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Civic Education for Consolidating Relationships between People and Local Self Governance

Organised by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)

19 November 2011, Daman, Palung

MAJORITY of youths and women in this hilly village are still unaware about their rights and responsibilities. However, late Rupchand Bista who fought for equality and social justice throughout his life is still their ideologue.

The reality is that the local people have almost lost their faiths on so-called crusaders of Loktantra. They complain Loktantra has done nothing for rural folks. Rather it has widened the gap between rich and poor. Rich is becoming richer and poorer folks are becoming more penniless. Is this a Loktantra(democracy)? An old farmer asks with a penitent smile.

Young sociologist Shiv Raj Dahal urged local people to be more optimistic and forward looking. He blamed the prevailing education system for ruining the social values and sense of morality among youths. If we fail to make youths more cautious on time, the society may turn into chaos.

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, Dahal underlined need for a massive social awareness for social transformation.

If youths and women shy away from politics and social issues, there is a greater chance of failure of democracy. When democracy fails, good governance becomes a day dream, said Dahal.

Dahal said civic education consolidates social fabrics and galvanizes relations each other for common cause. An individual becomes sensible, disciplined by civic education. This ultimately promotes good governance; he said adding that there should be a provision of moral education in formal course of study at school and college level.

The number of youths going abroad for employment has been sharply increasing for the last couple of years. Besides, social anomalies and domestic violence are on the rise.

It is mainly due to lack of civic education, deteriorating moral values and poverty, claimed Shiva Raj Dahal.

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.

"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

"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.

The overall trend shows that majority of youths in this hilly district 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.

Because of poor sense of social values and self confidence, 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.

Throwing lights on some economic issues that the country is facing, 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 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, that there should be proper system of policy regulation.

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.

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. 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.

Commenting the database system of the government body he said "It's a bizarre that 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 trade and economy. The BIPPA has reinforced the 1950 Treaty between Nepal and India which is in the interests of India.

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.

He said social dialogue reinvigorates civil society which is possible through civic education. If civil society becomes stronger and influential, it can put pressure on the government for good social 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 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.

Consolidation of democracy is not possible without active participation of youths. Hence youths should play proactive role for democracy and development, they said.

From the chair Sanubhai Karki, campus Chief of the Palung Campus stressed the need for interaction programme. Such interaction largely helps local youths to build opinions. 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, he said.

Floor Discussion

Chandra Karki, a local at Daman village asked as how Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) has affected Nepal. The institution like NEFAS should take initiatives to hold such dialogues at the local level. Social interaction make youths and local people more informed as a result of which they realize their responsibilities in true sense.

K. B. Bista, a college teacher expressed concern about the writing of constitution and bringing the peace process to the conclusion.

Ram Hari Adhikari, lecturer of Palung Multiple Campus pointed out the need for involving youths for social change. Unless youths remain excluded, it is impossible for a society to move forward, he added.

Som Nath Poudel, a political activist blamed the major political parties for triggering such anomalies in the society. If political leaders fail to give good leadership, no country can come out of disarray. Political leaders from the very beginning should be held responsible for instability in the country.

In response to the issues raised by the participants Shiva Raj Dahal, rightly pointed out the need for social interaction for bringing youths into a common platform. Each and everybody should be honest and has steely sense of responsibility. Hence, civic education is a must for them that helps in cementing the social fabrics, he said.

Prof. Gunanidhi Sharma blamed political parties including the UCPN- Maoists for working at the interests of India.

He said that the impact the BIPPA said that it would be more regressive than that of the Mahakali Treaty. It would rather complementary to the 1950 treaty when it comes into force. It would have greater impact in the country's trade and economy. Under BIPPA, we would not that strength to compete with Indian investors.

They can easily repatriate profit and bring their own workers without any barriers. He also cited an example of border issue as how India and China have been cooperating Nepal. BIPPA would have been okay, it was done on product wise basis, he said.

Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal, said that political awareness among youths should be encouraged for social dialogue. He urged youths to be optimistic and realize their social values.

Finally Chairman of the programme Sanubhai Karki said that such interaction programme would at least help youths to join their hands for common social cause. He also underlined the need for social dialogue. Such programme would act a catalyst to bring the youths into a common forum.
Around 150 people were participating in the interaction programme.

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