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Civic Education: The Role of the Youth in the Making of a Modern State

Organized by Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS)

5 March 2011, Patalekhet, Kavre

Total Number of Participants- 85


Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS) in co-operation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) organized a one day seminar on “Civic Education: The Role of the Youth in the Making of a Modern State” at Patalekhet, Kavre district. Eighty-five participants belonging to different fields of life participated in the seminar. Young social scientist Mr.Shiva Raj Dahal presented a paper titled ‘Civic Education for the Youth’ and professor of political science Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal shed further light on various aspects of civic education and on the fundamental principles of democracy as explained in the handbook on democracy. Mr. Chandra Dev Bhatta gave a brief introduction of Friedrich Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and spoke about the significance of democracy and the role it has played in developing civic sense in various countries. The discussion that followed was passionate and was a reflection of the developing public opinion at the grass-roots level. The participants were also provided with the booklet ‘Handouts on Democracy’.

Paper Presentation and Discussion

Shiva Raj Dahal- I would like to request the Chairman of the session Mr. Ram Chandra Humagain, Prof. Ananda P. Shrestha and Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal to take their seats. I would also like to request Mr. Chandra Dev Bhatta to take his seat. Mr. Bhatta works for Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) . Mr. Ananda P Srestha will now shed light on the aim of this program.

Prof. Ananda P. Srestha-Chairman and friends, I would like to extend my warm welcome to all the participants of this one-day program. I think a short introduction of NEFAS is in order. NEFAS stands for Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies. It was established twenty years ago in 1990. It is an academic institution that is concerned with different national issues and its activities are not limited to Kathmandu. In Kathmandu seminars are held every-day. Such seminars do not help in fulfilling the objectives of the programs. We have held seminars in thirty-five different locations and we have been inundated with various types of reactions. Our young colleague Mr. Shiva Raj Dahal has prepared the paper and will present it. The paper is not complete and it needs to further refined by incorporating suggestions based on local problems. We do not only hold seminars, but also publish the proceedings in a book form. So far we have published thirty-five books. These books are used as teaching materials for the political science and sociology courses at the ten plus two level.

Our organization has created a distinct identity for itself by not limiting it self to conducting seminars. Nobody in this organization gets paid. We use the proceeds from the sale of books to maintain our office. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) has been supporting us from the very beginning. Without their support it would not have been possible to conduct our program. Politics in Nepal is not moving towards the right direction, that is towards peace and development. Even after the tenure of the Constituent Assembly has been extended for one year after its two year term expired we are no nearer to getting a constitution. The possibility of promulgating a constitution within the remaining time is slim. If the parties only jostle for power democracy will not flourish. The youth must step forward to do their bit. The older generation has proved itself unequal to the task. We do not insist that the youth carry the party flag, but they must be politically conscious. Otherwise democracy will not be consolidated. The paper being presented will also dwell on this and will make clear why civic education is necessary. Your comments will help to further refine this paper. Once more I would like to welcome you all to this program.

Shiva Raj Dahal- I would like to welcome Mr. Chandra Dev Bhatta from FES.

Chandra Dev Bhatta- from FES highlighted the programme and also FES. Friedrich Ebert was the first elected president of Germany and the word stiftung means academy, foundation in German. This is a political institution and is affiliated to the Socialist Party. Friedrich Ebert was a labor leader and when he feel ill in 1925 people went to wish him well and as a token of their sympathy they presented him with bouquets. He told his well-wishers that it would have been better if the money spent on the bouquet had been donated to a charity committed to the education of the children of the laborers. After he died an organization that provided children of laborers with scholarships was established. Later this organization began to widen its ambit and worked for freedom, peace, solidarity and social justice. FES has offices now in eighty countries and has been working in Nepal since 1995. It has the mandate to work in the field of politics and social sector and is registered with the Foreign Ministry. It has working partnership with research institutions, NGOs and Tribhuvan University. It also publishes books.

People wage struggles for two things-freedom and equality. The rich desire freedom the weak aspire for justice. The problem lies in how to reconcile these different aspirations. In our country the rich account for ten to fifteen percent of the population while the poor make up eighty to ninety per cent of the population. Only when the poor are able improve their economic conditions will they consider themselves to be stakeholders of the system and only then will democracy become strong. We tend to talk of different kinds of rights but if we forget our duties anarchy will prevail. Rights bodies have mushroomed, but it equally important to be aware of our duties. There must be a balance between these two aspects.

