Committed to Social Democracy...
FES in Nepal
FES Worldwide
Media Development
Trade Union Development
Regional Cooperation
Conflict Resolution
Good Governance
Past Activities
FES in the Press
Annual Reports
Seminar/Workshop Reports
List of FES Publications
Book Reviews
FES Publications in University Curricula

Civic Education: The Role of the Youth in the Making of a Modern State

Organised by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)

14 November 2009

Melamchi, Sindhupalchowk


Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS) in co-operation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) organized a one day seminar on "Civic Education: The Role of the Youth in the Making of a Modern State" at Melamchi, Sindhupalchowk district. Participants belonging to different fields of life participated in the seminar. The youths were well represented. Young social scientist Shiva Raj Dahal presented a paper titled 'Civic Education for the Youth' and Professor of political science Mr. Ram Kumar Dahal shed further light on various aspects of civic education and on the fundamental principles of democracy. He also dwelt on what needs to be done to institutionalize democracy. Mr. Chandra Dev Bhatta of FES spoke about economic development and democracy. The discussion that followed was instructive and gave an inkling of the evolving public opinion at the grass-roots level. The participants were also provided with the booklet 'Handouts on Democracy'.

Paper presented by Mr. Shiva Raj Dahal.

Shiva Raj Dahal: 'Civic Education: The Role of the Youth in the Building of a Modern State.' (An outline of the paper presented).

  1. Meaning of civic education-Civic education is teachings concerned with self-governance. In addition to promoting constitutionalism and good governance it helps create a public consensus concerning the drafting of the new constitution.
  2. The importance of civic education in the present context-As per the directive of the people's movement of 2062/063 a constituent assembly to draft the new constitution has been formed. This period is a transitional one. It is necessary to ensure the widest possible participation of the citizens and to move forward by collecting suggestions and soliciting advice from them. But due to the unhealthy competition among the parties for power the spirit of co-operation necessary to implement the comprehensive peace agreement is being disturbed. As a consequence, the suspicion that nationalism might be endangered due to dependency created by foreign meddling is being aroused.
  3. The state, nationalism and civic education-Only when the citizens are ready to contribute through whatever means for the sake of the motherland, will the state be able to take a leap forward in the structural development. We are the sovereign citizens of an independent and sovereign country. That is why in order to promote the feelings of patriotism among us it is necessary to have civic knowledge, civic skills and civic virtue. This will help safeguard the pluralistic society and promote nationalism.
  4. Loktantra and civic education- Loktantra and civic education have a solid relationship. Loktantra is a system that relies on consensus and co-operation for its functioning and its permanence depends on the behavior, rationality, co-operation and culture of individuals. Since loktantra is a system based on facts it has acquired legitimacy at the international level.
    What is the meaning of loktantra? According to Abraham Lincoln democracy is the government of the people, for the people and by the people. Democracy acquires two forms-direct and representative. In the representative form of democracy the ordinary people and the state do not directly participate in governance and in formulation of policies and laws but entrust the entire responsibility for this to the people's representative elected in a free and fair election.
    Why democracy? (a) Democracy besides being a political system has become a way of life of the citizens. (b) Democracy establishes equality. (c) Democracy protects plurality. (d) Democracy is an established system in which political decisions reached on the basis of the participation of the people. (e) Democracy ensures the legitimacy of governance process. (f) The democratic system ensures the right of the citizen to enjoy the fundamental rights and adheres to the directive principles provided by the country's constitution.
  5. The qualities citizens must possess in a democratic system-
    (a) Civic Knowledge- Since the governing power is vested in the sovereign people of Nepal, it is essential that the Nepalese people have knowledge about civic education. After the peoples movement of 2046 and 2063 many changes have already taken place in the Nepalese society. The present education system of Nepal is unsystematic, faulty and profit oriented. This has lead to the weakening and destabilization of the present social landscape and the whole democratic system itself.
    (b) Civic Virtue- In a democratic system the state grants its citizens economic, social, political and cultural rights. The individual has to assume certain duties and responsibilities towards the family, society and country as a free citizen. The following are the virtues that a good citizen should possess in a democratic system- reasoned commitment, honesty, civic mindedness, civility, open mindedness, courage, patriotism, and the ability to think critically.
    (c) Civic Skill-A citizen needs intellectual and participatory skills in order to correctly distinguish one's rights and duties and to be aware and vigilant about one's rights, duties and responsibilities.
  6. Democracy and democratic culture- It is not only the constitution but constitutional behavior that helps develop democratic way of life and culture. There is a difference between a person who is a democrat and a one who has internalized democratic culture.
  7. Democracy and political parties- Political parties are the collective property, basis and life of democracy. In democracy the opposition is esteemed because they serve as the ears and eyes of the government. The following are the tasks of the political parties in democracy-1) to make the people politically conscious and to provide the kind of leadership that reflects the peoples aspirations, 2) to take part in elections and to govern, 3) to manage social and cultural activities and to hand over the political values, mores and system to the next generation, 4) to act as a bridge between the people and the government, and 5) to help in the creation of a egalitarian society.
  8. The youth and the present situation-The term youth does not only denote a person of a certain age but is also implies the possession of enthusiasm and certain type of thinking. At present the middle class youth, who should play an important role in our society, are becoming alienated with nationalism and politics and are migrating and becoming citizens of other countries. On the other hand considerable numbers of youths from the lower and lower middle-class families, after spending a long time underground, are living in temporary cantonments. The implications of these developments must be assessed. Otherwise the whole political and economic system of the country might become crisis ridden and invite appalling consequences.
    (a) The youth and politics-We tend to pay more attention to the negative aspects of politics rather than the positive. The political field represents the power of the people. That is why national and constructive politics should be the common concern of all conscious citizens.
  9. Leadership and civic education-Honest and competent politicians are the treasure of the nation. But on examining the record of selection of leaders until the present, it is clear that the criteria for selection are the ability to carry the party's baggage, time spent in jails and the ability rebel. Such people are given tickets in election and are given representation in the policy making level.
  10. Social justice and civic education-Social justice is the main essence of a democratic system. But in our society the state discriminates in the provision of medical treatment education facilities.
  11. Civil society and civic education-Civil society engages in communicating, interacting, mediating and jointly acting on issues of common interest. But civil society is not an alternative to the state and it must not concern itself with personal profit. Usually civil society is based on three values. These values are independence, equality and co-operative spirit.
  12. Civic education and other subjects-An intense debate is taking place in the country on whether technical education is the key necessity of the country. This supposition is true but not the whole truth. The knowledge of civic education along with that of other subjects makes the democratic lifestyle productive and effective.
  13. Conclusion-Nepal is passing through the transitional stage. On the one hand since Nepal is a land-locked country, she has to bear with foreign economic, political and religious influence and on the other hand because of globalization and the conditionality imposed by the WTO the principles of democracy and social justice are being restricted. A constitution drafted to reflect the aspirations of the people will ensure the participation and identity of all and will generate a sense of ownership. The task of restructuring a country is a multi-dimensional, sensitive and difficult subject. To accomplish this task it is necessary to rise above party, ethnic or narrow communal thinking and bring about a transformation in culture, tradition and mentality. The competition, alliances and political polarization taking place among the political parties for the sake of power only is deepening differences among them. The responsibility not to let the national concerns be eclipsed and to sensitively carry forward the task of civic empowerment has now fallen on the shoulders of the youth.

