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Seminar on Building Modern State through Constitutional Process

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

7-8 April (Salyan), 9-10 April (Dang)


Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung,Nepal Office, organised a two day seminar on Building Modern state through constitutional Mechanism in Salyan and Dang district on 7-8th and 9-10th April, 2010 respectively. In both the district the programme was participated by the high ranking government officials, officials of the security organs, local political leaders, members of civil society, lawyers, students, journalists and other stake-holders of society. In Salyan, Acting Chief District Officer, District Police Chief, District Education Officer actively participated in the programme. Likewise, in Ghorahi, Chief District Officer Rishi Ram Dhakal actively participated in the two days progrmme. In Ghorahi, Bidur Prasad Poudel, Vice Chancellor of Mahendra Sanskrit University was the chief guest. In both the places there were more than 100 participants. Speaking from the Chair Vice Chancellor Poudel said that even if we extend the tenure of Constituent Assembly, there is no guarantee that constitution will be written in time. Political parties should take responsibility of writing Constitution in time.

In both the programmes, Dev Raj Dahal, Kashi Raj Dahal and Chandra D. Bhatta spoke about state, constitution and the principles of democracy respectively.

Floor Discussion (Salyan)

During the floor discussion many participants actively spoke about the current state of affairs in the country. They talked about political, economic, educational, foreign policy, security, and national interest related issues. Speaking from the floor Durga Bahadur Shrestha said that we are a small state and federalism is not suitable for us. Pawan Devkota asked what the difference between law and social justice is and how they are practiced in Nepal. Hari Shamra Acharya said that political stability can contribute towards economic development. He said that there are three phases of modern state-building in Nepal: class struggle, class compromise and class coordination and different political parties have different approaches to these phases. But if we really wanted to have a functional state, we have to strike a balance among these three factors.

Ms. Bishnu Sharma said that in order to successful social transformation, we need to improve our education system. Small state cannot afford to have federalism, he further commented.

Dhan Raj of Nepali Congress said that Ranas ruled Nepal for 104 years and during that period they neither constructed roads nor opened up schools as a result people could not opposed the system primarily because neither they could travel nor they could learn or understand the situation. He further said that system of governance is linked with human nature which is also linked with instinct to corrupt power and we need to develop proper controlling mechanism than only system can work - whether it is parliamentary or presidential. He suggested for the need of some sort of moral education in the country. We need to have independent judiciary (not controlled by political parties) for the prompt deliverance of justice. Mahesh Bikram GC said that we need qualified teachers. Teachers Service Commission should be made constitutional Commission. Rishikesh Jung Shah suggested that Nepal should not have more than 5-6 states and should be drawn on the basis of geography. He further said that the current education model is useless and there is an urgent need for the vocational education to be introduced. We also need to bridge the gap between urban and rural education system as this can generate latent conflict in society. Perhaps, we could take the benefits of modern technology to bridge this gap.

Dhirendra Bhandari said that 1990 constitution did not take any mechanism to control latent conflict in society as a result it was disowned by some sections of society. Therefore, we need to strike a balance here as well. He further said that Chhetris are being ignored by the society and attempts are being made to sideline them. We have not looked at the consequences of doing this. We do not need to have the reservation system as there is no concrete measuring rod as who is to be reserved, perhaps, meritocracy should be respected and mechanism should be developed so that everybody can have access to resources/power. Moreover, it also contradicts with the notion of inclusive democracy that we have floated. Sharada Bishwakarma said that rather than focusing on reservation we need to uplift those who are weak , backward in the society by adopting certain methods.
Jeevan BC suggested that education should be politically free. Federal state should adopt education system as per their need. The provision of punishment and reward should be employed in every sector, including in the education sector. Tuition culture should be discouraged as it is promoting corruption and abuse of power in education.

Bir Bahadur Silwal said that freedom is most important for the decent livelihood of human being. Our political leaders and people are more into politics and less in productive work as a result majority of our arable land is left barren. He further lamented that political leaders are sending their kids to the separate schools and they are using the kids of common people (janataka chhora) for their political activities. Merely distributing few books will not enable poor students to stay in the school. We are using old political culture for the new political movement which is not going to work.

Dilli Raj Regmi said that we should have constitution based on democratic values that can address both current and latent conflicts of society. We should focus more on social security and economic justice and this can only happen when we have social democracy. Political stability is important for the development of the nation but the stability has to be accepted by the all. We cannot have autocratic system in the name of political stability. Likewise, Jeevan BC said that journalists should be given due protection by the state both in terms of professional development as well as physical security.