What is democracy? Our participation in the system has to be effective. Only when we know the meanings of rights, duties, state’s role etc. can we act as conscious citizens. It has been sixty, seventy years since the movements for democratic rights have been taking place, but the weak have not benefited from it.

Movements without effective results are a waste of our productive time. Political parties say that movements are conducted in the interest of the poor people but once they succeed they ignore the people. Political parties should act as the link between the people and the state. But after the successful conclusion of movements people find themselves alienated from the state since they are deprived of education opportunities and jobs. The parties have not been able to change with the times. Internal democracy is absent within parties and the parties utilize the youth only during times of movements. Youths in the age group 18-35 are the most productive sector of the society. Since opportunities are not available within the country the majority of them go abroad in search of work. Four lakh youths enter the job market every year. Twenty to twenty-five thousand find work in the government sector while another forty to forty-five thousand are given employment by the private sector. What do the rest do? They go abroad. They gradually lose affinity with this country.

Singapore is slightly larger than Kathmandu. It was known as fisherman’s country which had problems with its water supply. In Nepal we have four distinct seasons with varied geography. We have many options. Singapore twenty-five years ago was at the same level as Sri Lanka in terms of development. Now investors from all over the world find her an attractive destination. If the political system functions well such type of development can take place here. We are not a small country; we are small only in relation to India and China. Vietnam is also a relatively small country but it managed to defeat America, France, and China. She is just double our size and her economy is prospering at present. The politicians there behaved as statesmen. We must also produce statesmen.

Human rights are important but the rights of the citizens must also be stressed. Leaders do no consider themselves to be citizens. Our civilization had provided opportunities for public discourse since the ancient times. Democracy was alive then but we could not benefit from it. Nepal was established as a country around two-hundred and forty years ago. Nepal is the fifteenth or sixteenth oldest country in the world. But political problems held back her development. The people must be able to see the political changes reflected in their lives. We need to make the youth conscious. To be in politics should mean to work for the people. At present due to poor leadership the state has become weak.

We need foreign aid but it should be serve our interest and conditionality should not be imposed. Many are providing help but it is being used for personal interest. The same thing is happening from the grassroots level to the highest level. Shiva Raj Dahal and Professor Ram Kumar Dahal will further amplify these issues. Professor Dahal has been engaged in the teaching field for the last twenty-five to thirty years. All of you should take this opportunity to ask him to clarify issues of interest to you.

Shiva Raj Dahal- I am affiliated to NEFAS. I would like to provide a brief introduction of NEFAS. This organization was established in 1990 and is not an NGO. It seeks to collect viewpoints from far flung places and publish it in the form of a book. Tribuvan University, Kathmandu University, JNU and Sikkim University are using the books published by NEFAS in their course. So far we have published thirty-five books. The books deal with issues such as globalization, privatization, liberalization, gender, environment, civil society, social economy etc. We can make the books available to the library of this institution.

We do not have local government functioning at present. We need to find ways to make the relations between the government and people stronger. We will include your suggestions. Knowledge is not found in the capital, it is found in remote villages. I have visited sixty to sixty-five districts. In the course of my visit to Doti I met a Japanese man. He was doing his doctorate. He told me that his teacher had told him that his quest for knowledge will only be complete when he visits remote villages. He was a student of Tokyo University. Buddha did not study in a university; he went to villages to test the validity his ideas. He now has followers in many developed countries. In Nepal a university has been established in Lumbini.

Your suggestions are welcome. The goal of our program is to institutionalize democracy. Debate on this issue needs to be conducted. A campaign to make people aware needs to be conducted. What type of constitution do we need? A constitution needs to protect basic rights and must ensure the territorial integrity of the country. Nationalism is under attack at present. Five to eight lakh people apply for Diversity Visa. Many others have gone to the Gulf countries to work. If we only work for foreigners, how will the country develop? The youth of the country must get involved in politics and try to change the current situation. There are two categories of people-Janta and Citizen. The janta keep their problems to themselves. The citizen demands economic, political and social rights from the state. We have not become citizens until now; our primary identity is still our local identity. People become citizens either through birth or lineage. In European countries people become citizens by birth. If the child of an American citizen is born in Nepal, he/she will not get American citizenship automatically. Only those born in America are entitled to citizenship.