Mr. Shiva Ram Dahal- Mr. Ananda Shrestha and the rest of the team have arrived a bit late. He will now deliver the welcome address and highlight the aim of the seminar.

Mr. Ananda Shrestha- I would first like to apologize for coming a bit late. I will provide a short introduction of Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS). It was established in 1990. It has been organizing seminars on national issues. The results of the seminar are published in a book form. Around thirty to thirty-five books have been published so far. Chapters from these books or the whole book are used as course material for lessons taught from the ten plus two level to the post-graduate level. Another objective of NEFAS is to not confine itself to Kathmandu. Its primary objective is to hold seminars in different parts of Nepal. It is in this context we have chosen Melamchi as the seminar venue.
Many issues have been discussed in the paper and Mr. Shiva Raj Dahal has already spoken about it. The direction of Nepalese politics is uncertain. Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow. The prospects for peace and security are getting hazy. Many people are getting angry and questioning whether people had struggled for loktantra in order to bring about such a situation. The youth do not have voice in the political decision making. Until the youth become aware the situation will remain the same. We have many leaders at present but no statesmen/stateswomen. There is a vacuum at the leadership level. The youth have to get involved. We do not say that they have to become members of a particular political party. But they have to become politically conscious.

The youth are restive. Some are migrating while others are joining parties. The authentic voice of the youth has not been able to make itself heard. That is the reason why this seminar is being organized. We have presented this paper for discussion at ten to fifteen places. This paper is not complete. Issues have to be added to the paper and it has to be modified. Your suggestions will help to further refine it and ultimately it will be published in a book-form. Suggestions were given in other places also. Participants in those places pointed out that many issues had not been included in the paper. Different places have different problems.

I would like to thank you all for participating. We have received help from Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) for publishing the books. Mr. Chandra Dev Bhatta from the FES office is here and he will also speak. We are grateful to FES for the help provided. We believe in raising issues of national importance in order to push forward such issues.

Mr. Shiva Raj Dahal-You all must have received the booklet 'Handbook on Democracy'. One topic covered is titled 'Democracy and its Branches'. This book has been written in the Nepalese context. The branches are economy, environment and history. The Nepalese economy is dependent on the donors. Tax contributes only twelve percent of the GDP. Thought has to be given to making the economy strong. We must also not forget our history. If we attack our history our country might become another Sikkim. Our foreign policy consists of supporting the neighbor who is the stronger. We disparage China when we are in India and criticize India when we are in China. We need to adopt the policy of Panchasheel. Ours is a multicultural society with diverse geography. Dolpa covers an area equivalent to four districts of Terai but has a population of only twenty thousand. These facts also have to be taken into account. We have to ensure that in the name of federalism the country does not disintegrate. We can win back democracy that has been usurped but once a country has lost her independence it is not possible to undo it. Professor Ram Kumar Dahal will now shed light on the major aspects of the handbook.

Mr. Ram Kumar Dahal- Mr. Shiva Raj Dahl has already spoken on some aspects. I will dwell on what needs to be done to institutionalize loktantra from the perspective of civic education.

Party Education-In classes run by parties lessons are taught from the ideological point of view. Parties other than one's own are projected as the villains. This gives rise to a militant culture and as a consequence of this the parties might clash with other.

Civic Education- On the other hand civic education tends to approach this subject from the perspective of a citizen. It tries to teach the citizens what rights and duties they have from an apolitical perspective. Political education only is not enough. It is necessary to look at the political parties from the perspective of civic education also. The Terai provides a good example of this. The education provided by political parties has led to conflict. It is not possible for a single party to gain a majority and rule. It is necessary to develop a coalition culture. This has become a necessity because of the election system we have chosen. Due to the mixed election system the outcome of elections tomorrow will also probably be the same. We have to learn to move ahead together and develop a tolerant culture.

The focus at present is on the constituent assembly and the new constitution. People have high hopes that the new constitution will solve all the problems. But there are growing fears about the constitution being completed in time. There are no definite answers to such queries. If we move ahead together it is possible. If we do not do so it will be difficult. The information that is available to us is from the same news media that is accessible to you all. The conflict is not clear-cut as seen in the surface. We are hopeful however.
Globalization-If the economy is not strong democracy will not be strong. The countries of SE Asia were not democracies before. The opposition against these regimes was not strong however. Here the economy is not strong but disruptive politics attracts a strong following. According to this line of thinking the economy must be strengthened to institutionalize democracy.

