Watchdogs of Achham

NOV 29 - She runs a comb through her white hair while humming along with the tune playing on her old Chinese radio set. This set is one of Sarita Pariyar Damai’s most prized possessions. “It is the only source of information when you’re illiterate like me,” says the 68-year-old from Jalpadevi, Achham. In fact, it was through this very medium that Damai learnt about the social security entitlements provided by the Nepal government to the elderly. “As soon as I heard that, I called my grandson and went straight to the VDC office to make inquiries,” she says. “All thanks to Mr Budget.”

‘Mr Budget’ is the nickname given to 24-year-old radio producer Kamal Rawal, who hosts the popular weekly show Budget Hamro Sarokar. The programme is designed to impart budget education to listeners by delving into the various plans and policies to do with the local budget, mostly via interviews with VDC policymakers. Rawal’s fierce, yet diplomatic style of questioning has incited discussions on irregularities witnessed in budget expenditure, and matters of corruption and lack of transparency in budget distribution. “My report on the irregularity of budget spending and the hint that political parties were involved in the questionable distribution of social security entitlements caused quite the uproar,” the young producer says. “However, the VDC official who was later interviewed on this matter actually thanked us for raising the issue, and promised that he would look into the matter.” In this way, the radio show not only aims to educate citizens of their duty to familiarise themselves with local budget and policies, but also to make various power holders accountable.

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