Now I would like to request Professor Ram Kumar Dahal to shed light on key aspects of the handbook on democracy.

Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal- I am associated with the Department of Political Science and Rural Development. I have been engaged in the teaching profession since the last thirty years. Shiva Raj has written an excellent paper on civic education. Please make use of your spare time to read and enjoy this paper. Every aspect of this subject has been covered in detail. Dr. Bhatta is also a deep thinker.

This handbook has been printed by FES. Loktantra and democracy mean the same thing in English. The political parties are trying to confuse people by playing with words. This word is defined in different ways by countries with different political culture. Its essence is that power should be exercised by the people. If a system claims to be loktantric but people have no rights it is not a democracy. A country is judged to be democratic on the basis of the empowerment of the people. The pillars of social democracy are freedom, equality, peace, solidarity and justice. In such a system there should be rule of law, human rights, regular elections and pluralism. There should also be separation of powers, political parties and civic society. The civic society should not be politically divided but must be above politics.

Golbalization- Due to globalization the world has become a global village. The one hundred ninety-two countries that have become members of the UN have become a sort of extended family. The development of technology has ensured that change in one country is bound to affect another country. The change in Egypt has had repercussions all over Africa. Globalization has its plus as well as negative points. In Nepal we need to learn how to make use of the positive aspects and to minimize the negative influences. To strengthen democracy all these points needs to taken into account.

Human Rights- This is the age of human rights. The UN has incorporated civil rights, political, cultural and economic rights in its Charter. Countries are evaluated on the basis of their adherence to these rights. Burma is not provided aid since she does not have an elected government. This issue is related to human rights. The up-coming constitution must guarantee these rights. The youths must put pressure to ensure that such rights are clearly defined and guaranteed.

Rule of Laws- The laws made by an elected assembly are the basis by which a country is governed. We must have our representation in the law making body. A person must be punished not on the basis of a person’s whim but on the basis of prevalent laws. In this regard I would like to narrate an example from New Zealand. The Prime Minister of that country parked his vehicle in the no-parking zone and was fined five hundred dollars by the park attendant. The Prime Minister was offended and asked the attendant whether he knew who he was. The park attendant gently replied that as the particular area has not been designated as parking lot for the Prime Minister the same law that was applicable to the general citizen would apply to him. The Prime Minister duly paid the fine. A country needs to be governed according to the law and all must abide by it. However in the developing countries law-makers become law-breakers. The constitution does not recognize two classes of citizens. There must be equality before the law and law is not meant for the weak only. Corruption is a big hurdle in the implementation of the rule of the law. Political or administrative corruption must be eradicated.

Separation of Power- Montesquieu had propounded the theory of separation of powers in the eighteenth century. According to this theory power should not be concentrated in one institution but should be divided among the three organs-legislature, judiciary and the executive. Each of these organs must not interfere in the other’s sphere. The constitution should ensure that this principle is adhered to. In Nepal we hear voices advocating that the judiciary should be under the control of the legislature. I personally feel that judiciary should be independent. If the judiciary has to look over its shoulders at the legislature before it passes judgment, it will not be able to render independent judgments. Bishwo Kant Mainali had voiced his disagreement with such an arrangement. Voices from other quarters have also been raised against such a provision. Debates among the citizens regarding this issue needs to take place.

At present we are not allowed to cast aspersion on a judge’s character. The court can jail us for contempt of court. It is the responsibility of all of us to keep the independence of the judiciary intact. Some time back in America Al Gore and George Bush fought a court case over the election results. Al Gore lost the case but he graciously accepted the verdict. In a democratic country all must accept the verdict of the court. If our human rights is violated it is the court which will provide us justice. We can debate about how to define the concept of contempt of court and whether limits on this privilege should be made. However the independence of courts will help defend the rights of the people. The coming constitution is likely to follow to follow this principle but debates concerning such issues should be settled before the constitution is promulgated. In China judges take their oath before the legislature.

