Memo to all Nepali civil servants: when junior minister Karina Begum arrives in town, send the smartest, swankiest government car to pick her up. Or else expect to get slapped.
Bureaucrats in the Himalayan nation have been infuriated by an incident in which the agriculture minister repeatedly slapped a senior civil servant after she disapproved of the official vehicle that had been sent to collect her. When official Durga Bhandari sought to explain and apologise, Mrs Begum slapped him again – this time breaking his glasses. Last night, local government offices in the Terai district were closed by striking officials. Protesters also gathered outside Mrs Begum's offices in the capital Kathmandu, demanding her resignation.
The minister, however, was unrepentant. "Yes, I slapped the chief district administrator as he ignored my telephone calls and failed to provide a luxury vehicle for my tour," she told journalists. "Who is senior – minister or chief district officer?"
The incident took place on Tuesday when Mrs Begum was visiting the southern Nepali district. Hundreds of armed police had been put on duty amid anticipation of demonstrations by Maoists who had called for a blockade of two towns. Instead, the only violence came when Mrs Begum attacked Mr Bhandari for sending what she described as an "old car" to collect her rather than the new Mahindra Scorpio SUV that she had been expecting.
Civil servants' associations have complained to the Home Office, demanding tough action against Mrs Begum. Meanwhile, Mr Bhandari can scarcely believe the indignity that befell him. "She attacked me without even hearing my explanation. I could not get a word out," he told the Kathmandu Post. "She even broke my spectacles."