KATHMANDU, DEC 18 - A ‘genius’, a ‘man with magical skills’ and the ‘Kuber’ (god of wealth) in the Army, Maj Gen Naresh Bahadur Basnyat, whom the current Nepal Army leadership wants to promote to the rank of a lieutenant general by breaching the Army Act, has a reputation of maintaining close ties with successive army chiefs.
The head of the NA’s General Directorate for Development and Construction is said to have impressed recent military leaders, including the previous Army chief Gen Chhatra Man Singh Gurung who retired last September. The new Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Gen Gaurav SJB Rana has recommended the government create a post of lieutenant general to promote Basnyat before his retirement on December 30.
The in-law to the former military secretary of the royal palace, Rishi Kumar Pande, joined the Nepal Army as second lieutenant in September 1982. His career took a flight due to the backing of the palace initially. However, it gained further momentum with the creation of an additional military department for him.
A directorate led by a brigadier general was set up to oversee construction and engineering projects to ensure his promotion during the tenure of Gen Pyar Jung Thapa. General Rookmangud Katawal upgraded the directorate to a General Directorate and appointed Basnyat as major general in December 2007. Many officers in the Nepal Army are awestruck by the rapid progress Basyant has made and his ability to charm the high officials.
“He has magical skills and all the three—chief of Army staff, defence minister and the prime minister—have consistently supported in his endeavour to climb up the ladder,” a senior military source says.
Basnyat is known as Kuber (a mythological god of wealth) in the institution. Apart from the defence budget, his wing has at its disposal funds worth millions of rupees every year from the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works, the Home Ministry and the Army’s Welfare Fund for the construction of various infrastructure.
From within the army circle, he has also been rumoured to have helped defence ministers of the post-2008 governments by providing raw materials required for the construction of their personal buildings.
According to Defence Ministry sources, Basnyat funded the interior design of the office of the Defence Minister in Singha Durbar under instructions from the Army leadership in 2009-10. “The fund was collected from the Directorate for Development and Construction,” the source said.
The Ministry of Physical Planning and Works has allocated approximately Rs 500 million for the General Directorate for the construction of the Dolpa-Jajarkot road, Chame-Besishahar road, Nagma-Gamgadi road and the Kathmandu Tarai fast track project. Last year, the budget for those constructions were Rs 600 million and sources claim he redirects some of the funds out of it.
Last year, Basnyat came under the scanner of the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee for his alleged misappropriation of the budget for the Fast Track construction. However, the panel gave him a clean chit.
The General Directorate hands out petty contracts for road construction in districts, which are often awarded to the parties with strong political lobbying. “He is a genius, who can execute his responsibilities brilliantly and please the bosses. He should be moved to organisations like the National Planning Commission,” commented a retired major general, sarcastically.
Last year, former army chief Gen Gurung court-martialed at least 10 officers of the General Directorate for Construction and Development Works for lobbying against Basnyat’s term extension. A dozen officials headed by Basnyat’s deputy Brig Gen Kiran Bajracharya had complained to the then Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and Defence Minister Bidhya Bhandari against the manner Basnyat worked and his misconduct.
Former Chairman of the Parliamentary State Affairs Committee Ramnath Dhakal said new posts in the Army should be created only after formulating a policy of democratisation of the NA and a national security policy. “It would set a wrong precedent if additional posts are created just to promote individuals,” he said, referring to the committee’s decision in May. The committee had rejected a proposal for restructuring in the Army forwarded by Gen Gurung, stressing that it should be decided along with the National Security Policy and a democratisation plan. “The government is trying to woo the Army to prolong its stay,” he said.
If promoted, Basnyat will be the senior-most lieutenant general after the retirement of lieutenant generals Nepal Bhusan Chand and Netra Bahadur Thapa. Lt Gen Chand will retire on January 20, 2014 if he gets an extension in July, while Lt Gen Thapa retires in November next year.
Current Director General of Military Operations Maj Gen Pawan Bahadur Pande and Master of General Ordinance Pradip Bikram Rana will get a promotion after those retirements. “It will be ridiculous if an officer of a technical trade gets the second-in-command of the institution and executes responsibilities of the acting army chief when the CoAS leaves on a foreign visit,” commented the official.
Posted on: 2012-12-19 08:27