Pluralism-Pluralism reflects the reality of Nepal and must be accepted. In such a society one group might come into conflict with another. Experts on conflict stress that one must not be afraid of conflict must learn how to manage it. Conflict is not a bad thing as it helps bring about positive changes. Conflict takes place within every type of society. The government has an important role in managing conflict and relevant mechanisms needs to be developed.

Local Government-Grassroots democracy is a strong pillar of the democratic system. The centralization of power by the center is not a healthy practice. Financial and economic powers must be decentralized. The local units must be strengthened and must be provided with the power to make their own decisions.. The local government will act to balance the central government. Interference by the centre in local affairs will have a negative effect. Bridges built by he locals have proved to be better than those built by the center. In Rautahat the local authorities were able to build three bridges at a cost of three cores rupees while it took the centre eight cores rupees to build a similar bridge that proved to be of inferior quality. Sustainable development is only possible when people actively participate in developmental activities. In the past the centre monopolized power; it our right to oversee development programs.

Election-Elections must be held regularly at an interval of four to five years. The people provide the mandate for a specific duration. In France the President is elected for a term of seven years. Voting should be free, fair and confidential. Elections should be supervised by an independent election commission. The police and the administration should be neutral. Electoral systems are of two types- majority and proportional system. In the first past the post system the party with more than half of the seats (fifty-one percent) governs the country. In such a system one can win by one point or in case of a dead heat the contestants draw lots. In France, on the other hand, elections will continue until one party gets fifty-one percent of the votes. This system works against those in the minority. Such a system will be expensive for us.

Under the Proportional system, people vote for political parties. On the basis of the votes garnered, the parties are allocated seats. We at present have a mixed system. In the majority system the government becomes powerful since one party can win the election. In a proportional system even small parties get the chance to be represented but the chances of political stability diminishes. In the elections held in 1959 and 1990 the winning party got thirty-eight to forty-two percent of the votes cast. We were ruled by minority governments. The proponents of the proportional system maintain that this is unjust. The small parties are not represented. The Scandinavian countries are making good use of the proportional system. Representation is determined in terms of the percentage of the votes polled. Even the smallest party gets the opportunity to be represented. Even a small party like Chure Bhabhar has managed to get itself represented in the Assembly. This increases the sense of ownership. Its negative point is that parties find it hard to form a government since no single party is likely to have a majority. Coalition governments then become the rule. Since the coalition partners usually subscribe to divergent ideologies such governments tend to be unstable.

Both systems have negative as well as positive points. There is a big debate in Nepal on which model to adopt but the big three parties have reached consensus on the need to adopt the mixed system. As citizens we can influence this debate.

Political Parties-Democratic system is synonymous with a multi-party system. Only when parties are permitted to function can a system be characterized as democratic. Countries with party-less system also used to call themselves basic or guided democracy. However, parties are mandatory for a democratic system. The role of political parties is very important. They act as a bridge between the people and the state and help make the state aware of the grievances of the people. They also keep the people informed of the policies of the state. In Nepal there are parties with different ideologies. The parties are not without weaknesses. The civic society and pressure groups should not function as affiliates of political parties. The parties should have internal democracy. The parties should get rid of impurities. If this is not done we will not have democracy in the true sense. The leaders of the political parties act as role models.

Public Sector- We need to make the public sector more effective. There is a need for debate on the issue of making the service delivery institutions more responsive. These institutions are run on tax-payers money; therefore they have to serve the people. The role of youth is important in this debate.

Political Culture-We must not limit democracy to speeches but make it a way of life. The state of democracy is weak at present. The central political leadership has not been able to exhibit the correct political culture. The country’s future is not bright. The ordinary people pay their taxes and obey the law. Without democratic culture democracy will not grow strong. When I was in Denmark, I and my Danish colleague happened to reach a traffic intersection. No traffic was visible within a radius of two kilometers but he did not cross the road as the traffic light had turned red. In Nepal we would not have thought twice about ignoring the red light. The notion that rules has to be observed have to be inculcated since childhood. The UK has an unwritten constitution but it seems to work perfectly well and is known as the mother of democracy. The key issue is culture. A driver at the road crossing stopped his taxi at the road crossing and gave me the right of way. He respected the right of the pedestrian. For democracy to be strong we need to bring changes in our behavior.

