Nepal's anti-corruption authority has come up with a novel solution to rampant bribe-taking at the country's only international airport - the pocketless trouser. The authority said it was issuing the new, bribe-proof garment to all airport officials after uncovering widespread corruption at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport.
“We sent a team to observe the growing complaints about the behaviour of airport authorities and workers towards travellers and we discovered that the reports were true,” said Ishwori Prasad Paudyal, spokesman for the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). “So we decided that airport officials should be given trousers with no pockets. We have directed the ministry of civil aviation to implement our order as soon as possible,” he told AFP. “We believe this will help curb the irregularities.”
Paudyal said CIAA investigators had observed theft as well as bribe-taking by airport officials, who would lose their jobs if the situation did not improve. His comments came a day after Nepal's new Prime Minister Madhav Mumar Nepal expressed fears that corruption was tarnishing the airport's reputation. Nepal's tourism industry employs around 300,000 people in one of the world's poorest countries. The landlocked Himalayan nation attracted a record 550,000 foreign visitors in 2008, two years after a peace deal that ended the decade-long Maoist insurgency.
It has set an ambitious goal of attracting one million tourists a year by 2011. Indians are losing millions due to currency ban in Nepal. Delhi-bound Anil Kumar Sharma had a traumatic experience in Nepal during his recent visit. The 40-year-old was stopped from boarding his flight at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport June 30 and instead interrogated by Nepal's Revenue Investigation Department (RID). His 'crime': he was carrying 140 thousand-rupee notes in Indian currency, that along with 500-rupee notes, are banned outside India.
Though Sharma was eventually allowed to depart, RID has initiated a case against him for violating currency laws. He might have to return to Nepal to pay a fine or worse, face a prison sentence. Besides the stress, and the eventual legal expense he might have to bear, Sharma had to also leave behind the banned notes in Nepal. All the genuine Indian currency notes of the denomination Rs 1000 and Rs 500, once they are confiscated from travellers, are sent to Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), Nepal's central bank.
"We have more than Rs 300-400 million worth of such Indian notes," says Trilochan Pagini, NRB spokesman. "However, the money is gathering dust here since it can't be put to any use." NRB has several times asked India's apex bank, the Reserve Bank of India, to either accept the money or allow it to keep it in its RBI account in Kolkata. However, the Indian authorities have turned down both proposals. "It is the currency act of India, not Nepal, that bans the circulation of Indian 1000 and 500-rupee notes outside India," says Pagini.
"So once these notes are found outside, they become contraband money." While the Indian government made the law to crack down on fake Indian currency rackets and funding of terror activities, it is affecting bona fide tourists, students and businessmen. "Thousands of Nepalis live and work in India," Pagini says. "While returning to Nepal, they have a problem carrying hard cash. They have to carry only Indian currency of the denomination Rs 100 or less, which proves cumbersome."
This month, the Federation of Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industries petitioned NRB, asking it to lift the ban on the Indian notes. "We had to explain that it is not in our hands," Pagini said. "Unless India amends its own act, the ban will be on in Nepal and other countries as well." Last month, when NRB Governor Dipendra Chhetri and RBI Governor D Subbarao met in Colombo at the Asian Clearing Union meeting, Nepal renewed its request to India to amend its currency act. The request had been made last year as well when the then Nepali prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda made his first official visit to New Delhi.
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,