Since 2046 the impact of globalization and liberalization has grown strong. The World Bank and the IMF have imposed policy changes. In the process domestic infrastructures and industries have been destroyed. We may have benefited to some extent from this process but on the whole we have suffered. The domestic industries could not compete. The government made no attempt to save the industries. The Indians and the Chinese only let the foreigners enter a limited area. They did not blindly follow the liberalization policy. The economic system was liberalized and the process of privatization initiated but the local industries were given adequate protection. However in Nepal the local industries could not compete. The locals of Kirtipur used to weave woolen shawls and sell them in Ason. But they could not compete with cheap, mass-produced shawls and folded up. The redundant labor force joined political parties, worked for NGOs or sought foreign employment. Our state did not try to protect the local industries.

We have not been able to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed during the conflict. The economy is in shambles. The movement in Terai, which was initially a political one, has degenerated into Terain versus Pahadi conflict. Towards the south of the East-West highway the situation of the Pahadis is not good. There are thirty-three extremists group in existence at present. In Birgunj many industries have closed down. The industrial belt in Birgunj and Biratnagar are not functioning in full steam. The situation is getting from bad to worse. This is not a good sign.

After the success of the second movement the influence of India has increased in Nepal. The foreigners are not interested in democracy; they come here to fulfill their interest. They will not help us to be economically independent. I do not have concrete data here with me but in overall terms the economy is in a bad state.

In order to institutionalize loktantra it is necessary to respect history. It is said that history is the story of those who win. We have to learn lessons from history in order not to repeat the mistakes of the past. In a street in Denmark I had visited there were statutes every five meters. I asked my Danish friend the reason for this. He replied that it is necessary to respect the role played by these persons at the turning points of Danish history. Our students must be aware of history.

The remote control that directs the affairs of our country is not in our hands. The political events, both seen and unseen are directed by India. The Americans have begun to see Nepal through Indian eyes. The reins of the country should be in Nepalese leader's hands. We must minimize foreign interference. The citizens must be aware of the political developments. The youth must understand which direction the government is taking. They must be able to evaluate whether the foreigners activities in our interest or not. The foreigners are bound to work in their own interest. The Americans supported the military government in Pakistan. Though the government violated human rights the then Pakistani government served American interests. It is the responsibility of the Nepalese people to understand what their interests are and craft our policies accordingly.

Human Rights-Human right is important for loktantra. As citizens we must be aware of our rights and duties. At present every group is asking for their rights. This is not a bad thing. The state must treat everyone without bias. We, however, are not aware of our duties. In the new constitution there is talk about incorporating the concept of fundamental duties. At present there is no sense of responsibility towards the state and disorder is increasing. Rights and responsibility go hand in hand.

Rule of Law-The principles of the rule of law will clearly be mentioned in the new constitution. Everybody is expected to respect the rule of law. In this context I would like to relate a small incident. Once in New Zealand the Prime Minister parked his vehicle in the no-parking zone. The parking attendant fined the Prime Minister. When he protested the attendant politely replied that since there was no provision for a separate parking slot for the Prime Minister he would have to pay the fine. The Prime Minister paid up. If an infringement has been committed the law breaker has to be punished irrespective of his/her position. It is not only the weak that have to face punishment. The law is only concerned with whether the law has been broken or not. Law has to be supreme.

Separation of Power- The three organs of the state are the legislature, judiciary and the executive. They are equal in status and there should not be any outside interference in their own particular spheres. But at present controversy has arisen on the question of which is the proper authority to administer the oath of office to the judges. It is our hope that the new constitution will not infringe on the autonomy of different organs. In such a situation the judicial organ can warn the other organs when an infringement of the constitution takes place. During the American presidential elections some time back there was a problem with the electronic voting system. The American presidential candidate Al Gore had lost his case and when the press asked him for his reaction he replied that since the court had given its verdict against him he would respect the ruling. It is necessary to respect the judiciary. It helps to ensure the human rights of the people.

Election-In order to establish democratic government competitive, free and fair elections are necessary. Then only will the people's choice be accurately reflected. The election commission has to be neutral. Only then will loktantra be strong. The defects of the election system have to be rectified. Nepal was the first country in South Asia to bring into use the voter's identity card system. Due to various reasons it could not be used in the last election. In Kathmandu a person had cast his ballot eighteen times. If such incidents of abnormalities decrease loktantra will become strong.
Political Parties- Parties are organization of the people. If they do not become strong loktantra will not become strong. They are the pillar of democracy.

Siddhi Narayan Shrestha- Who was the person who cast his vote eighteen times?

Ram Kumar Dahal- This has not been officially proved. But the Avenues Television had broadcast images of underage children casting their votes under the very nose of representatives of human rights organizations, civil societies and the election commission.

Civil Society- Mr. Shiva Raj Dahal has already said that civil society is an apolitical and non-profit organization run to protect the interest of the citizens. The governments in the western countries are scared of such organizations. American civil society groups had organized a big demonstration in front of the White House to protest against American intervention in Vietnam. They had warned that intervention would adversely affect the image of America. These groups wanted to be true to their conscience. Whether the government would heed their voice or not was a different matter. It is the duty of the civil society to try to bring the government on the right track. In Nepal, however, every party has its own civil society. It is hard to identify civil society groups that are totally independent. The civil societies have begun to develop after 2046. This is a positive development.
Political Culture- Every citizen must understand that he/she is a resident of a particular ward and a citizen of a particular country and he/she has duties towards these institutions. Political culture is not developed overnight. The culture has to be inculcated from childhood. In Demark my friend stopped in front of the red light at the traffic intersection. The street was empty and there was no chance of any vehicle arriving within five minutes. But he did not cross the street until the light turned green. It is necessary to learn from childhood that rules must not be broken. Without the development of such a culture the country cannot move ahead. Civic education has an important role to play in this. The return on investment on education is not easily visible but it has a long-term impact.