Good governance

Accountability-The leaders have to be accountable to the people. Only eighty, eighty-five days remain before the tenure of the Constituent Assembly expires. They should work to finish the work in time.

Transparency- The work of the government should not be hidden from the people. Exceptions are made for sectors such as security and foreign affairs even in democratic countries.

Inclusive- We keep adding adjectives to the word democracy. Democracy by its nature is inclusive; it does not need additional qualifications. We are not honest with the people.

Rule of Law, consensus, participatory development are universal values. After 2046 the World Bank and UNDP expounded a lot on these values. But at the practical level we headed towards bad governance. We could not change our character. The economic aspects of globalization gained prominence. The advent of computers has led to free flow of ideas. At the click of a mouse one can see everything. While living in Jumla a person can apply for a job in the UN. The revolution in communications has positive as well as negative points. The criminal elements have also benefited from it. The South American drug cartels run a global network through the medium of computers. It is not easy to catch them. We must work on reducing the negative effects.

Foreign interference is increasing in Nepal. The notion of conflict management sounds benign but foreign meddling on such pretexts has increased by leaps and bounds. India, China and the United States have become active. This is a major challenge facing the people with nationalist sentiments. Where will such activities lead the country to? Outside forces are influencing the formation and size of governments. Governments become legitimate after foreign blessings and our votes count for nothing. The remote control is in the hand of foreigners and blatant interference is taking place in the internal affairs of an independent country. To what extent are we going to tolerate such interference? This issue needs to be debated. Limitations are imposed on an ambassador’s activities according to the 1961 Vienna Convention. They are not allowed to interfere in internal political affairs of a country to which they are posted. Can an exception be made in the case of weak countries? The youths need to ponder on how to defend the country’s interest. The competition between India and China is intensifying. This will create more problems. The country might become politically divided. We have to think of ways to preserve our independent identity.

We have an image problem in foreign countries. In international airports Nepalese passport holders are subjected to minute enquiries. Lok Raj Baral was held up in an airport in China for eight hours without any valid reason. Foreigners have the impression that Nepalese tend not to return to their country. Many players have disappeared while taking part in sport competitions. We must give serious thought to reviving our image. There was a time when people with Nepalese passports would be waved through the immigration without any hassle.

Peace and Reconciliation-I will not add more to this topic as it has already been covered.

Models of democracy- There are two models of democracy-social democracy and liberal democracy. Each has its own characteristic. Social democracy is practiced in Europe. It stresses collective responsibility and positive freedom. This model works to reduce income gap and aims at creating a welfare state. Liberal democracy puts stress on the citizen’s political rights but leads to the creation of a wide gap between different classes. It gives birth to people like Bill Gates. Social democracy on the other hand puts equal emphasis on other rights as well.

Ram Chandra Humagain- Can we give out point of view?

Basudev Upadahay- What will happen if pluralism is adopted and what are the consequences of not implementing such a policy?

Kancha Lama- I am a teacher. The paper is supposed to discuss issues of local governance but it is unclear to some extent. Is a centralized state possible? What are the positive and negative aspects of such a state? The paper is not clear on this issue despite the paper consisting of many pages. In my view democracy is anarchy. It is based on the number of people one can bring out on the streets. The people are confused by terminology such as loktantra. Please clarify what this term means. We must be able to decide whether we are for democracy or republic. If we are for loktantra it should be clearly defined. Under the republic system what kind of self-rule will be guaranteed? It is said that hundred and twenty-five languages are spoken in Nepal. We are a multi-lingual society. What kind of self-rule is envisaged in such a context? We must be clear on the type and form of self-rule. Movements in 2007 and 2046 took place for a multi-party system. The movement in 2063 was for a federal and republican system. By stressing on a democratic system are we not going back to 2007? This has not been made clear.

