for Strengthening Relations between People and Local Self Governance
Seminar organized by Nepal Foundation for
Advanced Studies (NEFAS)
11 Sept 2010, Chatara
Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies and
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung organized a one-day seminar in Chatara,
a holy site on the Chure foothills near Dharan, Sunsari on "Civic
Education for Strengthening Relations between People and Local
Self Governance". It was held on 11 September, 2010. Among
all the seminars organized by NEFAS so far, the one held in Chatara
will be remembered by the organizers for long time to come. Heavy
rains the night before had resulted in flash-flooding of the road
and the organizers had to take a two hours long detour to reach
the seminar venue. This piqued the participants who had arrived
in time only to wait for the organizers to arrive. They had to
be clamed down with profuse apologies.
After the apologies for arriving late, NEFAS
Executive Director Prof. Ananda Srestha said that NEFAS had
been involved in organizing academic debates on various issues
of public importance ever since its establishment and that the
outcome of those debates were published for wider consumption.
He told the participants that the seminar being held on civic
education too had the objective of publishing a book and that
he welcomed everyone's contribution in it through comments on
C.D. Bhatta of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung said
that FES had been a brainchild of the first German president
and that it was engaged in promoting the ideals of social democracy
throughout the world. He said that, apart from equality, FES
also promoted freedom, solidarity and peace. He said that there
were a lot of popular issues that needed to be included in the
constitution being drafted in Nepal today. People need to express
their concerns for them to be adopted in the national document
and, for that, the people must be aware of the issues surrounding
them, he said. Bhatta said that only civic education could make
them aware of their surroundings.
After the welcome addresses, Shivaraj Dahal
made his presentation on the topic of the day, "Civic Education
for Strengthening Relations between People and Local Self Governance".
The paper talks about the need for public officials to act in
a public fashion rather than one who think that the public sphere
is one's own private turf. For people, and the public officials
like politicians, to understand their public duties and rights
they must be imparted with civic education, he said. The nation
was facing political problems and economic decline because of
the absence of civic education among the people, according to
Prof Ram Kumar Dahal's presentation of an
FES publication titled "Handbook of Democracy" was
focused on explaining the systematic structure of the ideal
of democracy. The book is on the different aspects of democracy
that are pivotal for the ideal to be practiced by any people.
They include the government structure in a democratic society,
the processes of forming the government, the rule of law, the
protection of personal freedoms and the like.
Bedraj Acharya talked about economic problems
facing the country, particularly those brought about by the
inability of policymakers to utilize national resources. He
said that the resources are being drained from the country.
He pointed at the natural resources like sand and aggregates
being shipped to neighbouring India almost for free and at huge
environmental costs for Nepal. He also talked about brain drain
affecting the country and suggested that the workers be trained
before sending them abroad so that they bring in more remittances.
The presentations were followed by comments
from the floor. Some of the participants were of the view that
the wrongs committed by public officials was not because of
lack of civic knowledge. They cited cases where the government
had refused to act in spite of huge public pressure. Corruption
was another issue eating the minds of some while others thought
that the education system in place and the teaching methodologies
were flawed. One participant even said that teachers were imparting
partisan knowledge on students from a very early age. The discussions
came to an end after the chairman thanked everyone for making
the function a success.
Excerpt of the seminar
Chair: Om Sharma
Ananda Srestha's welcome address: My
sincere apologies for arriving late. The objective of Nepal
Foundation for Advanced Studies is to hold discussions on topical
issues and publish the outcome of those discussions. Our focus
has been to hold such discussions in different parts of the
country. University students and others interested in the subject
have used these publications.
We have held a series of discussions on civic
education in different parts of the country. The presentations
being made today will seek your input through comments. These
will provide the feedback for the papers so that they can be
improved before publication.
Most of our publications have been used as
university curriculum in the country and outside. A university
in Denmark also uses our publications. Since we do not represent
any political party, we have limited influence in the political
course of the country except make people aware through our publications.