Good Governance- After 2046 the policy of liberalization was speeded up at the behest of the World Bank. Western countries do not give aid unconditionally. The main reason that aid is denied to Burma is because it has a military government. Good governance is one of the preconditions for aid and the tenth five year plan has incorporated the concept of good governance. The government has to be transparent and accountable. The judiciary has to be independent and the participation of the people in governance must be ensured. Good governance is important because without it there will be no loktantra.

Types of Democracy- There are two types of democracy- direct and indirect.
Reconciliation- We must develop the culture of reconciliation. We must move ahead together otherwise the future will not be bright. After the political changes in South Africa, Nelson Mandela stressed the need to change priorities. He said that the economic sector should given more importance than the political sector now that the political change has occurred. We also need to develop a common agenda. We have no one to put the blame on now. Political parties have to show this spirit. Due to election system the result of future elections is also likely to be the same. Only the future will show how successful the politicians will be at displaying political sensitivity.

Peace- It will take a long time to reconstruct the infrastructure destroyed during the Maoist and Terai movements. In the Terai many industries are closing down because of the demand for donations and fear of being looted. The peace process will not reach its logical conclusion if we do not act responsibly. The foreigners are also contributing to the conflict. Nepal is unique in that a decade long conflict was brought to an end without third party mediation. The Maoists entered the mainstream on their own initiative. Peace has to be in our own interest and the process has to be owned by us.

The new constitution has to reflect the wishes of the people if it is not to be burnt on the day it is promulgated. Forty to fifty lakhs youth are working outside the country. They will come home in their old age. This will turn Nepal into an old-age home. Our government proudly proclaims that a hundred and one countries have opened their doors to Nepalese laborers. The state has to stop sending the youth outside the country and create job opportunities within the country.

Mr. Shiva Raj Dahal- FES Program Officer Mr. Chandra Dev Bhatta will now speak. He has submitted his Phd. thesis to the London School of Economics.

Mr. Chandra Dev Bhatta- I would like to welcome you all on the behalf of FES. If we integrate all the qualities mentioned above the country will be strong. There have been seven, eight movements for the cause of democracy but the problem has not been solved. Economic statistics show that the poverty is increasing and disparity is widening. Ninety percent of the population is mired in poverty. We are living on slogans. Ten percent of the population controls ninety percent of the resources. What needs to be done to break out from the cycle of movements? We must discuss about this issue. Who will guarantee the different categories of rights? Can the state guarantee them all? People say that politics is a dirty game. The youth are hesitating to join politics but it is the youth who can bring about changes. We have to bring the youth into the mainstream. Civic education can help create the critical mass of conscious citizens. In our country people still equate civic education with religious education. Civic education seeks to develop civic culture. It has not yet developed in Nepal and due to this reason political stability has eluded this country.

The 18-35 age group constitutes the biggest chunk of voters. They however do not occupy positions of authority. They are used and then discarded. Because of the lack of opportunity many of them are leaving the country. If the economic, political and social rights cannot be guaranteed political culture cannot develop. This could lead to emergence of a counter-political culture. There was a big political change in 2062-63 but the thinking has not changed. The politicians who were active in 2007 still occupy the center stage.

The monarchy has been abolished but other things remain the same. Unless we bring the youth into the mainstream we cannot move ahead.

It is said that four hundred families control the economic and political life of the country. They are well represented in the media, politics, administration and the economy. A hundred and twenty business houses control the economy. They are given loans by the financial institutions and are protected when they default on their loans. The government is creating a dual system in the health and educational sector. One section is run by the private sector while the other sector is run by the government. Those educated in the public sector are not able to successfully compete for jobs and they tend to go to the Arab countries in search for jobs. Due to this sort of structure we are creating two classes of people.
Politics is not being taken as a form of service but as a ladder for self-aggrandizement. Until now no system has worked for the public's welfare. Political equality flows from economic equality. Many promises are made during the course of the movement but with the conclusion of the movement they are promptly forgotten. The productive sector has not been developed. In the aftermath of the French Revolution people were afraid to assume responsibility because of rampant insecurity. But once the productive sector was expanded, people lost their obsession with politics. A large chunk of the masses joined the productive sector. How can we break away form spiral of bandhs and movements? Who is responsible?

The parties are under the grip of individuals for long periods. Political parties must be strong. The more trouble there is the greater the danger to our sovereignty. There must be internal democracy in the parties. The tendency to capture the party, government and the administration by a small clique is growing. The voice of ordinary people is not given a hearing. A client state is being created. We have to think about how to transform the client culture into a civic culture. We have to approach this task in a holistic way.

Ambassadors and other important appointments are made on the basis of closeness to the power centers and not on merit. Due to such causes the culture of Green Card is developing. For the last fifty, sixty years we have been entrapped in the same vicious circle. Our problems will not be solved unless we can break out of it. The Russian President is around forty to forty-two years of age. In Nepal people aged seventy still claim they are youths. Everybody is aware of the problems but who will bell the cat? If there are no changes another movement might take place. We thought the movement of '62-'63 would solve all the problems. The productive forces of the country are not in the country.
This sort of seminar is held to increase the people's awareness. We can put our problems before the political leaders. It takes ten, twelve years to address the social problems but for that we have to lay the basic foundations. According to the proponents of globalization one should not invest in the social sector because it does not give any return on the investment. They believe money is everything. However social capital is also important because without it political needs cannot be fulfilled. It is needed to produce good political leaders. In other countries also there are problems but they do not become prolonged. We need change in every sector, especially the political culture. Our leaders have an anti-intellectual culture.

