Resembling the vehicle of a minister, a van (Ko 1 Jha 235) belonging to Morang-Sunsari Irrigation Project in Biratnagar has its upper half of the number plate painted in red and the other half in blue color. The vehicle is reserved for use when the so called VIPs visit the district.
With the national flag pinned in the front part of the vehicle, the vehicle is not used for any other purpose except for transporting VIPs. Although the irrigation project does not use the van for its own works, nonetheless, its maintenance costs and the driver’s wage is supported by the project.
The van driver, Dukharam Chaudhary, is always kept standby, ready to give ride to chief district officer, top political leaders, ministers, former prime ministers, and VIPs of other government departments. And the expensive white van is always escorted by a police van, with its deafening blaring sirens always on.
In eastern Nepal, ‘VIPs’ have travelled back and forth 139 times in the last three months alone. President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun, PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, UML Chairman KP Oli, Naya Shakti Coordinator Baburam Bhattarai, UML leader Jhala Nath Khanal and Madav Kumar Nepal are among the VIPs who frequently visit eastern Nepal.
The vehicle maintenance cost, food and accommodation for VIPs, high level of security service, among others add considerable cost to the state coffer. In the name of VIP facility and security, millions of rupees are being spent arbitrarily – the money which could have been used for the country’s development.
The movements of VIPs have especially put much strain to security forces of Jhapa and Morang. As both the districts have airport, VIPs visiting eastern Nepal use the routes of the district while the security forces of the districts have to mobilize their human resource for their security.
“We have to leave all the works behind and escort the VIPs. Whenever VIPs show up, we have no choice,” said a security officer in Morang, adding, “We have to leave no stone unturned for their security. If we make a slightest mistake, we face action.”
The District Police Office (DPO), Jhapa, has four vehicles and over a dozen motorbikes.
Although security personnel should be responsible for the security of VIPs, they have to use all of their resources at their disposal during such visits. “All the police personnel have to go after a single VIP to provide security. We won’t be able to fulfill other responsibilities when VIPs visit the district,” said the officer.
The general public considers the act as unnecessary drainage of the state coffer. “Not just one, they need all the police personnel for security in front and back of them. It is a waste of valuable time of hundreds of people,” said Sagar Pandit, a local student of sociology. “Therefore, everyone should take the issue very seriously.”