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Civic Education for the Young Generation

Organised by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)

Bhiman, 22 November 2008

Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies chose Bhiman for another of its one-day seminar on Civic Education for the Young Generation. The small roadside village boasts of 10+2 classes that teach the Civic Education subject, the clinching factor while choosing a place to hold the function. This series of seminars has taken the NEFAS team to different parts of the country where the subject is being taught or that are contemplating doing so. The small settlement can be said to be in transition as there is every possibility that it will grow exponentially in the near future because of the Bardibas-Banepa Highway that will soon be complete. Once that happens, it is not just the urban infrastructure that will see a boom in this part of the country but will also see a corresponding growth in the number of schools that will need to be opened to cater to the boom.

The seminar, an outcome of cooperation between NEFAS and the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation, is one of the backbones of current NEFAS activities. The Bhiman function was chaired by Ramesh Devkota, chairman of the Janjagriti Campus Management Committee. NEFAS Executive Director Ananda Srestha introduced his organization to the participants and explained the objective of holding the seminar there-i.e. to collect feedback on the papers being presented so that they can be included in the publication being planned by NEFAS on the subject of civic education. Shivaraj Dahal's paper came next where he explains the negative spiral that the country is heading into because of absence of public responsibility of public figures and organizations. He said that this was due to lack of civic education. He prescribes, in his paper, education for the young about civics as it is this generation that will be at the helm of affairs in the future. Another paper was presented by Vedraj Acharya, a political scientist, who explained the essentials of a democratic system. His presentation was based on a FES publication called 'Handbook on Democracy' where the elements of a democracy and the mechanics of the system are laid down.

During the floor discussions commentators were keen to share their own experiences regarding the malfunctioning of democracy in the country and the reasons that they thought were responsible. Several of them wanted to know about other political systems, not just the democratic system, while others were more interested in the terminologies used in Nepal by various political groups today to denote democracy. Most picked up on the massive brain and muscle drain taking place in the country with the younger generation running away to other lands for lack of opportunities at home. Still others picked up on the border encroachments taking place on the Nepal-India border, while others were stressing the need to educate the political leadership rather than the people about civics and being accountable to the people. The lively discussions came to an end with Vedraj Regmi issuing the vote of thanks.

Excerpts of the proceedings

Chair: Ramesh Devkota, Janajagriti Campus chaiirman of mgmt. committeee

Ananda Srestha's welcome

We have been organizing seminars and publishing the outcomes ever since the early 90s. Our publications are being widely used not just in the country but elsewhere in other parts of the world as well. Our focus is to take these functions outside Kathmandu and it is in this course that we are here. This topic, Civic Education for the Young Generation, came into being over a decade ago and we have been pursuing it ever since. We have held these functions in different parts of the country and collecting feedback to enrich the working paper which will ultimately be published for use of students and others. Please contribute with your comments and help up us make the paper more complete.

Shivaraj Dahal's presentation.

We have been organizing this programme in different districts and this is the first time we have reached the ilaka level. NEFAS has been organizing programmes and discussions on democratization and similar issues. We have lately been holding discussions on the different dimensions of conflict and its management. Our objective is to contribute to strengthening loktantra, to contribute through teaching materials for students and also to initiate debates on how one can acquire one's rights. We want to promote goodwill and cooperation among political forces to make them abandon militancy and begin working on common grounds on national issues.

Dr Bedraj Acharya on the Handbook on Democracy

The future lies in the hands of the younger generation. I want to stress two points that Shivraj raised. First, the educated and technical youth manpower harbours the idea of leaving Nepal for greener pastures elsewhere as the first priority. This is how we are losing 1,000-1,500 people everyday through the Tribhuvan International Airport. 15,000-20,000 people are working in the Gulf region. The Department of Labour officials say that that the houses that the younger generation builds in Kathmandu from the remittance they earn, are a misguided pointer to their earnings. This is false they say. They do not earn enough to do so. What is actually happening is that they are building the houses from the proceeds of the property they sell back in their villages.