Our primary identity is Nepali. The home ministry is not the point of contention. I oppose making the Devnagari script the national script. The state could not move forward in the past. It is now necessary to move forward in new direction. The multi-party system has become a failure. The republican system is on the ascendant. The policy of stressing one language is a feature of the centralized system in which the people’s right is curtailed. The people must be given the right to use their own language. The mother tongue should be the first language. This should be guaranteed in the new constitution and the federal system. The second language should be the link language and an international language for communications with others should be given recognition as the third language. These three languages should be used for all types of work. Some people say this will lead to the disintegration of the country. If the people are given power it will further unify the country and make the state strong. The danger of disintegration arises if the people are not given power. Please clarify this issue.

Some say the constitution of 2047 is the best. I do not agree with this view. That constitution was burned when it was promulgated. The new constitution might also provoke the people to protest in the street. We are in need of jana-neta not raj-neta. The issue of culture and language has not been covered by this paper.

Ram Prasad Humagain- Badri Prasad Dhital did his schooling here but has now settled in the urban area. People form this locality who have made it big should contribute twenty-five percent of their earning to their birth place. Dr. Ram Prasad Timilsinha, Shiva Sapkota and Narayan Dhital also have become successful. They should donate some amount of the money they have earned to the locality where they were born.

Binda Lal Shah- Can the concept of balance of power and separation of power exist in the same place?

Yogendra Baral- I cam late and might have missed the discussions on some issues. Is democracy possible only in the multi-party system? What are the negative and positive points of a proportional and majority-based system? How can we influence the centre in such systems? Human rights are closely linked to democracy. But at present it seems human rights exist only for the influential people. How can the human rights of common people be ensured? What sort of education system is best suited for our country? Is it necessary to change the system? People are appreciative of people with doctorates such as Dr. Baburam Bhattarai. But what is one to make of doctorates being awarded to such persons as Nir Shah, Hari Bansha and Madan Krishna?

Shiva Ra Dahal- They have already returned their degrees.

Yogendra Baral- The education policy is in shambles. During SLC and plus two exams answers are being provided through messages sent on mobiles. The students do not study but put pressure on teachers to pass them. What is the credibility of such certificates? Such students then become teachers. Where will this lead the country to? If the principle of self-determination is adopted, four or five wards covering an area of 0.26 kilometer might declare independence. In our village four, five independent states might come into being. What will happen then? If the political situation in Terai deteriorates will we be able to eat? This issues needs to be discussed.

---Rajneta can only arise from the ranks of king? Rajneta can come from among the people.

Prof. Ananda Shrestha- By rajneta we mean a statesman. Statesman can arise from the common people.

Yogendra Baral- There are a hundred and one different languages and different castes in Nepal. Which language will be the common language? Democracy and republic are two different things. One is a process and the other is a system

Kancha Lama- The handbook has clarified many things but in several places the language used is not clear. It is said that the UN charter is the basis of many policies. I am happy to know that. Nepal is a signatory to many documents and has also ratified them but they are rarely implemented. They have to provide periodic reports. Nepal has agreed to implement different laws of ILO but does no do so in practice. What is the objective of this seminar? Publishing books is not enough. Even when the wishes of the people have been communicated to the members of the constituent assembly it is not acted upon. How can policies be implemented? The members are bound to follow the party whip. We have worked for months to provide suggestions to the members. How can we make policies effective?

Shiva Raj Dahal- I will share my views with you.

Kancha Lama-What from of federalism are we going to adopt? If changes are required they must be made. What is the process? To what extent are our rights going to be ensured?

Badri Dhital- Nepal television should telecast interactions between ordinary citizens and constituent assembly members.

Shiva Raj Dahal- We are here not to lecture. We have come here to learn from you. In our next publication these ideas will find a place. We have our definition of pluralism. Social science defines pluralistic society as a society with different languages and religions. Our country has ninety-two languages. These are our common property. More than ten religions are practiced in this country. In the political arena also we have all sorts of beliefs such as socialist, Marxist and Maoists. This is pluralism. If we resolve our differences through discussions democracy will become strong. In a democracy the opposition serves as the eyes and the voice of the people. We cannot move forward if we try to suppress pluralism. If we disagree on this issue we will end up fighting among ourselves. Kancha Lama’s query will be answered by Ram Kumar Dahal.