The ultimate goal of democracy is to fulfill our needs. Our per capita may have increased but this gain is confined to the cities. In the villages there has been no real change. We could not create new job opportunities. Industries have to be established to solve this problem. We need change in the economic, social and the political sector and we have to urge the political parties to work towards this. In the 1980's in Eastern Europe the leaders only dished out promises. The citizens launched a movement against these empty promises and put pressure on the leaders. At present there is political stability and economic development there. Once the problems are identified one can search for solutions. This sort of programs will also help us to open up. Encouraging the youth to express themselves as part of capacity building is another reason for organizing this program. Thank you all for participating in the program.

Shiva Raj Dahal-Please mention your names when you ask the questions.

Siddhi Narayan Shrestha- We heard many things that were intellectually impressive. But when will we solve our problems? There were discussions about the importance of law. Nepal is handicapped because the law is handicapped. There is folk tale that I would like to narrate. One day in a certain country the queen began to cry. Soon the whole country, from the king downwards to the common man, began to cry. A holy man asked the people the reason for their tears. They had no answer. The holy man insisted that there must be some reason for their strange behavior. They then replied they were crying because their immediate superior started crying. The holy man then went to the queen and queried her. She said she started crying because her best friend, a laundry girl, cried. The holy man got hold of the laundry girl and quizzed her. She replied that she was crying because her donkey had died. Nepal is a country which cries when the donkey dies.

The leaders are like donkeys. Why stay in this country when there is no future? Ideas are the most important thing. People who fell a few trees are punished but those who plunder the whole jungle go unpunished. You intellectuals please try to do good things. We on our part will continue to plough the field. I have studied till class eight in the school I established. I am being used as a scapegoat. The Melamchi Project wants to bypass our committee. We want to provide water to Kathmandu. Sher Bahadur Deuba and Prakash Man Singh were imprisoned for twelve months for taking a bribe of twelve cores. Nobody wants to talk about this.

Shambhu Prasad Pandey-I am a United Marxist Leninist party district committee member and the central co-coordinator of the peasant's organization. If the ideas generated in this seminar are implemented the country will develop. The biggest problem with our country is that we have vision-less leaders. Indira Gandhi had apologized to the people for the mistakes committed by her after she lost the election and said that she was not a devi. In the next election she won with a two thirds majority. The problem with our country is that the leaders are not willing to acknowledge their mistakes.

Nepal is a small country with rich resources. But the problem is that nobody wants to work. They want to send the youth of the country to various countries of the world so that they rule the country peacefully. Another point is that we do not have any pride. However idealistically we may talk in reality we act at the prompting of others. We have to tell India that Nepal is small country; different powers will enter Nepal and create problems for India. There is conflict in the Terai. The members of various groups create trouble in Nepal and take shelter in India. In the Mahadev age there was war in Terai. From this period it is clear that one cannot be successful while conducting wars in the plains because armed groups can be encircled and destroyed. We can manage our own security. We can deploy our one lakh army in the Terai and seal the border. We do not need India's help. The main root of the problem is India.

Without money nothing is possible. I invested in farming and fisheries. The Agricultural Development Bank only gives loans to Marwaris. Nepal Bank is more professional. The bank mangers say it is better to lend large sums to big businessmen than to provide loans to farmers. The Bharatiya Janta Party is an urban based party in India. In Nepal the communist parties are also becoming urban centered. Baburam Bhattarai became the most successful finance minister in Nepal. But the money he collected was misused. It was invested in land and housing in the urban areas. The parties are successful in conducting movements but not in institutionalizing the gains.

The conflict had its roots in the villages and the fight there against injustice. The people had expected big changes after the movement of 2046. There might be another movement if the problems of the people are not addressed. The government announced that it had decided to waive interest on loans amounting to one lakh rupees and had refunded the banks but the banks did not return the money to borrowers for two years. The amount was invested in the urban areas. The money did not go back to the villages. The managers said that it is easier to provide loan of one cores to one person than disbursing it to hundred persons. The Mahakali treaty was passed with stricture attached after the House was disrupted. But after that the establishment got more arrogant. The boundary must be regulated according to the Harka Gurung's idea. Economics is the key. We are moving towards the stone-age. There is demand for a state for each ethnic group. This will lead to chaos. Nepaliness is our ethnicity. Each federal state should incorporate the Himalayan region, hills and the plains within it. This will lead to mutual benefit.

I initially thought NEFAS was just another group that incites people but found it to be different. This group should take its message from village to village. We have a tendency to blindly support our leaders. May this seminar give us the courage to choose the right path.

Prakash Shrestha-Civic education is a multidimensional subject. The paper presented in praiseworthy and it has included many things. The reality is hard. According to one report thirty-four lakh people go to bed hungry and seventeen lakh children below the age of five suffer from malnutrition. According to a recent report of the Education Ministry out of the forty-seven lakh children who joined the primary level only thirty percent passed. Other data show that of the hundred students who join class one only twelve reach the lower middle school level. What I want to stress is that the hungry people and the drop-outs are suffering because of the social, political and economic structure. Only the creation of a thriving economy will lead to the establishment of a stable democracy.

I am a bit confused. Please clarify what should come first, democracy or the economy? Will there be economic development with the establishment of democracy or will democracy come after the creation of a strong economy? Is the wrong practice of democracy responsible for the large number of dropouts? In the Terai single women of economically weak background are labeled as witches and mistreated. Rotten rice has been distributed even while we talk about food sovereignty. All these issues are related to social justice. Can such problems be solved through the means of an authoritarian system? Or can democratic values guarantee citizen's right and security? When will these rights be guaranteed? The political parties, despite their public stances, are not able to implement programs because of the diverse character of the Nepalese society.

We have still not been able to properly manage the conflict. Mr. Baburam Bhattarai had opposed the market economy during the conflict. But during his tenure as finance minister Mr. Bhattarai had to work with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and accept the market-economy system. Globalization and liberalization is a product of human development. Since you are scholars please tell us what options there are and what will ensure economic development and security? The program is incomplete without the participation of political leaders since such discussions among us will yield nothing. It is the political leaders who teach people about rights and duties. Please rectify this shortcoming in future programs.

