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Promoting Active Citizenship for State Building in Nepal

Organised by FES Nepal

20-21 May 2014 (Jogbuda, Dadeldhura) and 22-23 May (Dodhara Chandani, Kanchanpur)

Report Prepared by: Samira Paudel and Sujata Sharma


Introduction

The two-day seminar Promoting Active Citizenship for State Building in Nepal took place on 20-21 May 2014 in Jogbuda, Dadeldhura and 22-23 May 2014 in Dodhara Chandani, Mahendranagar which was initiated and organized by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Nepal. The program was organized to educate and interact with the civil society members, media, political activists and other active members of the society on civic education and also give a platform for both the locals and the experts from Kathmandu to share and discuss how citizens can play active role for state-building in Nepal. 202 men and women from Jogbuda, Shirsa and Atalia VDCs were present in the Red Cross hall at Jogbuda and 127 men and women from Dodhara and Chandani VDCs participated in Bhanu Memorial Higher Secondary School in Dodhara.

Samira Paudel (FES Nepal) opened the program by welcoming the guests and the resource persons. She also gave a brief introduction of FES and its work on promoting freedom, equality, solidarity and peace for a successful democracy. She said that education plays very important role in state building and informed that civic education is the only way to empower citizens for state-building. She also said that education brings knowledge and knowledge brings wisdom and makes citizen enlightened. She mentioned that informal education has more significant role in civic education than the formal education. Therefore, the two day interaction program is organized in such a remote place so as to get the local needs and connect it to policy making.

Chandra Dev Bhatta (Program officer of FES, Nepal) explained about the main objectives of FES Nepal and talked about human nature which is never satisfying because they want to get more powerful and wealthy along with increasing strength and wealth every moment. Democracy gets stronger only by taking independency along with equality. He felt that the more level of education a human gains, the more they become careless and ignore their responsibilities. Citizens will suffer in a place where the politicians hold the feeling of nationality. He also stressed on the quality education by sharing historical examples on how strong our state and the state policy was in the past which is becoming weaker at the moment. According to Bhishma Pitamaha (good character of Mahabharat epic) if there are many political leaders, there will be lack of policy, effective procedure and civic competence. He said that, in our society, People make donations with a belief that it leads them to heaven after death. Democracy is strengthened by peace and agreement. In its 4000 year old history, Nepal was ruled by 192 kings. Earlier we had less education but we were helpful. Now a days we have more and better education but helpfulness is less. We don't put the education we receive into practice. Teachers are supposed to build a civilized society.

Kashi Raj Dahal (constitution expert) in his presentation he mentioned that FES team has come to such remote place not to advertise but with an altruistic goal that it has planned to accomplish. He clarified federalism with simple examples to the floor. He told that to form a sustainable constitution, common opinion is required. He gave many examples as to why no development in Nepal is taking place because of lack of feeling of nationality, misuse of related power like (signature for own disability to get related facilities for disable people, married citizens referred as unmarried, self registration of own marriage and providing students chance to cheat examination-because the owner of school wants to run/add plus two program, lack of quality education and raising expectation but not having the will to complete the spoken truth). He stated that our economy is weak and our internal capacity is limited. All we have is foreign help. He gave an example where a Swiss was visiting Nepal when he saw a puddle of water on a road constructed by the Swiss government. He came out of his car and drained the puddle fearing it might damage the road where he had his contributions through the taxes he paid.

As we see, education should be practically applicable; it should enhance our moral and make us more caring towards democracy. Some countries are converting deserts into greenery and we have the exact opposite here. We can't see a similarity in development patterns. He presented with an excellent example that we must focus on respecting elderly citizens.

Aarti Chataut (senior journalist) depicts about the development process being held in Nepal. She says that the development process is not only enhanced by the government, civic also play a vital role with the help from the tax citizens pay. We have to understand that it's not the political leaders' pocket money used for the development process of the districts/villages. She also stated that, According to the recent human development report, Nepali people spends 57% of income in food and only 3% in education. People being truly committed towards the related job helps in development of the country. We citizens are the sovereign of the state and why democratic practices are applied in a wrong way in our country which is only in the hand of small circle of major actors. She also stressed her importance in education which is very important for development. Policy has to be made after consultation with the actual citizens. According to her, state-building is not something different and huge task but if all citizens are active and performs their task honestly that contributes to state-building. She also clarified about the gender division of labor and how society functions in a different way where women's tasks are uncountable.

After the presentation from resource persons, the participants raised the questions and suggestions.

Chakra Prasad (UML party member): He raised a question about the reasons behind the extinction of Nepalese language and culture.

Naphit Singh Bohara (Nepal communist party of Maoist): He stated that, we people have a lot of problems to be fixed if all of the gender, ethinic groups, farmers and the children are to be taken one by one and started to be solved.