In that sense, we are purely an academic organization.
C.D. Bhatta: Friedrich Ebert was the
first German president. He was a labour leader. He wanted education
to be given to the Germans early in their childhood. It is his
wish that resulted in a foundation that carries the social democratic
message to people all around the world today. The foundation
aims to promote democracy in different parts of the world.
We have seen conflict between freedom and
equality from the very beginning. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung wants
to fill that gap. We want to see a democracy that provides the
people the opportunity to participate in decision making. Participation
is needed. Representation alone will not be enough. These ideas
are is known only through civic education.
We are talking of adopting federalism in Nepal
today. Civic education can bring together all the various social
groups into a single national identity.
Civic education is provided by schools, political parties or
NGOs. Civic education is different from political education.
It is usually used to provide a national basis for solidarity
like in the United States. In the US, various nationalities
that migrate to that country, will have to be woven into a single
Shivaraj Dahal's presentation
Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal's presentation
on "Handbook of Democracy".
Bedraj Acharya's presentation
Gyan Bahadur Pandey: You talked about
the data dispute regarding poverty. Do you have a standard poverty
definition that is applicable everywhere?
Purushottam Dhungel: Education is indispensable.
We see that the founder of education, Dronacharya, has been
monopolising education even to this day. Dronacharya taught
not only the Pandavs but also the 101 Kauravs. He even taught
the son of a Nisad, a Majhi, for one day. But the Nisad was
shunned by Dronacharya. That policy continues to this day. Until
that policy changes, citizenship will always be a problem in
Kamala Maden: I would like to thank
Mr. Shivaraj Dahal for his presentation. The paper incorporates
a lot of things. I want to know what is nationality? How would
you define it?
Pralhad Bhattarai: You talked of including
civic education in the school curriculum. I do not agree that
wrongs are committed in the absence of knowledge. Obviously,
the knowledge imparted by civic education is already there in
the curriculum, but remains scattered in many subjects. Civic
education would only bring everything in one palce.
We say that we need vocational education but
we have yet to decide on abandoning the philosophical type of
education that we have. I think the focus should be on education
policy. During the Panchayat years we had civic education and
even a book on the Panchayat System. But that did not prevent
the system from falling. We also had moral education some time
ago, although many were opposed to that. The question is: did
that education make us moral in our character.
We should be stressing the rule of law. If
that can be guaranteed, citizens will not only get civic education
but many other things.
We have many different kinds of nationalism-
Castro's nationalism or Hitler's nationalism or Gyanendra's
nationalism. I think the terminology needs to be defined in
an international context.
We criticize imperialism but seek aid from
the very countries that we criticise. There is indeed a degree
of dependence that we must accept.
Uddhav Neupane: The paper does not
make any recommendation to break the network of corruption.
Our society preserves and protects the corrupt by honouring
them. A custom official is praised for earning more than other
straight civil servants.
We know of many cases where people tried for
corruption but none of them punished for being corrupt. I recently
heard one person jailed and fined for corruption [an official
from Nepal Oil Corporation].
The most corrupt are the police and courts.
Both these institutions are supposed to provide justice. How
can we have social justice in such a situation? The courts should
not only be independent but also corruption-free.
The corrupt officials are protected by their
bosses. Some are known to be protected even by institutions
that are supposed to punish them.
Shyam Sigdel: I think the citizens
did their duty in the case of packaged juice produced by Dabur
Nepal. But the administration has kept mum so far without taking
any action. Who should be taking up the issue now?
Reply by Bedraj Acharya
Poverty can either be absolute or relative.
Absolute poverty is related with our basic needs-if you earn
less that 150 rupees a day, do not have free education up to
the primary level and the services of an Assistant Health Worker
with a health post then you are an absolute poor. You do not
have absolute poor in rich countries as the state guarantees
that. Welfare states also guarantee people their right to health
Uddhav Ghimire: There is something
called the "reservation quota". I would like to know
what costs and benefits the system entails.