Chandra Dev Bhatta- The question that has been raised is a good one. Should development be for democracy or democracy for development? In South-East Asia, including China, human rights is not a priority, economic development comes first. They believe that once development takes place other rights can be guaranteed. As regards the question whether a democratic country or authoritarian system meets citizen's needs, Cuba is an authoritarian country but its health system is the best in the world. Citizen's need in terms of health and education has been fulfilled. When the state satisfies the citizen's requirements they tend to show less interest in politics. In France after the revolution people were afraid to assume public posts because they feared the aroused public. It was only after the revolution was backed by creation of jobs in the industries that things stabilized. What sort of economic system should we adopt? A system based on the principles of liberalization, privatization and globalization? The Washington Consensus has failed. Economic policies based on this principle had dissolved the relations between the citizens and the state. This doctrine did not believe in investing in unproductive sectors such as education and health. But such investments help create social capital. Five months ago the G 20 summit was held in UK. The meeting decided that the old policies were not effective and the time had come to think differently. These policies had only increased the gap between different groups.

Globalization cannot be reversed. Countries have to learn to compete within the context of globalization. We need a social charter that lays down policies on such sectors as education and health. We should welcome investment. But investment has been coming in with certain conditionality such as the structural adjustment program. The Latin American and South East Asian countries have social charters. SAARC also has a social charter. We need investment but we have to have some say in certain areas. We have to democratize the economic structure and power. The NGOs and INGOs hold social forums every two years and are working to lessen the affect of WTO on small countries. How to protect the interest of smaller countries is one of the issues they discuss because such cannot compete with the developed countries on equal terms.

We are developing bourgeoisie capitalism in which only a certain group of people get jobs. Only economic sectors such as housing and consultancy are flourishing. This will not help address the problem of poverty. People with good education background can only compete in such an economy. We have to move towards industrialization and develop agriculture. After 2046 we are no more self-sufficient in food products. After the initiation of the process of liberalization in 2046, subsidies given to the agricultural sector was removed. However in the Europe and America the agriculture sector continues to be subsidized. Agriculture sector affects the industrial sector through forward linkages. The agriculture based industries collapsed in Nepal. The leather factory was closed and the machines sent to India. Many people lost jobs. If the agro-based industries had survived many people would have found jobs within the country.

Now is the time to choose between revenue-based economy and production based economy. We must hold discussions concerning what sort of economy we need. There are demands that the government guarantee social security. But does the government have the capacity or resources to do so? Before 2046 thirty one to thirty two percent people fell under the tax net. Now it is even lower because of tax evasions. We have to move towards production-based economy otherwise people will have to go outside the country in search of jobs. The modern state has been created to fulfill the different needs of the society. The migrants might send back remittances but at the same time many come back in coffins. This is a twenty-first century type of slavery. Man-power agencies opened by people with political clout are engaged in sending people outside. That is why there has been no change. Each and every student believes that education should be the responsibility of the state but the private educational institutions have been opened by those with political clout. Hospitals with five star facilities are being opened in the country by the same group of people.

Another question concerns the civil society. One of the participants wants to know the reasons for the civil society hesitating to raise issues of public concern and what role civil society can play in the present context. In the last six seven years a wrong concept of civil society has developed. The civil society should work for common benefit of the people and not for personal interest. But in Nepal such is not the case, here the state has been captured by certain groups and a client state has been created. Each party has its own civil society. This has politicized the civil society groups and they are unable to think about the interest of the state and the problems of the citizens. Since they are divided they cannot address our problem.

There are many issues that the civil society should be tackling. For example the relations between the hills and Terai are deteriorating. They should be working on repairing the torn social fabric and initiating discussions about which sort of a federal system will help strengthen the relations between different parts of the country and which sort will weaken relations among them. The urban based civil society has a different agenda and is not concerned even if the country breaks up because its funds and philosophy comes form outside the country. They are accountable to outsiders. The civil society has not been able to initiate serious discussions because its leaders are self-declared. The Katwal case exposed the divisions within the civil society. They have not been able to create a critical mass of conscious citizens. The traditional civil society, which used to help people in times of need, has been suppressed by the city-based ones. We could not institutionalize democracy after 2046 because the state did not develop a mechanism to address the development of an apolitical culture.

Rajendra Prasad Shrestha-We are happy to be able to listen to the intellectuals from NEFAS about civic education. It is a matter of regret that we Nepalese do not seem capable of seeing the broader picture. Janga Bahadur had gone to UK more than a hundred years back. He gave no thought to what aspects of British culture was worthy of emulation and of the need to put stress on education. He was more interested in remaining the Maharaja and the Ranas ruled for a hundred and four years. The Panchayat system remained for thirty years. Nepal has not been able to progress. I had got the opportunity to visit America. In Virginia there is one kilometer long tunnel which people can visit by paying an entrance fees. Outside the tunnel there is plaque that states the tunnel was constructed in 1725. Products of that period such as carriages and toys are exhibited there. The goods are of better quality than those produced by Japan at present. We are three hundred years behind.

Politicians tend to be blind. Many children in the nearby villages have not been able to study. The attention of the whole world is fixed on Katmandu and large amount of donations have been provided. Big apartments and hospitals have been built at huge costs but their sewerage pipes have been connected to the Bagmati River. They have not even built their own septic tanks. A road to link Gaushala to New Baneshwar has not yet been constructed. Sometime back a tank had been constructed in Patan to make use of the garbage collected in Kathmandu but we do not hear of it anymore. Dissatisfied people belonging to political parties hinder the disposal of garbage and create havoc in Kathmandu.