Since 2062-63 confusion has arisen on the meaning of the term democracy and loktantra. Politicians are adept at playing with words while addressing the people. There is no common definition of this term. Loktantra is a way of life. When the quality of milk is pure there is no need to advertise the fact. Amartya Sen has said that it is only in democracies that people do not starve. The free press and the intellectuals will ensure that the issue is not swept under the rug. The donors will then help out. It is not necessary quibble over the term rajmarg and lokmarga. The dictionary defines democracy as prajatantra. In India the term loktantra is used for democracy. Its essence is the rule of the people. Republic and People’s Republic are systems in which the child of a common man rules. Devnagari should be the national script. The ninety-two other languages in use in Nepal are also national languages. English is the international language.

Kancha Lama- What is the criteria for deciding which is the national language? The language of the people should be the national language. An intangible thing has no nationality.

Shiva Raj Dahal- I have borrowed this definition from a book written by Harka Gurung. He has stated that within one nationality many nations can exist.

Kancha Lama- Your argument is contradictory. All languages have to be given the status of national language.

Chandra Dev Bhatta- The main purpose of language is to facilitate communication. The controversy about this issue has been created by the politicians. All languages must be given state protection. In Nepal there are more than 100 languages. Leaders, who in public are vociferous advocates of different languages, send their children to study in English medium schools. Their ultimate goal is to empower their children so that they get prestigious and high-paying jobs. We need to learn English because it is beneficial. We can afford to ignore it if we become developed like Japan, France and Germany. We need not then become dependent on the English language. The global impact of the English language can be seen in the case of Princess Diana, her Egyptian boy-friend and the driver involved in the car crash. The English language united them. Local languages can be taught up-to the primary level,

Kancha Lama- It seems you all have a preference for one particular language. How will the people react to this? In the Newa Rajya, Newari, Nepali and English will be given recognition.

Chandra Dev Bhatta- To what extent is such a policy feasible?

Shiva Raj Dahal- Kancha Lama is right to some extent. Devnagiri has not yet been fully developed. It has to borrow words from other languages. Krishna Bahadur Bhattachan is an advocate of ethnic languages but he is sending his children to Malpi and Rato Bangala.

Prof. Ram Kumar Dahal-In Switzerland four languages are recognized as national languages. Each of these languages can be used for communication. In Nepal how many languages are to be recognized for official work? If a litigant wants to use Newari translators will have to be provided for.

Kancha Lama- In the Newa state the residents will have to learn that language.

Ram Kumar Dahal- It is possible to apply the principle of separation of power and balance of power in the same system. In America both these principles are in operation. This adjustment is done through a system of checks and balances. This stops one particular institution from becoming dictatorial. The Congress can check the president from becoming a dictator. If one organ tries to encroach on the sphere of another it is told that the matter does not fall under its jurisdiction. This principle is operative in many democratic countries.

Democracy is possible only in a Multi-party system. In China there is a one-party system. There are democratic countries with monarchies and other democracies without monarchy. England, the mother of democracy, is a monarchy. Democracies with elected head of state are republics. The language issue is game politicians are playing to confuse us. While teaching about federalism, we dwell on both its positive and negative aspects. Countries have provided for the right to secede. Quebec wanted to secede from Canada. A referendum was held to decide the issue and the majority voted against it. Alaska can decide it no longer wants to be a part of America and can become a member of the UN. India hesitated to declare herself a federal state because some leaders feared that within no time many states would declare themselves independent. In Nepal leaders are not talking about secession but about the right to self-determination. The leaders have not explicitly expressed themselves on whether such rights should be guaranteed. When we adopt the federal system we must clearly state whether or not such a step is permissible in the constitution. We must close the door to such debates. A federal system has become a necessity. We can go back only if the system fails. What will happen in Terai? The Supreme Court can be approached to officially define the various aspects of this issue.

Shiva Raj Dahal- Civic education is important. Those who have migrated cannot be forced to donate. They left the country because of the lack of civic education. They have so sense of accountability.

Sabina Pyakurel- During the movement of 2062-63 the civil society was strong. Why have they become weak at present?