Lal Bahadur Dhami (chairperson of the union of disabled people): He described the situation/problem that the people of his place are facing currently. He raised questions, why do the leaders and the government officials relate everything to the delayed constitution? Why is it said that the constitution isn't made when a normal citizen ask for his land ownership certificate? It really doesn't make sense. And why is the number of quota estimated for the disable teachers always stated as not available? There should be the scholarship provision to the disable students. He also tried explaining that they also have done the job of providing awareness for more than 10 years and everyone needs federalism but there is lack of acceptance and internalization among the peoples.

He also suggested that, development is not only education but to change our life style as well. He also thanked by ending the speech by saying "awareness is the first step".

Mahabir Kami (Board member of local college): He said that, nepotism is the most practiced issue recently. Nowadays, educated and capable people who deserve to be employed as a teacher aren't given much priority instead the people who are weak at study and have completed their school/college by continued failing for 2 to 3 years are employed as teachers. It's all because of nepotism and favoritism. So how can our country be developed?

Narayan Datta (Teacher of sociology and anthropology): He asked the question about the education, what type of education is important in Nepalese society? He asked again whether we need or not need to use our self decision making power.

Aarti Chataut: She explained her points in relation with the questions and suggestions given by the participants: Changes were made from the movement in 2062/2063. Dashain and Tihar were the only big festivals of Nepal but this misconception was changed today and many other festivals and culture were highlighted after that period.

There is discrimination between different ethnic groups in Nepal and that discrimination is used as means to rule the nation. In the past history of Nepal, different people who were guilty were punished in different ways. The punishment for a Brahmin never forfeited when a Brahmin is guilty and the other people who don't belong to the Brahmin society but did the same mistake or crime are punished. It's because there was and, still is a misconception among the people that if a Brahmin is killed they get cursed. It's nothing but a way to rule the nation and the citizens using the discrimination among the ethnic groups.

She said, to take every good step and get good results, a true representative is required. She herself is a representative who highlighted GAURA Parva (festival) which existed in far west region of Nepal and was unknown to the people of other regions.

She also mentioned that the reasons behind 10 years of revolution was gender, religion and caste discrimination, injustice among the people, and lack of the knowledge about the needs of the needy people. We should try to ask and identify the local people's problem and then we have to make plans accordingly to abolish the problems.

The education policy from 2028 is still the same and it has not been changed. No leaders have time to think of this and they are not interested in revising this policy. In that case, we have to adopt two policies:

1. If someone has not taken the formal education then he/she should get the vocational education after the age of 18-25 years. Such policy has to be adopted. This is a short term policy.
2. For long term policy state has to introduce policy so that no one has to be dependent on others after study.

Chandra D. Bhatta: Culture is the ornament of society. Politicizing everything is a signal of instability. We have to be proud of what we have and adopting another culture is always dreadful. For this he gave examples of how India was ruled by the British for 20 years.

Kashi Raj Dahal: Regarding land ownership certificate, one has to approach the land reform and tax office. For this one need to consult the government officials. To make Jogbuda Municipality, there has to be minimum 10 thousand population in that area and minimum 5 lakhs income source and should have basic electricity, drainage and communication facilities. There has to be urban development infrastructure in order to make the VDC a municipality.

Regarding education, UN convention mentioned that:

  • There has to be responsibility based education and not right based.
  • 40% of the area has to be forest.
  • Support or preserve democracy
  • Agradhikar - At least one particular party or group has to be given 20 years of responsibility for coordination, reservation, etc
  • Right to self decision where one can decide freely but not break and destroy the country's norms and values. Special right (Bishes adhikar) has to be given to the citizens.

Yubaraj Ghimire (Senior Journalist): He mentioned that his unsuccess and his experiences are his education in life. We have to apply our knowledge with the help of our principle and policy. Civic education means individual freedom, state freedom and fearless society where one can apply their own knowledge and wisdom. Education gives linkage between knowledge and action.

Process is important to run state activities. Leaders are not accepting the fact that the constitution is not ready in time and they have not realized whose fault is it. Even educated people cannot pressurize the government. Where there is a problem there is solution and remedy too. Even if the problem has been solved we cannot guarantee that the same problem might not arise in future. It might not be the same problem but can be the different one.

Secularism: Do not discriminate anyone based on religion. Everyone has right to select the religion. Change can be three types: 1. Revolution 2. Encouragement/ motivation 3. To make things clear (transparency). He gave an example of Capitalism (Samrajyabadi) US and Colonialism (Bistarbadi) India. If a leader does not have policy then he/she is not a leader. Education should be for self, the society, state and the world. If one accepts the present education policy it might change in future. People have started misunderstanding and misusing the history. Prithivi Narayan Shah who was our national hero and who unified Nepal is being unacknowledged today.