We have organized this program top impart knowledge of civic education to the youth but all of them have left the country. It is already twenty years since democracy has been established but the result is not satisfactory. Who is to blame? I believe the education system introduced in 2028 has failed. I also worked as a teacher and the Director used to tell us that fifteen to twenty percent of the students had to be passed. The Minister recently beat up the CDO. In such a situation who will build Nepal? People who love the country have not been able to reach the top while many illiterates are members of the constituent assembly. In ward number four of Melamchi there are five hundred households but the children there can only study till class three. Children marry at the age of fourteen and fifteen and beget many children. Those who have studied till class three might become criminals as well as members of parliament. The only thing such members of parliament know is how to insult others. If there is mutual respect loktantara will become strong. If not foreign interference will increase, Nepal might become another Sikkim, Afghanistan or the army might take over.

Dhana Prasad Shrestha-I am the former chairman of the village development committee. We got the opportunity to hear many things. The participation of the youth should have been greater and those present should interact more. But we seem to be too pessimistic and comments such as there are no visionary leaders in Nepal were heard. If such comments are true we have no hope. We should be optimistic. We also hear a lot about the control of Nepalese affairs being in foreign hands. This is not true in all fields. We have to be optimistic otherwise there will be no change. I did not earn any money while I was the chairman and some people consider those who do not earn by any means as useless. This is the culture we live in; therefore we should not blame the leaders only. We have to change the culture.

Shiva Raj Dahal- We have pointed out the weaknesses of the political parties and leaders in order to help them overcome those deficiencies. We do not seek to malign them but to encourage them.

Prakash Shrestha-Mr. Dhana Prasad Shrestha seems to have gotten into the habit of listening only to praises.

Shiva Raj Dahal-Dinesh Giri and Ram Dunwar seem to have asked a similar type of question. They have asked why civic education is necessary. We are in the transitional stage. People ask for rights but they have forgotten about duties and responsibilities. Civic education brings about a balance between the two. Dependency has increased. We have to learn to be self-reliant. We feel proud to become the citizens of a foreign country. We have to think about what can be done to enhance our pride in being Nepalese. Civic education helps to make us conscious of this need. Our boundary is being encroached. Yes, India is stronger than us but can we not internationalize this issue? The youths can pressurize the leaders on this issue. This is another reason why civic education is necessary. From a practical point of view also this education is necessary. The youths are not aware of the need to shut public taps to conserve water and to turn off public lights during day time despite load-shedding. Toilets have been built but people defecate and urinate behind it. The toilet here is also unusable. Can one person keep a toilet used by so many students clean? The youth have to be conscious.

The court has prohibited smoking in public places. But in public gatherings we seek out places in order to smoke. Who is to teach people? Civic education is the medium to teach people about these issues. Respect for elders, considerate behavior towards the juniors and other such aspects of socialization is inculcated through the means of civic education. There is trend among the good students to leave the country. Only students poor in studies and those who lack money remain in the country. Where will this take the country? The labor of the youth should be exerted for the good of their families and country's sake and not only for the foreigners. The youth should understand their duty towards the country and towards themselves. If a person is healthy the country becomes healthy. Even if the youth leave the country for foreign lands they should be aware of their responsibility towards the country. Their behavior outside will reflect on the country. The parties have created a militant culture among the youth of the country. There should have been one student organization working for the welfare of the students of the country. However each party has its student wing and each seeks to create hurdles in the functioning of others. This creates conflict. Civic education is thus also necessary to make the students aware of their responsibilities to the nation and society.

Prakash Shrestha-I think you should deal with questions that deal with other aspects of civic education rather than those already discussed beforehand.

Shiva Raj Dahal- There is another question from Dinesh Giri. He says that the trend of going abroad for studies has increased and asks whether only by studying in a foreign country a person will become capable. I believe that knowledge cannot be found in cities. If it were to be found there we would not have come here to conduct this seminar. Gautam Buddha had acquired knowledge in the villages; he had not been to any university. The villages are being used to test concepts. To be a famous person it is not necessary to go to foreign countries, one can be great by serving the country.

Daman Bahadur Bharati- Some of the issues raised here is being taught to the students from the elementary level. It is not necessary to raise such issues in seminars. New areas should have been explored. Toilet training is a part of simple civilized behavior. On page eight of the paper the term constitutionalism is mentioned. What is the meaning of this term?

Ram Kumar Dahal- Laxman Dulal has asked a question that has to do with the rule of law and impunity. He wants to know the role of the state and civil society in this regard. We all know about these concepts and I tell my students that my job is to teach about this concept and yours to study it. But in reality these concepts are not put into practice because we do not have a proper environment. None of us seem to be in favor of implementing the rule of law. Impunity is a big problem. In order to end impunity and establish the rule of law the role of both the state and the civil society is important. But since the state also sometimes violates these norms the civil society has to play the central role in this regard. Let us hope the civil society of the future will play an important role in this regard.

I want to add a few words on the issue raised by Prakash Shrestha concerning a sustainable economy and loktantra. There is debate going on in the context of writing the new constitution on what sort of role the state should have in the field of development. One line of thought believes that the state should only act as a facilitator while others stress the need for the state to actively participate in developmental activities. I also teach in the Rural Development Department. I believe in the urban areas the state acting only as a facilitator might be enough. But in Humla and Jumla this sort of role will not be adequate. There the state may have to act as an initiator of development. The state must not shirk from its responsibilities. If there is democracy economic development can take place and if there is economic development democracy can be strengthened. There is a reciprocal relationship between the two.

Rita Pakhrin has asked how women's right can be secured in the new constitution. There is no need to worry on this account. The women activists are putting pressure on the drafters of the constitution in this regard and they have been successful to a large extent. There will definitely be some positive development in the new constitution concerning this issue.

Dhan Bahadur Moktan has asked why thirty to thirty five percent of the eligible voters cast their votes in America and European countries while over sixty-five percent of the voters cast their vote in Nepal. In America and Australia some people are maintaining that not to cast ones vote is also ones right. But if the trend of declining voter's participation continues, laws that make voting compulsory might be enacted. In America time is money. At a minimum people can earn two dollars for one hours work. If a person works for seven hours he can earn fourteen dollars. From the monetary perspective he/she will gain nothing by voting. Since they tend to think in terms of money the number of persons casting their votes might further decline.

