utility taxes and charges to some extent
would be a possible solution, Sharma says, “Electricity taxes by themselves will not be the solution to the problem unless that money is used for what is collected. Corruption will again play a role here. And, to pay taxes to receive a commodity that the citizens already pay for would be redundant and more burdensome to the people.” It seems as if this problem is to stay for a while. When The Epoch asked Sharma whether the problem has been given enough attention or not, she replies, “The problem has been given enough attention, problem solving has not been part of the process. The functioning of the state structures has really been affected by interruptions in the peace process. These days the formulation of a new constitution has taken precedence over all other development related issues.” With the government forecasting the continuation of electricity cuts until 2015, how is Nepal going to confront this miserable situation? Finance Minister Adhikary recently unveiled the government's project to acknowledge the power crisis by generating 2,500 Megawatts of hydro-electricity, formation of a powerful three-member energy crisis control committee, setting up thermal plants and reducing power leakages by 20 percent in the next six months. Shrestha considers this to be a long term goal. Sharma says, “The government can explore other alternative sources of energy such as sun and wind with private companies who might be really helpful in these areas.” The water resources mostly belong to the state; thus, if the private companies are to be involved, their option will be solar and wind energy and private companies like 'Gham Power'—Gham is Nepalese for “Sun”—have already started working towards producing solar energy. “But, the start up cost
of using these sources are much more than other electric sources, people are more easily dissuaded from making it their primary source.” Importing electricity from India has also been seen as a possible option. In the past, Nepal used to export electricity to some parts of India. Although, it no longer has the ability to export electricity, it can still import some from India. Sharma says, “Yes it does, but this option has not been that successful either. There has to be some leakage or other discrepancies (related to corruption) that is affecting the production and distribution of electricity.” Shrestha says that it still imports electricity from India however, the import-export business with India has been somewhat strained due the Nepal Oil Cooperation not being able to pay its petroleum credits. Shrestha offers a possible solution —“Developing a mechanism to conserve rain water and bring it to the water reservoirs in the hydro-electric projects would really be a great option. Conserving rain-water seems to be the least expensive and most hopeful solution. We can also try to reduce our consumption of electricity, but we have been making use of the bare minimum to begin with. He is in favor of demolishing all the old existing projects and build new ones but is weary of the importance of huge amount of expensive and effective planning which is found to be wanting in the Nepali government. Dhungana says, “Stability in government will certainly help, but waiting is our only option.” Sharma says, “I cannot be sure about anything because it depends upon the planning of the government. But so far, I can speak with conviction when I say the government's role in solving the problem has been slack. It could do more to ease the brunt of this shortage.” !
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