Santosh Gupta: You arrived late and
when we came here, there was no one. When we came here, a light
was on here in the room even during daytime. But no one seemed
to care about turning it off. Teachers are supposed to give
us knowledge. We are witnessing the politician's character everywhere.
Should all this be happening?
I have found that teachers are pushing partisan
knowledge, from the very childhood of their students They used
to be a respected lot in ancient times.
I do not think we will ever be able to progress
with such an attitude.
I think people from the grassroots should
also have been included in this function to educate them.
Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal's reply
Our constitution talked about free education
but not compulsory education. We should also make education
compulsory. Obviously there is the question of affordability.
I agree that nationalism should be defined
in the international context.
I too agree that the judiciary and the police
are corrupt, although saying so may be a "contempt of court".
A judge once said that if the whole body is cancerous the head
cannot be free from its effect. The problem is that we cannot
Political parties are indeed creating problems,
but then there is no alternative to political parties in a multiparty
democracy. The only way out is to educate these partymen, whether
they want to be educated or not. This does not mean we are opposed
to political parties.
Quota is good in the sense that all marginalised
group get access. But the bad aspect is that the meritorious
Rabi Rai: You are trying to say that
democracy must be supported by civic education and raise serious
issues-you even question the loktantrik culture and say that
it may be working towards marginalizing nationalism.
Let me recommend to you that you hold a seminar
for individuals in the judiciary, legislative and the executive.
The bureaucracy is not able to provide necessary
services because the civil servants do not want to be posted
far away from their homes. They do not want to go to rural areas.
For this, they go to the politicians and surrender themselves
to these politicians. Such a tendency has brought many dangers
to the fore.
Civic education is needed to end the problems
created by politics as these problems are related with human
You appear to question the ability of the
loktantrik system to preserve Nepal's nationalism. For example,
you seek consensus at least on national issues. You say that
loktantra is not a monopoly of a particular culture or group.
You say loktantra becomes strong if the civil
society is strong, but I think this is more related with the
people's basic needs. If they have hand-to-mouth problems, loktantra
will always be questioned. One or the other ideology will always
be there to oppose that. If so, then should some other form
of civic education be devised for such a competing ideology?
Shivaraj Dahal's reply
I do not think that talking philosophies
alone will strengthen loktantra. For that, employment must be
created. We have entered the World Trade Organization regime,
which means that we must build our infrastructure to prevent
the brain drain that is taking place.
Impunity must end. The state has no monopoly over punishment
for crimes and taxes these days.
About two million foreigners have received
citizenship while the Nepalese are being turned into refugees
in their own country. The number of unemployed educated is on
The state must provide equal protection to
the pluralism existing in the country.
I agree with prof. R K. Dahal's answer. But,
in my point of view about nationalism, nationalism is corporate
sentiment, a kind of spiritual feeling, a way of thinking and
living or mutual sympathy relating to define a home country.
It provides achievement to glory and suffering.
Ravi Khadka: The term came to hoodwink
the people as people were already fed up with the misdeed that
took place during prajatantra. Now we hear about state failure
and our political parties still lack vision and have not even
begun to talk about forging a consensus to develop Nepal.
Shivaraj Dahal: Khadka's question talks
about the flight of youth. There needs to be political stability
to do so. Tourism and trade and industry must be implemented
to provide them employment. Work permits, micro hydels, and
political empowerment helps.
I am grateful to NEFAS for holding the function
here in our school. We are happy to welcome Prof. Ram Kumar
Dahal, a renowned political scientist.
The paper talks about inclusiveness. We have
corrupt officials and we see their pay scale beinbg increased
by 200 per cent at one go. Even then, the country still runs.
We also have intellectual slavery. If anyone
does well in studies, that person will go abroad for jobs.
We have fertile grounds being turned into
building sites while building areas left abandoned.
In India ministers own up the mishaps that
take place. Related ministers resign when road accidents take
place. We too must promote moral responsibilities in our society.
The paper makes a bold attempt to correct these issues in the