Secondly, the about 20,000 youths that we lost during the conflict years does not appear to have paid off very well. Today, we see about 500-700 families displaced from Janakpur area to the Bardibas area. This was not what we wanted from the political change. We are witnessing a trend where we are enjoying sadistic pleasures from hurting others. This is not what we wanted from change. Has our goal been achieved from the loktantrik republic that we have today? Obviously not. Extortion and intimidation is still continuing in the mountains and in the plains.

The political leadership must have vision for the longer term. If we do not have a proper goal and the means to see it through, even the achievements we have made so far will not last long. The younger generation must focus on this aspect. Otherwise, we will perpetually witness agitations and struggles. The long term loser will be the nation, even though some may see prospects in conflicts. The younger generation should remain alert otherwise they will have to pay dearly. Even today, the about two billion rupees that they send home from abroad as remittance is said to be keeping the economy on track. And this is how they have been made to pay for not being able to work for the nation during earlier days.

Political culture must be developed to suit our collective needs. Tolerance and cooperation should be the culture that we should be promoting. Otherwise, we will have a culture of conflict.

Corruption cannot stand in front of the rule of law. Rule of law will help end impunity. There must be division of powers among the different branches if government. Local governments should be oriented towards popular participation. We are talking about federal rule but we need to devise a structure for that to take place. Still, what we cannot deny is the fact then local government in essence must be responsive to popular needs through their participation, whether we have one kind or the other kind of federal rule is a secondary matter.

Employment opportunities can keep or retain natural and human resources in their original localities and stop them from migrating or being exported elsewhere. Periodical elections are also a fundamental aspect of democracy. Political parties must be able to motivate people towards being oriented towards awareness and development, unlike trying to convert them to their own ideology. Finally, conflicts should find a place of resolution through dialogue.


Pusker Baral: You say that Nepal is a loktantrik republic. The largest party that is leading the government is still reviewing the terminology. I think it is not wise to use the term.

Why should the media highlight political personalities ignoring scientific and other minds?

What is the difference between democratic republic and loktantrik republic?

There is constitutionally discriminated [positively] quota for different groups. For how long should the state provide such privileges?

Will the centre and federations witness conflicts or not? We see such differences in other countries over the share of natural resources. How should the state address such issues?

Dhruba Koirala: Travel is not predictable today because of closures. I do not see the rule of law being addressed.

Secondly, in a globalized economy, remittances are common. Cannot one earn from wherever one pleases in the context of globalization?

Ram Krishna Mandal:The handbook does not talk about other tantras, apart from loktantra. What about other tantras.

Narayan Ghimire: Shivaraj Dahal said that we have brain drain and abuse of the young manpower. We know that the youth are not utilized properly. But the paper does not give us any alternatives. Will just mentioning it stop the brain drain?

Yuvraj Neupane: You talked of people migrating from the plains. We do not have such problems on this side of the Chure Hills. I do not see people promoting discipline and tolerance among the communities. You should organize more such discussions in different parts of the country to make people aware of the need to promote tolerance and cooperation.

You should also motivate the youth by guaranteeing employment, otherwise, if they do not have opportunities, they will go abroad to address their hand to mouth issues, otherwise not.

Vedraj Regmi: Dhruba Koirala raised the issue of brain drain. If the brain drain occurs to push the nation forward or to glorify it, then it is a positive thing. There are also brainy people who have cursed their homeland after they have resettled elsewhere. Talking about the Nepalese in the Gulf is not a positive thing for Nepal although it is in the purview of the globalization process. We are at the receiving end of it. If we can use the manpower for production and export it, like use of hydropower, we would be benefiting from globalization.

Pusker Baral: You mean to say that if you benefit, you promote golobalization, and if not you do not approve. This is not fair.

Vedraj Regmi: Look we await the corpses of the boys at the airport after we have sent them abroad. The government should be able to provide opportunities.

Ram Prasad Baral: Political parties talk about change in the education system. But that is just slogan. What kind of model do we need so that the youth can be retained at home?

Shivaraj Dahal: Nepal's interim constitution clearly talks about the loktantrik republic. That is why we must accept it? Baralji hinted about what the Maoist party believes in. It is their ideology and I do not have to promote theirs or any party's ideology.