Dilli Raj said that we need to have political system that works for all not the one that serves the interest of few. The class based state system works for the certain classes. He further said that only the people's constitution that upheld republicanism can address different types of conflict that exists in society. Everybody knows the problem but what is important is to address the problem and bring about positive changes in society. In Nepal, changes are not accepted by few sections of society and this has been the case since 1990. We have to understand that by giving rights to the people society does not necessarily disintegrate. He further purposed complete overhauling of the current judicial system which is corrupt, inefficient and very expensive. Disparity in society has to be bridged as there are people who have everything to their disposal whereas there are some who doesn't have anything at all not even a roof to live in. We have no idea who will contribute towards state-building as our grandparents had worked abroad, father had worked abroad and the son is also going abroad for livelihood. We also have to define Nepali nationalism clearly. There is tendency that whenever political parties run out of ideas they talk about nationalism and likewise whenever the king (rulers for that matter) run out of options or ideas they visit temples and perform prayers. We do not have that culture of respecting each other.

Top Bahadur Shrestha, District Education Officer, said that everybody should get an opportunity for the good education. We should not run schools, hospital on economic models. He further said that over the years Nepali political system has constructed the notion of citizenship that serves the interest of ruling classes which necessarily do not promote civic nationalism. We also have to strike a balance between private and public education. Federal states should have their own model of education as per the need of the society. We have to overthrow the patriarch system that is being patronised by the top leaders who make decisions without consulting small political leaders let alone public at large. He further asked who is responsible for making us dependent on donors both for political and developmental purposes. We have to strike a balance between rights and duties said Mr. Shrestha.

Mahesh Devkota of UCPN (Maoist) said that there are different schools of thought about federalism due to the ignorance on the part of our political parties they have failed to choose the right one. He further said that ethnic communities who have asked for preferential rights contradicts with inclusive democracy , therefore, we have to develop right approach to address the issues of the marginalized groups as well.

Shobita Basnet blamed that women's human rights have not been implemented even those incorporated in the interim constitution. Ramesh Gautam of Rapti Radio said rather than debating about the model of federalism, we have to introspect whether the particular model will sustain or not. Likwise, rather than the type of system, the most important question to be asked is to what extent that particular system is accountable to the citizen as no system is inherently bad on itself. In the context ofNepal, what is important is are we demanding more than what Nepali state can deliver as without developing capacity of the state we are putting too much pressure on it.

Dhirendra Bhandari said that democracy, social justice, economic prosperity is the need of the hour. Local government brings people closer to the people and we have to strengthen it. Ganesh Chand has said that the gap between poverty and prosperity is increasing and we have to strike balance here to construct egalitarian society. Sushila Giri of UML has demanded for the women's court.

In the same vein, Hem Raj Dangi said that we have to strike a balance between private and public education system as we cannot compete between the one who studies in the rural schools and the one in the private boarding schools of the Kathmandu, if we really wanted to upheld the notion of social justice.

Proceedings of Ghorahi, Dang

In Dang as well many participants actively asked question on different issues. For example, Sushil Gautam, media personnel, said that state is in crisis and during this time of crisis the programme brought about by FES for sure will definitely provide some leeway to address the crisis. He further said B P Koiral's policy of national reconciliation was instrumental in state-building had political parties truly adopted it. He further said that we have lost control on our policies and the MRP (Machine readable Passport) is the case in point. Political parties are running on the basis of syndicate system and they tended to wear garland of 50 KGs but never works for the state and society. We have to adopt economic policies that can strike a balance between rich and poor and also can deal with the challenges brought about by the globalization per se factors. System of governance depends on the nature of political culture. The power has become rule in the country. There has been great deal of gap after the monarchy was abolished from the country and there is an urgent need to develop such centre that can unite whole state into a single thread.

Giri Raj Neupane argued that state should provide basic facilities to the people by expanding the tax sphere. Santosh Pokhrel has said that there is a great deal of dilemma as how to define civil society in Nepali context. Sabitra Rana has said that civil society has failed to truly work for the state and society.

Baburam Bishwakarma has said that we have to develop political tolerance in our political culture than only we can work together. We need to have foreign investment without jeoparadising national interest. Bikas Gywali enquired as how we can minimise political corruption in the country as well as political cirminalisatin in the country. Civil Society should rise above the party and we have set the criteria to come into politics.

Santosh Pokhrel has said that defeated persons are coming into politics as we do not give due attention to the democratic norms and values. This government is against the norms of democracy. Yogesh Kumar Lamsal said that everybody has a right to organise in a democracy as there are people in society who are opposing the political activities of Kamal Thapa. This should not happen in democracy.

Conclusion

The mid-west is the hinterland of Maoist movement that started more than a decade ago. The level political awareness and the feeling of nationalism is very high. However, like in the other region many people are skeptical about the federalism. They are even not convinced that the current political system will deliver and work for the broader society. Perhaps, the time has come for Nepali state to look into the real issues that impedes our society rather than entangling too much on political affairs.

 
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