Shiva Raj Dahal- Civil Society must be above party politics. They can be a member of a party but not a party activist. The movement was not the work of five or six civil society leaders but was made possible due to the uneducated unemployed. Teachers of masters’ level courses are teaching at the ten plus two level. They teach in four or five places. Where will the fresh graduates teach? The movement gathered momentum because the people felt that the king was responsible for this state of affairs. The civic society is after money. Navin Raj Joshi refused to take the money for participating in a program in west Nepal. He said that he is being paid to do his job and had not come to the program for the sake of extra remuneration. Civil society has become a dollar generating venture. The people do not believe them. This can be seen by the number of votes obtained by their leaders.

Biwanath Dahal- Will the new constitution be promulgated on Jestha fourteen? I want a definite answer from Ram Kumar Dahal.

Ram Kumar Dahal- I will give my personal opinion. Our sources of information are the newspapers. We all have seen how the big parties are fighting among themselves. There is no consensus yet on the major issues. Nepal is heading towards being a failed state. But if the three big leaders are determined the issues can be resolved in half an hour. They can come up with astonishing decisions.

Shiva Raj Dahal- One of the characteristic of the leaders is that they want to keep people in the dark.

Ajay Tamang-Is it proper for the head of state and minister of a secular state to attend religious ceremony of a particular religion in Pashupati? Is this right or wrong? Is the Nepalese state a secular one? What powers the local government are going to get from the centre under the concept of self-governance is not clear.

Shiva Raj Dahal- The state has been declared a secular one during the transitional period. But the crowds thronging the Pashupati temple reflects the people’s sentiments. The people must be allowed to vote on this issue. Not all INGO’s working here since the advent of loktantra is engaged in noble pursuits. Some are engaged in religious conversions, others are engaged in collecting valuable herbs while still others are looking fro opportunities to exploit our natural resources at bargain basement price. Aid is increasing dependency. The spare-parts have to be bought from the donor nation’s companies. This is a form of exploitation. People even in remote areas hanker after Coca Cola and look down on local milk. Chowmein has displaced local food. Baidhays are becoming extinct. Leaders are going on trips to Korea that is sponsored by missionaries. They return as peace ambassadors. Those standing for office also must meet minimum criteria. There is no need for those aspiring to be prime ministers to meet certain standards at present. There is no age limit and there is no limit on the number of times they can run for office.

Ram Kumar Dahal- There is no need to object if a king/president wants to visit Pashupati temple in a secular state. There might have been a problem if he/she refused to accept an invitation proffered by the Muslim community. The President also has the freedom of worship.

Kancha Lama- Are the books that are published distributed to the people?

Shiva Raj Dahal- Yes, they are. We are Nepalese but we do not have freedom of movement within the country. People have become internal refugees in the Terai. The leaders are witness to this situation but prefer not to speak about it. The goal of politics should be to further the national interest. But here a country’s interest is not given prominence. In Europe people proudly display their national flag. Here only party flags have pride of place. In Kathmandu the country’s constitution is publicly burnt. Samuel Huntington has stated that if a nation’s culture comes under attack it collapses. Loktantra can again be reclaimed but if a nation loses its independence it is very to regain it. The land lost after the Sugauli Treaty has not been returned.

Sierra Leone is rich in diamonds but Japan has no natural resources. Switzerland converts a kilogram of iron into valuable watches. New Zealand makes the most of its wool. We are among the rich countries in terms of natural resources. But people in remote areas are being supplied with rotten rice and people are dying because they cannot afford cetamol. Does loktantra have any meaning in such a situation? We Nepalese need to first start improving ourselves.

I would like to extend my thanks to Mr. Ram Chandra Humagain and others who helped organize this seminar. I would also like to thank all the participants of this program. I would like the chairman, Mr. Ram Chandra Humagain to make the concluding remarks.

Chairman, Ram Chandra Humagain- Chairman of NEFAS, friend from FES, Professor Ram Kumar Dahal and friends. This program has now come to a successful conclusion. I would like to thank the organizers for conducting the program in this place. Civic education is necessary so that we can develop the ability to judge issues according to their merit. If this quality is developed we can correct the aberrations developing in every sector of society. One needs to be aware of our duties as citizens. This seminar has helped in this regard. It has also furthered the people’s right to information.

 
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