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Civic Education for Consolidating Relationships between People and Local Self Governance

Organised by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)

12 November 2011, Tanahu, Bandipur

Approximately 100 miles away from the capital city, Bandipur, one of the historic towns in the country has its own features. Though it is in the stage of negligence, some tourism entrepreneurs and local people have done a lot to maintain its virginity. It is still serene, unpolluted, and rich in tradition.

However, it is said that common people in this historic and hilly town are still unaware of their rights. Though majority of the population in this little town is fairly literate, they seem to be ignorant about the value of democracy and individual rights.

Moreover, youths and women between the age of 18 and 40 seem indifferent to the politics and moral values.

They either prefer to go abroad to earn money or stay in the capital city. This trend has made Bandipur locals more frustrated, says a shopkeeper.

Nevertheless, there is a big hope amidst frustration. Some aspirant educated people like Bikram Piya, campus chief of Bandipur College are committed to do something in the society for the development of the community.

Well educated people like Piya have seen abundance potentials in Bandipur. Besides teaching, he is heavily engaged in the job of social awareness among youths. This time, Piya took initiatives to hold an interaction programme with the resource persons from Kathmandu based NGO - Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS).

At an interaction programme organized with a view to generate awareness among the youths and women in Bandipur, sociologist Shiv Raj Dahal, presenting a working paper on Civic Education for Consolidating Relations between People and Local Self Governance" spoke about the need for civic education for young generations.

He said the education system awfully lack civic education for youngsters. This to a large extent affects their individual behavior.

Youths are the torch-bearers of the nation, if they become apathetic to 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

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.

"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.

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

The local people here have expressed a serious concern that the number of youths going abroad for employment have been sharply increasing for the last couple of years.

Majority of youths in this area either prefer to go Kathmandu for higher education or opt to go to the Middle East countries for employment. They are almost unaware of the country's politics, said local intellectuals and political activists.

Expressing their concern, they said that the youths in the district were in dire need of imparting moral education so that they can feel their responsibilities and respect social and cultural values.

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

Dwelling upon the economic phenomenon of the country, 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.

The history of planning in Nepal begins way back in1956, but Nepal's economic planning is still grappling with so many anomalies. If we compare our growth with that of others, we lag far behind in development. It shows that there is something missing in our economic governance, said Prof. Sharma.

If economics fails to support politics, there will be a dearth of participation that ultimately affects democracy, human dignity and values; 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.
Devolution of political power, would largely contribute to devolution of economic power.

There is a big crisis in economic governance. Inequality and poverty go side by side. Of the total trade over 50 per cent is 'illegal'. As long as such situation prevails, we cannot expect economic growth of the nation.

Prof. Sharma said that development model should be inclusive and broad-based. Besides, there should be proper system of policy regulation, he added

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. It shows that Nepal's economic growth is far below the average growth.

The most important thing is that economic fundamental should be strengthened, to make the politics more practical and accessible to youths, he said.

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 (NPC) said that the data system. Our data system is not reliable. He said that he had formulated a number of plans while he was in the NPC, but could not implement owing to the dearth of time.

It's bizarre that the poverty has come down to 25 per cent from a 32 per cent, but the reality is not different. How can one trust over the figures? It is a great surprise that 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. Dr. Sharma, the former vice chairman of the NPC strongly claimed that BIPPA will have more serious impact in the country' trade and economy. The BIPPA has complemented to the 1950 Treaty between Nepal and India. The 1950 treaty has been signed at the interests of India.

Expressing concern over the indifferent attitude of youths, he said that young generation should be politically aware about their rights. Majority of youths across the nation are misguided and misinformed, claimed 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 noted 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 spoke about the objectives of the interaction programme. He explained as why NEFAS had been gearing up 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 beneficial 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". The programme has been organizing e are organizing this programme to collect your views; this in totality helps policy makers as what policy should be formulated. Prof. Shrestha urged all participants for their active participation to actively take part and the discussion

Consolidation of democracy is not possible without active participation of youths. Hence youths should play proactive role for democracy and development, they said. Participation of youths in social and political activities is a must to make the society dynamic and forward looking for that youths need to be made aware of their individual rights and responsibilities, they added.

Floor Discussion

Gobardhan Bhattarai, a former school teacher and a political activist of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) expressed concerned about the deteriorating situation of national politics in the country. All the aspirations of people have died down. He expressed fear as to whether Nepal would turn into Congo or Somalia. He said dwell citizenship to the Non- Resident Nepali (NRNs) is totally against the interest of the nation.

Sudarshan Pradhan, a tourism entrepreneur in Bandipur said that awareness among youths is essential for economic development. Youths should be encouraged for social cause. Speaking at a different tone, he said that it was necessary to be involved in politics; youths can involve themselves in the social activities even without having political knowledge. Hence, I request working paper presentator to come up with the views that, today youths need civic sense. They need social and moral support.

Kirshna Poudel said that overall behavior politicians are not people-friendly. They should win the heart of people. Leaders who are supposed to lead the society seem to be engrossed in petty interest.

Mani Kumar Pradhan, a senior citizen at Bandipur urged the resource persons to organize such programme in Bandipur. This would at least help youths to do something for their own society.

Responding queries of the participants, Prof. Gunanidhi Sharma blamed political parties including the UCPN- Maoists for working at the interests of India. He said some external factors were responsible for the backwardness. The attitude of neighbors should be very positive to make other neighbor more prosperous.

He said that the impact the BIPPA would be more harmful than that of the Mahakali Treaty. The impact of BIIPA to a large extent would be negative for the country's economy and business.

Shiva Raj Dahal, who presented the paper assured the participants that he would incorporate their suggestions when it is published.

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

Finally, Chairman of the programme Bikram Piya said that such interaction programme would help generate awareness among youths in Bandipur. Our efforts give civic education to the young generation would continue. It is the civic education that helps youths realize their potentials.

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