We cannot include all areas in our schedule of function venues. Last time, we came to Sindhuli, but not here. This time we are here. So please convey our message as well. This is why I focus on the media aspect.

I just wanted to touch upon federal rule. Not that I have a model to prescribe. But one must accept what others talk about. But we should not forget our history of unification. Forgetting the past is not acceptable.

The workers who have gone abroad for work must be represented in the constitution. Those living abroad and enjoying privileges in other countries have access to decision making here. But not these workers working as labourers. The remote areas must be represented and the voices of those people as well. We see a lot of splittist tendencies that must be stopped. We see the Tarai demands being raised, but these people do not even raise the issue of border encroachment. All these issues must be looked into before devising a federal for of rule.

Bimalji talked about good governance and rule of law. I have talked about that in the paper quite extensively. I understand that travelling is uncertain today. We must overcome these tendencies.

Regarding reservation, this is a very complicated issue as the social mix is a complex one. Those outside the state mainstream should be given a helping hand, but this should not be taken as a long-term remedy, only a stop-gap measure.

The different terminologies that are used to cover the meaning of democracy is done to suit the needs of the parties.

Brain drain began during the Rana years by sending hundreds of thousands during the world wars. Later on, the ruling classes saw benefit in continuing it. The rising conflicts in the society also worked as a push factor for the youth, the lack of employment opportunities and the displacement of traditional technologies. One reason is the trend among some qualified persons taking over the jobs of a couple more like himself. This also displaces the manpower that was supposed to cover that slot. Similarly, politicians began promoting export of manpower through various means. Even the thinking class does not act honestly by providing sincere advice to the political leadership. They would rather be servile to them. This too helps in the creation of brain drain.

Yuvrajji talks about the gulf between the plains and the mountains. Religion was one factor binding the two and this was broken. This could lead the nation to destruction.

For predictability in travel and the like, political stability is a must. If this does not happen, then there will always be strikes and shutdowns.

For employment opportunities, we must shut down the border and shield it from negative influences by enforcing the work permit and rejuvenate the economy through hydel project construction.

Nirmal Baral: You talked of border encroachment in over 60 places, but the foreign minister has said that it is not so except in Susta and Kalapani. He also said that we do not have a map of our own border.

Shivaraj Dahal: That guy is a Madhesi. We do have border experts saying quite the contrary and they have printed maps. The British too have it. We have not been able to raise our voice to press him to retract what he said. But we are in a transition and we are not able to do so also because of lack of awareness. He is showing communal tendencies when he says it.

Chudamani Baral: Parties talk about handing over everything to the people in the loktantra. Are they trying to hoodwink us or are they serious? Again would that be good for the people?

Shivaraj Dahal: Look we should be aware and monitor what they are doing and demand accountability.

Surya Prasad: Cannot NEFAS and others open up training centres in various parts to provide employment to local youths.

Shivaraj Dahal: NEFAS is an academic organization and teachers gather and come out to organize discussions. They publish them to sustain their organization. Regarding influence on the policymakers, our publications have done so.

Dilliram Dahal: Why do people change their attitude once they reach a position of power? Why do not people bring about parity between the means and their promises?

Shivaraj: Loktantra can go away but we can bring it back again as we have already proved it. But if the nation goes, it cannot be brought back. This is what I finally wanted to say.

Bhuwan Baral: We are not quite clear about democracy, new democracy and people's republic. I would have liked clarification.

Shivaraj: Look, democracy is the key here. Other terms are creations of individual political parties.

Yognath Baral: If the leaders do not know what qualities they should have how did they become leaders.

Shivaraj: That is why I am stressing the need for the youth to understand the stakes, so that their leadership in future is better. We can learn a lot from religion, history and our geography.

Chair: This discussion was brought to the ilaka level here for the first time and I am grateful for that. The civic qualities that the presenters described was an eye opener for us. I felt that the Q and A session drifted towards blaming the political parties for all ills. It would have been better to talk less of political parties while raising awareness to people. Thank you for participating.

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