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Seminar Report on Civic Education on Modern-State Building

Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)

17- 18 September (Katari, Udayaypur) and 19-20 September 2011 (Mirchaiya, Siraha)


Introduction

Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office has organised two day seminars on civic education and state-building at Katari of Udayapur district and Mirchaya of Siraha district on 17 and 18 and 19 and 20 September, 2011 respectively. The programme was attended by local political leaders, members of civil society, journalists, teachers, lecturers, students, civil servants (including security personnel) and other stake-holders of society actively participated the two-day seminar in both the places. There were over 130 participants in Katari and more than 125 in Mirchaya with significant number of women participants. The whole idea of this programme was to educate political leaders and people at the local level on the importance of civic education and its role in modern state-building. Civic education basically is a political education and there is a great deal of urgency to inform people about politics and component required for the democratic politics which can, no doubt, contribute towards modern state-building by winning people's confidence on it which seems to be waning day-by-day. In Katari, the seminar was chaired by Rajendra Prasad Niraula and in Mirchaya Dr. Sri Krishna Yadav, former Commissioner of public Service Commission of Nepal. Gyanendra Bahadur Raut, Secretary of the Nepali COngressParty also actively participated in the programme.

The proceedings

Dev Raj Dahal, Head of FES Nepal Office welcomed all the participants and highlighted objectives of the seminar. During his inaugural speech Dahal said underlined the importance of civic education. He said that the lack of civic education in our society can result in political anarchy. He further said that citizens are members of the state and by being the members of the state they enjoy certain rights from the state and have duties towards it. That feeling seems to be lacking in our context both at the level of political class and at the citizenry level argued Dahal. The unaccountable politics is the product of this phenomenon said Dahal. Hence the biggest challenge that lies ahead of us is how do we inculcate the culture of civic education in our political system and create common national identity. That said, how we can build up common orientation towards state and society to translate democracy in a real sense of the term to minimise inequality that exist in society. As long as inequality exists in society, conflicts are bound to take place. Hence minimization of social inequality can help us to build-up a modern state said Dahal.

Speaking from the Chair Rajendra Prasad Niraula said that education is all about learning and changing human behavior. In the same vein, Dr Yadav opined that it has always been difficult to define freedom. Perhaps the best way to define freedom is to exercise one's right without impinging on other's right. He further said that materialism alone cannot unite society - there has to be some element of spiritualism or dharma in our education system. He also said that by making others unhappy - one cannot stay happy for a long time. This is what exactly we have to realise and take into consideration in a post-conflict society like ours.

Three papers were presented in both the places wherein Dev Raj Dahal presented on challenges of state-building in Nepal, Lal Babu Yadav - Associate Professor of Political Science at the Tribhuvan University spoke about Constitutional crisis in the country and highlighted on federalism, electoral system, and form of government and finally Chandra D Bhatta spoke about democracy and its elements. He also highlighted why democracy works in some countries and not in others. He stressed that what matters in democracy is process not the leaders.

Discussion

Kumar Singh Rai asked why Nepal is not developed and how we can bring youths into politics. Rajendra Niraula asked whether federalism is needed or not. Another participant Sumi Rai asked can federalism bring development /prosperity in society? What type of federalism would best suitable for Nepal? Another participant asked why parliamentary system has failed in Nepal - is it because of the system itself or nature of the political culture?

Bhanu Bhakta Gautam (Principle) of Fulkumari Mahato Higher Secondary School asked what is the difference between federalism with full-autonomy and federalism without autonomy?

Pabitra Narayan Yadav asked how can we have a federal state that can address demands of different ethnic and regional groups in Nepal? Jeevachha Sah said this is an important topic but the challenge for us is how we can have a state that can look into the voices raised by different societal groups and win people's loyalty towards it. He further said that political parties have made mistakes by giving both roles to the CA - that is, constitution writing and day-to-day administration of the state. Due to this provision political parties are more involved in government forming than writing the constitution.

Vijay Sah was of the view that constitution comes from the society but our political classes seem to have failed to realise this fact?

Jitendra Kumar Yadav asked what type of nationalism do we want - liberal, nationalistic or socialistic? He further said that how can we develop the culture of nationalism? What type of democracy would best serve our interest social or liberal asked Yadav further.

Ajay Kumar Yadav asked why don't we talk about democratization of political parties

Chandra Dev Yadav enquired what is autonomous Madhes and one-Madhes -one Pradesh?

Trikoland Thakur (Vice-Principle) asked what type language policy should be adopted by the federals states?

Jitendra Kumar asked what type federal system should Nepal adopt and what are its basis ? He further asked what are the views of different political parties on federalism ?

Another participant Poonam Ghimire Shah asked what would happen if we do not adopt federalism ? She further enquired how do we benefit more by going into federalism or without it. She personally feels that federalismis not suitable for Nepal.

Ajay Kumar Yadav asked what type of rights federal states enjoy in federalism with right to self-determination. What type of federalism would unite all Nepalese into a single thread asked Chandeshor Paswan.

Bharat Mahato and Jagdish Mahato asked what is civil society and its role in political process ? What is public information system and how does it empower people and transform them into citizen? What are the views of different political parties on federalism ?

Ram Udgar Shah asked in the context of Nepal, there is a great deal of fear that federalism with right to self-determination will disintegrate Nepal. I am personally of the view that we should not entire Madhes one Pradesh as there is no guarantee that people from Madhes would become Chief Minister even if the entire Madhes become one state. Is federalism a scientific system ?

Dhanpati Sah what type of federalism would be best suitable for Nepal. Bedananda Jha raised the issue of federalism before Gajendra Naryan but why the issue was subsided then?

In a democracy rules are followed without referee - how is that possible?

Asha Bhujel asked how can we improve the situation of women in Nepal? Women work more than men but their work is not respected or valued why?

Kaplieshwor Thakur wanted to know different between prajatantra, loktantra and ganatantra?

Until now the democracy has been realised by few people in Nepal - can federalism bring democracy for all asked Pashupati Sah.

Badri Sah asked what is the main barrier of democracy if it is rule of law not that of person?

Conclusion

What is clear from the above discussion is that many people are unaware of about federalism, electoral procedure, right-to-self determination and other political issues that are floated by the political parties. There is an urgent need to extend programmes like this in different parts of the country at the grass-root level as well so that people at large can participate effectively in the political process. Overall an effective democracy can only function when it is backed up by the effective citizenry.

 
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