Report on Securing the rights of the underprivileged
in the new constitution
Organised by Centre for Consolidation of
17 April 2010
Report Prepared by: Pranab Kharel, The Kathmandu
Centre for Consolidation of Democracy (CCD)
with the support of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) organized
a day long seminar on April 17 2010 titled "Securing the
rights of the underprivileged in the new constitution".
The aim of the seminar was to bring to light the issues facing
the underprivileged of the country - namely Dalits and women.
Divided into three sessions, the seminar was a useful exercise
in brain storming about an important issue facing the country.
As the issue of restructuring of the state is gathering pace,
this debate has surely contributed in that discussion. CCD's
initiative to give momentum to this important debate deserves
few words of appreciations. This is so because the institution
is closely associated with Nepali Congress, a party that has
been at the forefront of democratic struggle in Nepal. However,
in the last decade or so the party has been accused of doing
away with the issues of social justice for the underprivileged.
While the party has all along expressed commitment to the philosophy
of social democracy, in practice this has not been the case.
Even the idea of election of the Constituent Assembly (CA),
it is argued by some, was not readily accepted by influential
sections of the party. However, the election of the CA and the
issues brought to fore by it - in particular those of the minority
groups has demanded serious rethinking on the policies needed
to be undertaken by the parties. In this regard, CCD's effort
could prove vital for NC. During the inaugural session Dev Raj
Dahal, Head of FES Nepal has said that it is important that
rights of the underprivileged be discussed and ensured in the
upcoming constitution so that they can also feel positive changes
into their lives. When we talk about social justice, it is important
that no groups is left behind should feel true ownership towards
state and society than only we can have a state that can withhold
on its own.
Proceedings of the seminar:
Three papers were presented in the seminar highlighting different
facets of the issues pertaining to those of the underprivileged.
Paper:Securing Rights of the Underprivileged
in the New Constitution
Author: Jagdish Chandra Pokharel
In the first session of the seminar, Jagdish
Chandra Pokharel presented his paper, wherein he has tried to
do three things. Firstly he has tried to define the category
of underprivileged. Secondly he has identified the issues associated
with the and thirdly he has dwelled on the strategies to uplift
the underprivileged. Pokharel was of the view that state was
to play an important role in reducing the all pervasive inequality.
And the education was one of the keys through which this could
be done. And therefore the need to impart quality education.
Another aspect of his presentation was on the need to relate
the issue of redistribution of the resources with the idea of
social justice, thereby stressing the need for making available
the required resources for the underprivileged. He highlighted
the prevalence of poverty among different ethnic groups across
the country. One of the important aspects of his presentation
was on the reports of the CA committees for the rights of the
underprivileged. The questions and comments that followed the
presentation were interesting. Nayan Singh Mahar stressed on
the need for the effective delivery of the services on the part
of the state to increase its legitimacy. Likewise Khilanath
Dahal highlighted the relation between class and caste, wherein
the class dimension of inequality inherent in caste system was
brought to light.
Paper: Securing Dalit rights- strategies and
mechanisms for implementation
Author: Meen Biswokarma
Session Chair: Man Bahadur Bishwokarma
Commentator: Bhakta Biswokarma
In the second session of the program, Meen
Biswokarma presented his paper on strategies and mechanisms
required for securing the rights of the dalits in the new constitution.
He stressed that the issue of dalits will not be addressed if
proper policies are not undertaken. He is in fact wary that
the rights of the dalits may not be secured by the federal set
up. While the dalits are majority in terms of population, Biswokarma
argued, they have been marginalized. Therefore the label of
minority misfits dalits. He was of the view that the number
of dalits is more than the actual as enumerated in the census.
There are couples of reasons. First, given that the last census
was conducted during the period of civil war, hence proper enumeration
could not take place. Secondly, Biswokarma says that in the
last census, the dalits of the Kathmandu valley and terai region
were not included. Therefore the real numbers of dalits need
to be worked out. Similarly, he stresses that inclusion is also
about participation. But he said that while dalits are demanding
for their rights, they in no want to curtail or encroach upon
the rights of upper caste. Commenting on the paper, Bhakta Biswakarma
said that the right based approach being adopted in the country
may be troublesome as it obliterates the aspect of responsibility.
Paper: Securing and redefining women rights:
prospect, challenges and opportunities in the new context
Author: Kanta Rizal
Session Chair: Durga Ghimire
Commentators: Amoda Shrestha and Laxmi Rai
The third and the final session of the seminar
consisted of a paper on womens' right in the new Nepali context.
Presenting her paper, Kanta Rizal opted for an informal approach
to her presentation. She told the audience that informal conversations
would help brings the issues to fore in a better manner. She
advocated for a right based approach to the issues of women
and stressed on the discriminatory provision against women existing
in Nepal's legal system. One of the highlight of the presentation
was Rizal's attempt to dissect the category of woman in Nepal.
She was of the view that Nepali women are no monolithic entity.
Some among these women would like to do away with the every
traditional characteristic associated with Nepali women. Every
woman should have the right to choose what she wants. But others
like her would like take issues at hand. Similarly she defended
the women movement as belonging to all including men. Therefore,
when there are talks of empowering women, men should not feel
threatened. The idea is to respect each other, in particular
the responsibility carried out by each other.
The seminar was able to bring to fore the
issues associated with the various marginalized group of Nepal.
This interaction was a testimony to the fact that other narratives
to the issues of marginalized exist in the country, which has
a secular outlook rather than that of negation as being seen
in the mainstream. Such interaction should also be conducted
at the grass root level rather than confining it within the
inner circles of Kathmandu.