Ram Khatry & Bharat Raj Poudel
The global leadership of Non Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) is concerned about the sluggish performance of its National Coordination Committees, specially that of NCC Australia.
Speaking at a recent cultural event of the diaspora, the organisation’s global president Shesh Ghale expressed concern about the local chapter’s inability to drive new membership. The renown Australian businessman wants to see substantial increase in NRNA membership. However, despite over 50 thousand Nepalese expatriates that call downunder home, NCC Australia has so far attracted only six thousand (approximate). With nearly ten thousand members, on the other hand, NCC USA has made remarkable progress in recent years.
Why do so many Australian Nepalese choose not to take out NRNA membership? Sanjeev Pandey, who runs Mandala Consultancy off Sydney’s Pitt Street, has a well-argued answer. “There is a rising perception in the community that NRNA is for and of the rich and business-oriented folks only,” the young entrepreneur told southasia.com.au.
Whatever disproportionate number of members the organisation currently has, even those were mass-entered into the organisation at the eleventh hour leading up to elections, he suggested. And that process itself, the overnight head-hunting of potential members, is completely fraught with petty politics which is nothing but the main characteristic of the mainstream politics back home, he rued.
Mr Pandey is not an exception to hold the disenchanted view of the NRN movement. Many others southasia.com.au reached out to expressed similar views. A Sutherland Shire businessman in Sydney who has been in the country for over ten years said he has no recollection of ever applying for membership at his own volition. But he is a member of the organisation anyway. “An acquaintance who is involved in the NRNA business got me the membership,” he nonchalantly said as he served a regular customer of his business.
NRNA Australia, nonetheless, is well-organised with an impressive database with active email addresses of approximately 4,500 members. “But the correspondence reaches out to more than 4,500 because many families use the same email addresses between spouses,” Dila Kharel, treasurer of NRN Australia said in a telephonic conversation with southasia.com.au. This sort of well-maintained database is a strength not only for the Nepalese diaspora but also for Australia at large because it provides a quick medium of mass outreach in times of need (such as natural disaster).
Apart from the lack of a strong member base, NRN Australia’s performance in another area has been less than impressive. Mr Ghale, whose business empire includes the impressive Melbourne Institute of Technology (MIT), pointed out that NCC Australia is lagging behind in terms of garnering financial support for the post-disaster reconstruction activities in Nepal. The education tycoon is confident that his organisation has put together enough fund to launch the much-talked about construction of 1000 homes for the survivors of the April disaster as laid out in the 10-point declaration NRNA made in October. Speaking at the Brisbane event mentioned above, the millionaire remarked that the NRNA ICC has put together an impressive fund at the global (central) level but NCCs including Australia have failed to perform up to to the mark.
The ICC alone has so far raised approximately Rs 280 million as a result of its worldwide fund-raising campaign. Additionally, approximately Rs 30 million was collected during October’s global conference.
NRN-watchers argue that an organization that can pull together Rs 30 million in a single programme is not just another social organisation – it is a true force to reckon with.
In response to a query on Mr Ghale’s remarks, NCC Australia’s president Surendra Sigdel defended the performance of his chapter. The somewhat lacklustre performance is because the Australian leadership has been preoccupied with the after-effects of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake and then lately the blockade, he said. He further added that his team is now back in business with 26 different projects that will be run in Australia in participation of the community.
It is worth-mentioning that Government of Nepal and NRNA signed an agreement on October 11 to build 1000 homes in five different earthquake-affected districts, a project the organisation is going to use the above-mentioned funds for.
Given its global outreach and status, NRNA has also been able to sign MoUs with certain international organisations including UNESCO which has particular interest in the several world heritage sites Nepal boasts of.
In the meantime, veterans of the NRNA movement are calling for a change in the way the state branches are managed. They say it is important to provide more independence to the State Coordination Committees so that they can design local programmes to attract new members as well as gain access to various support programmes made available by state governments.
NRN ICC is in the process of amending the membership caps from existing representative modality so that more country representatives can participate in the future global conferences.
NRN Oceania’s Regional Coordinator Mahendra Lamsal said once the policies are formulated by the ICC, they will be implemented by the NCCs through various regional committees.
Responding to the ongoing Indian blockade on Nepal and the ensuing shortage of life-saving medical supplies, NRN Australia is currently in the process of dispatching a massive shipment of medicines. Numerous media reports from Kathmandu tell a harrowing story about the condition of Nepalese hospitals. The blockade is not only creating shortage of fuel and cooking gas but it is also resulting in deaths of patients as they are unable to reach hospitals on time. According to NRN Victoria’s coordinator Keshab Kandel, the organisation is spending around A$ 6,000 on freight charges alone (to send the medical supplies).
Mr Ghale believes that one cannot forget the fact that the expatriate community is tired of making financial contributions due to too many fundraising events all too frequently. Therefore, the MIT CEO said, the NCC Australia as well as other NCCs need to come up with novel ways to inspire the diaspora to pitch in for the massive reconstruction needs of the future.
Speaking at the Queensland cultural programme, he expressed that the NRNA will work closely with other stakeholders to formulate dozens of laws and bylaws in regard to dual citizenship.