Chandra Khadka:(Participant): After the Modi government how will the Nepal -India relation be? Hope that the Modi government will not interfere the Nepalese policy. Democracy is a process and the citizens are always sovereign in democracy. Why does a child cry? It cries when it does not get food. So in this example, child is the citizen and the guardian is the state actors.

Bhoj Raj Bohora (participant): We are in the process of constitution making and what will be our role in it?

Hikmat Bahadur Dhami (participant): How many students have to be there to make the vocational education a compulsory subject?

Prabhat Joshi (participant): Will the constitution come or not?

Deepa Kami (participant): If a victim goes to register a report/complain of any crime, they are send back with fake promised but they have to face even more torture in future therefore, for that case what is the state doing?

Gopa Thapa (participant): Women and childrens problems have not come from the male presenters why is that?

Rita Kami (participant): When we celebrated Women's day in our community, we had to face violence. There was a fight in the community. How do we handle this?

Basudev Joshi (participant): He challenged the present leaders and said that they do not even have the knowledge like a class three student. He said that he has studied only until class three and he thinks that he is far better than the leaders.

Mohan Singh Saud (participant): He said that there are only two teachers in a school and there is political influence so how does our country develop if this is the situation and they have the policy not to fail the student.

Hari Prasad Bhatta (participant): Do we have share and access in hydropower agreement or not? If so, are we able to see the agreement or not?

Kashi Raj Dahal: There is right to information so it is possible if you are eager to know the agreements.

Daman Nepali (Participant): Why is the voice of Dalits not heard? Is the reservation only for show off or also for implementation? It has to be applicable. Where will be the right of Dalit in the new constitution? Will the local election take place?

Aarti Chataut: She said that more than 80% are dalits voice. She is hosting programs for dalits. She shared about a case study where there was a lady named Laxmi Devi Bhusal who was highlighted in media as a HIV patient. When she asked Laxmi a small question about her condition, it came to light that her HIV was decided just on the basis of some primary symptoms. Later, after proper medical diagnostics it was revealed that she didn't have HIV at all. She started again everything freshly with a feeling of getting a new life. This is an example of how seriously we lack civic education.

Chandra Dev Bhatta (FES): He explained that there is negative globalization in market, in culture, in thought. There is lack of medicine in many remote areas but sufficient beer. He said that we are given theoretical education with no practical aspects. The history of Dalits is only 70 years old. (Manusmriti)

Kashi Raj Dahal: He mentioned that when someone has wrong aims and intentions nobody else can help. Until and unless the common people assume their duties as citizens selflessly, we can never build a modern state as we have wished.

Police Inspector: He said that he has started meeting villagers and his duty is to serve with smile and soft languages. This makes a very big difference. He also mentioned that gambling has gone down as a result of actions and punishments. They are working on reducing Alcohol production. He assured that, if they are aware of the problems they can move forward hand in hand. While they are police in uniform, everyone should be police without uniform as well.

Parbati Badal: She pointed out that they have schools and books but lack of good teachers. Where they have teachers, they don't have books.

Dodhara (Kanchanpur):

Naphu Singh Saud (Vice-President, School Management Committee): He mentioned that teachers are compelled to start work on very low salaries and temporary contracts, and are still temporary when they retire. When teachers have scarcity, pain and dissatisfaction at heart, how would the output be good? He also questioned the selection process of new teachers.

President, Bhanu Higher Sec, School and Ex VDC secretary: He told that they are here to gain some knowledge , rather than just deliver a speech and that they were excited to have a face to face interaction with the experts from the center.

Aarati Chataut: She pointed out that people aged 15 to 45 years make up to 50% of Nepali Population. While addressing a mass, we tend to say, brothers but not sisters. This reflects our mentality. Female health volunteers are being exploited by making them work for free. As long as the labor of our women is not respected at home and society, they are continued to be exploited by the state.

Yubaraj Ghimire: He argued that we must question ourselves if we are responsible for the common peoples' backwardness. It is only in our country where teachers, doctors, engineers are all into politics.

Shreenath Baral (teacher): He questioned the situation of Constitution making in Nepal, with 3 levels of Constitutional entities?

Dil bahadur Saud: Mentioning that there is a vast social inequality in the country he requested the teachers and state authorities to be faithful in the issue of dividing Nepal into several states (federalism).

Representative of Nepal Communist Party Maoists: He said that, they (other parties) failed the first Constitution Assembly and they were cheated by taking them to Kathmandu. He accused that Democracy is being sidelined by raising Monarchy issues. He asked if the constitution will ever be made or not?

Indra Bhandari: He suggested that we must build upon the foundations laid by our predecessors. Teachers must be permanently employed on a merit basis.

Laxmi Dutta (Teacher): He pointed out that rather than highlighting us as male and female, we must focus on being aware and informed. We have a budget but it's not very positive. We should rather discuss discipline. Anarchy and immorality prevails in the country. We have a judiciary but lack justice.

