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Seminar Report on Democratic Socialism in Nepal's context

Organised by Martyrs' Memorial Foundation (MMF)

10-11 August, Birgunj

Report translated by Chandra D. Bhatta

Inaugural Session

With the help of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Marty's Memorial Foundation (MMF) has organised a two-day seminar in Birgunj, Parsa on democratic socialism in Nepali context. Bimalendra Nidhi, General Secretary of Nepali Congress inaugurated the programme and thanked organisers for choosing Birgunj as the venue. He said that this is special for Nepali Congress as Nepali Congress has first expressed commitments towards principles of democratic socialism from the Birgunj General Assembly in B.S. 2012. Dhundi Raj Shastri said that he raised the need of democratic socialism some 12/13 years ago to resolve social/political/economic contradictions of Nepali society but he was unheard that time. Man Mohan Bhattarai - Central Committee Member of Nepali Congress, Dev Raj Dahal - Head of FES Nepal Office, CA member Ajaya Dwivedi and Om Prakash Sharma, Khilanath Dahal - General Secretary of MMF, Nepali Congress Bara District President- Mr Radhe Chandra Yadav and Mr Keshab Bhattarai - former president of Nepal Teachers Union spoke in the inaugural session. Likewise, vice president of Nepali Congress Bara District Dina Nath Gupta and president of Nepal Sadbhavana party Bara District Nizamuddin Samani spoke about the importance of democratic socialism in Nepali context. Dhundi Raj Shastri chaired the inaugural session while Ram Naryayan Kurmi gave inaugural speech. The seminar was attended by 400 people.

First Session

Constitutional expert Kashi Raj Dahal presented a paper on constitution writing process and political issues attached with it wherein he emphasised that constitution should have basis to:

  • Strengthen national sovereignty and territorial integrity
  • Foundation to strengthen democratic republic
  • Guarantee of democracy, pluralism, political participation based on competitive political system
  • Creation of an egalitarian society based on social justice
  • Federalism that can guarantee national unity
  • Inclusive state that guarantees rights of marginalised groups in governance
  • Economy with proper mechanism to address poverty

Rajendra Mahato, Dilip Raj Karki, Birendra Prasad Yadav, Baikuntha Srivastava, Muntu Moharam, Rakesh Yadav, Khusbu Srivastava and Krian Sarakar from the floor commented on his paper. The session was chaired by General Secretary of Nepal Sadhavana Party (Samyukta) Surendra Prasad Kurmi.

Second Session

Dinesh Tipathy presented a paper on State-Restructuring and Constitutional Management of Federalism. Mr. Tripathy explained various issues attached with federalism and state-restructuring. He spoke about the importance of federalism, basis of state-restructuring, constitutional management of federalism, distribution of power and the basis of federalism and fiscal federalism. He said that the success or failure of federalism depends as to what extent it guarantees democracy, fundamental human rights and promotes independent and efficient judiciary. Dr. Shree Krsihna Yadav commented on Mr. Tripahty's paper and said that paper is short, unorganised, do not explicitly explain the model of federalism and fails to raise the issues of minorities. Dr. Yadav said that alternative electoral mechanism and religion also plays vital role in politics, on which paper does not speak at all.

Advocate Birendra Yadav, another commentator, said that paper has failed to provide mechanism to resolve dispute between the federal states. In fact an independent mechanism (unit) should be developed to address such issues between the federal states. He further said that judiciary should be two-layered - federal and central and reconciliation centre should be established at the local level. There should be constitutional provision on the dissolution or creation of federal states. Mr Tripathry addressed the questions raised in the seminar. The seminar was chaired by Mr Rajesh Pandey - Vice President of Nepal Teachers Association.

Second Day - First Session (Makalu Hotel)

Dr. Narayan Narsingh Khatri presented a paper on economy and said that today industrialists, businessmen, politicians and civil servants are rich, national income has gone up but "people" at large are very poor with majority having no access to education and health services. Still basic things like food, shelter and cloths are out of their rich and majority of them have no access to political power. Economy has gone into the hands of market fundamentalists and Nepali state has not been able to strike a balance. As a result majority of the people are living deplorable life. Our programes have failed to address issues related to "poverty". Governments are changing frequently but our political culture is same feudal undemocratic. Political parties are necessary evils therefore we have to remove their negative sides and move positive elements forward.

Commenting on his paper Mr Keshab Bhattari said that we have to differentiate between human being and animal. The fundamental difference is that human being can dream but not the animal and dreams can be materialised into reality through vision. Many countries have done that like Singapore, Finland and USA through their effort on education and alike. For this what we really need is "statesman" not mere 'political leaders" who are always after power. People need good education which can inculcate skills and culture. We need to develop the provision of health insurance and make free health said Mr Bhattari. State should control prices of different commodities. State should also invest on human resource development and in order to make a true democratic and prosperous state.

Dr. Shree Krishna Yadav, Chandra Kishore Jha, Birendra Prasad Yadav, Police Yadav, Tara Thapa, Rakesh Yadav, Muntu Moharam, Raju Shrestha, Lal Chanda Mahato, Kiran Sarkar, Nagendra Prasad Tharu, Dhruba Ray and Bhikari Prasad Kalwar commented on Dr. Kahtri's paper from the floor. Mr Tej Narayan Shah presided the session.

Mr Manmohan Bhattarai - Central Committee Member of Nepali Congress presented a paper on Democratic Socialism in Nepali Context. Mr Bhattarai said that globalisation backed up by open market and liberalisation polices of the 1990s have brought enormous changes into the social life of people But in the midst of current financial crisis "states" are forced to rethink/adopt polices that can balance both market and state. Democratic socialism will help us to move ahead in today's context argued Mr Bhattari. Socialism is older the Marxism. Countries like Nepal have moved towards digital age from agriculture without having experienced industrial age primarily because of globalisation but we have failed to increase our competitiveness to sustain with the pace of globalisation. As a result we are experiencing problems like democratic deficit, economy backwardness and alike.

Journalist Chandra Kishore Jha commented on Mr Bhattrai's paper and expressed his resentment that Nepali politics is moving towards populist approach despite that fact that society as a whole has moved towards "mainstream'. He emphasised that we should focus on production, which is on the decline for the last couple of years, as it will make villages stronger and capable. With changes in the modes of production, the economy and labour both have changed. Those who could modify with the pace of time have survived and those who have failed to do so are losing out. Rajesh Pandey, Bhikhari Prasad Kalwar, Ram Narayan Prasad Kurmi, Babunanda Chaurasiya from the floor commented on Mr Bhattarai's paper.

Responding to the floor Mr Bhattarai said that the reason behind our backwardness is primarily based on the fact that most of our Public Sector Enterprises, except Telecom, are in loss and there have been frequent strikes even in the essential services. If we wanted to move ahead, we have to promote private sector but we should also bear in mind that "private sector" should also think about welfare of the people - it should realises the notion of Corporate Social Responsibility - only we can prosper together.

Mr Khilanath Dahal - President of MMF spoke about the need of democratic socialism and said that our economic policies should be guided by this notion then only we can bridge the gap between poor and reach and uplift people out of poverty. The programme was attended by 196 participants.

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