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Civic Education for Consolidating Relationships between People and Local Self Governance

Organised by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)

10 November 2011, Baglung


In the absence of civic education, youths across the nation are shying away from politics. Especially college goers in urban and semi-urban areas seem to have misunderstood politics. They take politics as a dirty game. There has been a growing trend among youths to be indifferent from politics and social activities. If this trend continues, sociologists fear that there will be an abyss in the country's politics. The abyss or the gap can debilitate democracy to a large extent.

Even though leaders of country's major political parties seem to be least bothered about democracy and the country's sovereignty; social activists, scholars and workers of different political parties here are deeply concerned about the national issues, democratic values and development. Setting aside their ideological differences, the local people here echoed their voice for development and democracy.

While presenting a working paper on "Civic Education for Consolidating Relationships between People and Local Self Governance" organised by the Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS) recently, Shiv Raj Dahal underlined the need for generating massive awareness among youths.

Youths are the torch-bearers of the nation, if they become indifferent from politics; the mainstream politics fails to move towards right direction, he said.

When politics takes a wrong course, the chances of failure of democracy are higher. To be more precise, there is likelihood of dominance of regressive forces (wrong-hands) in politics which to a large extent can jeopardize democracy. And when democracy becomes weak, good governance cannot be expected, said Dahal while giving a brief outline of his working paper.

"This is high time for each and every citizen - especially youths across the nation to be aware of political development taking place in the country. If youths turn a deaf ear to the politics, that will be a disaster, he said.

Youth's participation in social activities would have a domino-impact in the social transformation. Hence, youths should be involved in different facets of society, he added.
Growing trend of going abroad for seeking employment and permanent residency (PR) shall make the national politics hollow. Hence, civic education is a must for social transformation and development.

However, youths should be provided with an ample opportunity for their economic uplift. Politics is based on economics. He said

Following Shiva Raj Dahal's presentation, Prof. Dr. Gunanidhi Sharma spoke about the economic aspect of civic education. He said more and more youths irrespective of their ideologies should be involved in productive and meaningful activities in the society. Economy of the nation is based on three components namely - state, private sector and cooperative.

If economics fails to support politics, there will be a dearth of participation, democracy, human dignity; he said adding that the country's politics has become more capital-(Kathmandu)-centric. Politics, guide economic activities and economic activities are the fundamental to the politics.

Presenting a gloomy picture of economic indicators, he said that per capita income in Nepal has just reached US$500, while neighboring countries like India and China have US$ 3500 and US$ 7500 respectively.

This tardy growth shows that we are failing in development process. Who is responsible for the failure as of now? They are the political actors who should be held responsible for tardy economic growth. If politics fails to take right course, country's economy cannot move a head, he said.

Our economy is based on remittance, but we have not calculated the cost side, he said.
Prof. Sharma, former vice chairman of the National Planning Commission said that the data system. Our data system is not reliable.

The poverty has come down to 25 per cent from a 32 per cent, but the reality is not different. Poor has become poorer and rich has richer. The gap has further widened in the recent years, he said.
Problem in economic governance has to be resolved to attract youths, he said.

It is the responsibility of the state to attract youths for social development. If we fail to address the problem in the economic governance, I doubt the country shall plunge into an abyss of violence and lawlessness, he said.

If the state fails to provide opportunities to the youths, obviously they tend to shy away. It is the responsibility of the state to create opportunities for the people in the society. Political actors, government should act honestly.

Prof. Sharma also spoke about the impact of Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) between Nepal and India. Sharma, the former vice chairman of the NPC strongly claimed that BIPPA will have more serious impact in the country's economy. The BIPPA has reinforced the 1950 Treaty between Nepal and India which is in the interests of India.

Prof. Dr. Ram Kumar Dahal, while talking about the need for political awareness said that youths should not be kept aside of politics. They should be a part of politics and social activities.

Prof. Dahal stressed the need for generating awareness among youths. They should be informed that politics is not a dirty game. They should be encouraged to do politics for the right cause. Young generation presume politics as a dirty game played idiots. This is totally a wrong concept. They should be given a message that politics is not a dirty game, but it should be guided by the right persons who are honest and integrity towards society, he said.

Prof. Dahal claimed that the civil society in our context is guided by political parties. If this trend continues, the problem will arise in making the parties alert and ultimately the political parties cannot take a right course. Leaders of political parties should go along with the people. They should embrace the feelings of people in true sense. Prof. Dahal further said that political leaders should act in such a way that they should be able to solve their problems at state level.

But it is a great irony that our leaders who get elected by the votes of these people completely ignore them. This is the main reason as why youths are shying away from politics. However, we cannot remain tightlipped. Someone has to initiate the process of educating youngsters. Hence, we should play a proactive role to bring youths into the mainstream of politics, he added.