Naresh Khati: He pointed out unemployment as a burning issue in the country. Students pass the exams but know nothing at all.

Karnakala Thapa (President of Women Health Volunteer): She expressed her happiness about the discussion about women health volunteers. A nation can't be developed without equally developing both wheels of the cart. The state should stop exploiting labor.

Bir bahadur Thapa: He said that we must understand who is included in the term "citizen". He pointed out that though we have an education policy, its implementation is very poor.

Chandra Bahadur (Nepali Congress): He urged to start with changing ourselves if we want to change the world. He said that we should be self dependent and should start today. States should be divided on a geographical basis. He questioned why students learn differently even though they are taught in similar conditions?

Mathura Pant: He questioned why is the issue of 'truth and reconciliation centre' not forwarded during the Constitution making process?

Yubaraj Ghimire: He asked us to blame ourselves for electing wrong people as our leaders rather than the leaders themselves. He mentioned that in our country we spend too less on education and research. No project or investment can be successful without research.

Kashi Raj Dahal: He informed that he was the first person to write a book on Constitution Assembly. He gave a practical example of dividing assets referring to the provisions in the existing laws. He questioned our Nationality regarding the naming of our schools with English names. He wanted positive realization. He said that we need our own model rather than an imported one. He presented the model village of Chandani -Dodhara as an example of positive thought.

He said that, in order to build a modern nation we should stop discriminating based on gender and rather call everyone citizens and act as one.

Chandra Dev Bhatta: He said that in order to build the nation 'National policy" should be carried forward along with politics. Democracy has human rights embedded in it. The situation in Nepal is that the lawmakers themselves don't obey the law. Power should rather be decentralized. For example: Executive, judiciary and legislative. The country and its citizen's can't develop unless citizens' education is developed first. He further said that we must be proud of what we have as copying others will spoil us. He suggested that an environment of teaching and learning would be better.

Aarati Chataut: She mentioned that the truth, reconciliation and alliance commission was supposed to be formed within 60 days. It is 8 years already and they haven't done it yet.
She accused Baburam Bhattarai for hurriedly passing a Bill (Adhyadesh) as soon as he became the prime minister which had provisions of safeguarding those criminals who had committed crimes with personal vengeance. People took the matter to the Supreme Court which ruled against it. Again another law has been forwarded. Peace was reinstated in the mind, body, society and practice for a short time after the war. She pointed out that the introduction of International Law has provisions for a rapist to be prosecuted regardless of when the incident is reported. It must be implemented and enforced in Nepal too. She then discussed about violence against women. She elaborated various types of violence such as the rich against the poor, the strong against the weak and those in power against those not in powers etc. She emphasized on the presence of violence against women by other women in their own family.

She questioned why mother-in-law and daughter-in-law don't have a good relationship? Likewise, we can distinguish the behavioral attitude of the bride's side and the groom's side of family and guests in any wedding. The expectations of the treatment from a new bride and groom to their partners' siblings are significantly different. We can see that a different level of expectation is imposed on a bride just because she is a female. This is all because of the powers associated with being a male.

She explained the need of quotas citing example of special care provided to a specific body part when it is hurt. Pressure just doesn't mean physical forces but it should be more towards raising awareness. We must understand that empowering women naturally means empowering men as well. She credited participants for mentioning that women empowerment is better. Setting aside quotas is a temporary measure while the long term solution is empowerment. The quotas more reflect the nation's current situation and need.

Yubaraj Ghimire: He stated that the Maoist movement had ended in an agreement. He wondered why they would seek validation from foreigners when people from 4 to 8 parties had already decided upon it. That doesn't lead to sustainability and legibility.

Kashi Raj Dahal: Citing the example of the situation he pointed out that we lack practical education. A political party is all about organized roles, ideas and thinking. Likewise, (bahubad) refers to accommodating everyone's ideas and promoting peoples' ideas.

Ramesh Shahu: He said that it would be better if we set some qualification requirements for political leaders as well. Also, he questioned why Dalits don't need to turn 60 to access the old age pension?

Thapa: He said that unless the citizens are responsible and accountable positive changes in the nation are hard to come by. The educational state of Nepal leads to a right oriented society rather than Duty oriented. He asked the difference between Democracy and Republic? He focused on the fact that a child of a commoner becoming the president just makes the country a Republic but not Democracy. It will only be a Democracy if power is decentralized to the people.

Conclusion

It was realized that Jogbuda and Dodhara-Chandani were the remote places in the far west of Nepal and FES program on civic education and state-building worked as a connector between the center and the far west. Majority of the participants informed that such programs can help build the relation between state and society and encourage the local citizens to get actively involved in democratic exercises. Such discussion also shows that the citizens of Nepal are frustrated with the recent political developments which is creating a political deadlock rather than moving the country forward towards positive changes.

 
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