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Seminar on Building Modern State through Constitutional Process

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

19-20 April, Jiri


Introduction

Friderich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office organised a two-day seminar on State-Building and Constitutional Dynamics in Nepal in Jiri of Dolakha District on 19-20 April, 2010. The programme was attended by local political leaders, lecturers, teachers, local intellectuals, members of civil society, media personnel, civil servants, security personnel based in Jiri and other stake holders of society. There were more than 100 participants with significant number of women taking part in the seminar. The whole idea of this seminar was to disseminate knowledge on democracy, constitution, civil society, state and other issues that are currently under discussion in Nepal. The two days seminar was chaired by Jiri Campus Chief Mr Indra Bahadur Khadka.

Inaugural Session

Speaking in the inaugural session, head of FES Nepal, Dev Raj Dahal said that social contracts are developed to minimise class conflict and constitutions are the true manifestation of these contracts. The industrial revolution in Europe generated class conflict and in order to address challenges brought about by it, Europeans developed social contract that could strike a balance between rich and poor, have and have-nots. Since Nepal is in the constitution writing process, it should make endeavour to minimise class conflict. That we really have to be very clear about social, economic and other issues related to the public policies that can miminse gaps in rich and poor and result in class co-ordination. Having, said this however, ours is completely a different situation than that of Europeans. We need to develop social contract to empower the powerless, we need to develop social contract so that poor can also be included into the institutional life of the state.

Likewise Kashi Raj Dahal talked about different issues related to constitution and federalism. Chandra Dev Bhatta talked about the principles of democracy. Speaking from the Chair, Indra Bahadur Khadka, suggested that we should only have three states. He blamed that the current political parties are working as "clubs" for the benefit of particular groups, elites but not working for the broader society. He suggested that we need to have some sort of benchmarking in opening political parties. He blamed that Nepali media are engaged in developing unwanted programmes.

The Proceedings:

Rameshwor Panjiyar, Lecturer of Mathematics, said that the federalism has not been properly understood in Nepal as what type of federal state we wanted to have and for whom. Could we not take current administrative structure (14 Zones, and 75 districts) as federal units if it is about empowerment of people asked Panjiyar. If we continue our current political culture, it is not going to work out in favour of people even if we make one state for one man. The need, in fact, is to promote the sense of nationalism, that is, rather than "I" could we think of "we" said Panjiyar. Bindo Maya Jirel demanded that widow allowances should be given not on the basis of age but on the basis of time (that is when a woman becomes widow). She said that rules and regulations should be implemented.

Dhan Bahadur Jirel said that we cannot have a strong state by disintegrating it into numerous parts. He said that Nepal can promote religious tourism once the charm on Mt. Everest deciphers (due to low snowfall) but the continuous attack on our religious and cultural values is posing a great deal of threat towards this end. He also raised border encroachment issues and blamed that no leader is concerned about this. The tendency of holding rights by Kathmandu "elites" is creating fissures in society blamed Jirel. Another participant Anil Bhattarai said that we have to work together to eliminate corruption from the society and produce accountable citizenship which respects both rights and duties. He further said that there are people in our society who are knowingly violating the rules and they should be brought into book.

Kabindra Khadka said that we should provide awareness programmes on the need of natural resources as there have been unabated efforts to destroy it for the personal benefit and most of the efforts are being supported by the political parties. Mitra Jireal said that we should not have ethnic state and should respect pluralism. The political culture that we have developed over the years has become major hurdles for the government to work independently - and there is an urgent need to get rid of from this culture. He said that people in Nepal are not worried about constitution; in contrast, what they are worried about is complete meal of the day. He further said that marginalised people should be given priority in every sector of governance. He said that rather than dividing security forces for the personal interest, he under lined the need of strengthening the institutions of the state.

Devika Dahal said that we need set minimum qualifications to contest election. She further said that upcoming constitution should provide education, health and employment opportunities to the needy people. Asha Upreti said that we have achieved many rights over the years but the implementation part is very poor. She underlined the need of protecting history. She said that programmes like this should focus on rural issues as the city centred developed drive is not going to change our nation.

Finally Tek Bahadur Jirel, speaking in the concluding session, said that we know that constitution is not going to come on 14th of Jestha which is not be in the interest of state and citizens, in fact political parties, for the last two years, waiting for this to happen.

Conclusion

The common observation of the seminar in Jiri was that rulers are not accountable to the citizens. We are simply treating "politics" as a competitive industry which has not worked in favour of people. The real industry that could have given relief to the people has taken a backtrack in the country. Hence, unless and until, we transfer political into service and revive the real industry.

 
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