Chandra Dev Bhatta, programme officer of Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) highlighting objectives of the programme spoke about the prime objectives of the FES. He explained how first President of Germany Friedrich Ebert initiated the process of institutionalising social dialogue for the uplift the society. Without civic education, people cannot realize the essence of democracy. Civic education teaches people to be responsible and dutiful. Civic education teaches citizens to be good citizen.

Political dialogue, social dialogues among youths should be encouraged for social justice. If youths shy away who is going to take part in the politics for social change?

Bhatta, an expert in political economy, noted that politics has been distorted. Instead of becoming for the people, politicians have created distance from the people. By the people means it has been 'buy' the people and for of the people it has become 'off the people', he said.

Bhatta said that youths should be aware of all types of anomalies taking place in the society. Whatever the political ideologies they have, they should not lag behind for common cause.

Earlier Prof. Ananda Shretha, Chairman of the NEFAS highlighted the objectives of the NEFAS's campaign on civic education. No society can make progress without civic education, hence NEFAS, with the support of FES has been organising civic education programme across the nation. We expect that this type of civic education programme would be helpful in generating awareness among youths.

Besides, our programme would help accumulate opinions across the nation. This ultimately, helps us to put pressure on policy makers at the national level.

Urging participants to float their opinions, he said "Your opinion bears a lot of sense to formulate policy". We are organising this programme to collect your views; this in totality helps policy makers as what policy should be formulated.

From the chair, Mana Bahadur Khattri, lecturer of Dhaulagiri Multiple College (DMC) expressed view that such interaction programme would largely help to build opinion and galvanize relations between youths in the society.

Such programme would generate awareness among the youths. Hence, such civic education programme should be encouraged for youths.

Floor Discussion

Hrishi Ram Sharma, a local intellectual and political activist said that political parties and their leaders should be cautioned with regard to development and democracy.

Today's youths need proper guideline for that they are in dire need of civic education. At a time when the values of civic education are dying down, such programme organised by the NEFAS would greatly contribute to generate awareness among youths.

Each year, an awful lot of youths are going abroad, if we fail to educate youths about the value of democracy, country's future will be in jeopardy.

Hence, we should make youths more aware about their rights and the values. If the current trend of going abroad continues, democracy cannot take a right course. The youths who are torch-bearers in the society cannot give anything to the society; Sharma said adding that "Dahal's working paper should be more specific about the role of youths' in capitalist model and socialist society.

Tek Bahadur K.C, district secretary of the UCPN- Maoists, said that local youths were very much aware of their rights. He cautioned not to misinterpret youths' role in national building process and social changes.

K.C said that left parties across the nation need real education in true sense. However, he raised an objection that the decision making process in the left parties is not governed by the centre alone. The left parties often make decision on the basis of opinion at the grassroots level.

Kazi Gaunle, a local social activist said that different people have different understanding. People in other countries have their own model of democracy. In the same way, we should have own model. Hence the paper should clarify as how youths could be mobilised for common cause in the society.

Prakash Poudel, Chairman of District Committee Nepali Congress said that the election should not be based on the caste, religion. This creates a sharp division among youths. Developmental activities should take place on the basis of reciprocity, he said.
This type of interaction on civic education would largely help in uniting youths in the society for development.

Bal Bahadur Lamichhane, Chairman of District Red Cross Baglung expressed grudges over the politicians and political parties. None of the political leaders are bothered about the deteriorating situation of law and order. The entire nation is on the verge of disintegration as the political parties and their leaders are squabbling over the political power. The true nationalism should be defined.

Mana Kumari K.C, a school teacher underlined the need to make common efforts to overcome social anomalies. The atmosphere of trust should be built among youths, she said.

Responding the queries of participants, Shiva Raj Dahal, the resource person of the workshop vowed to incorporate all sorts of opinions at the interaction programme.

Nepal is rich in resources. What we need is organisation capacity. To strengthen organisation capacity, civic consciousness must improve. Leaders should have skill, honesty and capacity.

Hence, everybody in the society should have an adequate sense of shouldering responsibility with a greater degree of honesty.

Prof. Dr. Gunanidhi Sharma, while responding the queries about the impact the BIPPA said that it was more regressive than that of the Mahakali Treaty. It would have greater impact in the country's trade and economy.

Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal, further said that political awareness among youths should be encouraged for that social dialogue is a must.

Finally Chairman of the programme Mana Bahadur Khatri, also underlined the need for social dialogue. Such programme would act a catalyst to bring the youths into a common forum.

 
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