Another questioner wants to know how the political deadlock can be broken. The parties have the capability to enforce a Nepal bandh at the drop of a hat. If they have the desire they can easily solve the problem. What is needed is political commitment. If everybody sticks to his stand this deadlock cannot be broken.

Shiva Raj Dahal- I will try to clarify a point raised by one of our friends and then we will move towards the conclusion. Daman Bahadur Bharati seemed to imply in his remarks that children have already received moral education in schools. However there is a difference between moral education and civic education. Moral education maintains that our elders and teachers do not make mistakes and we have to obey them. But the current concept maintains that we must be able to assess what they say and obey them only if they are in the right. If they are wrong one must be able to convince them of their mistaken view. Moral education relates poverty with one's fate and blames it on one's misdeeds in the previous life. But civic education puts the blame for poverty on the incompetence of the state. It says poverty exits because of the failure of governance on the part of the state. The Christian religion exhorts people to work hard to improve one's condition while our religion asks us to be satisfied with what we have. That is why we have to improve on the traditional moral education and move towards adopting civic education.

Another point I want to clarify is that the concept of constitutionalism that I have mentioned in the paper is not new. To gain international acceptance we have to adopt certain values. The first point is that sovereignty should be vested in the people. Secondly the state should be run by persons elected by the people. Thirdly law should act as a check on the arbitrary actions of a majority government. Fourthly there should be a balance between citizen's right and human rights under constitutionalism. Fifthly there should be a constitutional guarantee of an individual's right and freedom. Sixthly there should be separation of powers and lastly there should be a responsible and accountable administration.

Ram Kumar Dahal- I would like reply to another question by Narayan Prasad Subedi concerning the guarantee of fundamental rights. The rights will be guaranteed in the new constitution but the important thing is whether we will be able to exercise it or not. We will know the answer to this only in the future. Another question concerns the applicability of civic education in real life. Once there was a priest who publicly in his preaching exhorted the people not to eat brinjal. But in his home he asked his wife to serve him brinjal and told her his exhortations were only meant for public consumption. Application of the norms depends on ones personal behavior and without adherence to the values lecturing only has no meaning. Another participant has asked when people will become aware. It takes years to develop the appropriate culture and this is a difficult task. If the subject is included in the curriculum and the children are educated from an early stage on that basis the correct foundation can be laid.

Shiva Raj Dahal- I would like to request Radha Krishna Sir to make the concluding remarks. The good turnout of people in this program is due to him.

Radha Khrishna- I am happy that many issues were raised is course of the discussion. I would like to thank NEFAS for giving us the opportunity to host this program and I would also like to thank the participants who consented to attend this program. Both the elders and youths have put forward their views. All of us are engaged in our professions by abiding with certain ideals. There may be certain weaknesses in this regard but all of us are trying to fulfill our duties. The main lesson we must learn is the need to be accountable and then to safeguard our rights. I am engaged in the teaching profession and this seminar has been helpful in this regard. How accountable have I been towards the students? How responsible is the student towards his/her own future? The weaknesses have to be rectified or lessened. Civic education will help us distinguish the right from the wrong.

The people are angry with the politicians. But as the paper has pointed out the ultimate solution has to come from them. Everything is directed by politics. Blaming the politicians only will not bring any benefits. That does not mean that constructive criticism is not necessary. We have to provide suggestions. Educational certificate is not enough, we have to be aware. However much we talk about the qualities of a good citizen the test is in the application of these values in our interaction with the family, friends and society at large. It is only due to chance that I got the opportunity to know this institution. I did not have any prior interaction with this institution. I had only talked on the phone with Shiva Raj Dahal. NEFAS had originally planned to organize the seminar in the district headquarters but a chance encounter with Shiva Raj Dahal led them to hold the seminar in Melamchi. I would like to thank them for this opportunity.

Chandra Dev Bhatta-We have received one last question. The questioner has asked why civic education is necessary. I would like to provide a short answer this question. People have multiple identities. A person is first a human being, secondly a member of either female or male sex, thirdly he/she belongs to a certain nation, fourthly he/she is a member of a certain caste, and fifthly he/s she belongs to a particular language group. People thus have diverse identities. Multiple identities will not help consolidate loktantra. The challenge is to create a national identity and a civic identity from these different strands. America is also working towards this end. America is receiving migrants from all parts of the world. America is promoting civic education to create an American identity form these multiple identities. In Nepal people are struggling with identity crisis in the form of ethnicity, regionalism, social problems etc. Civic education is necessary to create a national identity.

Shiva Raj Dahal-In the end let me talk briefly about nationality. In Europe the national flag flutters from every house. In Nepal we find party flags in the houses but we will not find the national flag even if we search for it in the whole locality. In Nepal at present the situation is such that the national flag and constitution are being burnt. A country acquires a distinct identity through religion, culture and tradition. These are the very elements that are under attack at present. Huntington has said that if religion and culture are attacked the state cannot continue to exist and disintegration can take place. We have to take this into consideration. If loktantra is taken away we can bring it back. But if in the name of self-determination in Terai nationality is fragmented we will find it very hard to restore it. The youth have to keep this in mind. Constitution is the medium which acts to bring the citizen and the state together. That is why we have sent our representatives to the Constituent Assembly to draft the constitution. We have to evaluate whether these members are working to fulfill the mandate we have given them. If we fail in our duty the future politics of the country might be problematic. We have to be on our guard.

Laya Prasai-The one day seminar has given the message that the youth are the most important element of the society. If the youth's leave the country the nation will be faced with intellectual vacuum. I now declare the seminar closed.

Copyright©2001. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Nepal Office
The information on this site is subject to a
disclaimer and copyright notice.