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Report of the program on Prosperity and Social Justice in Draft of Nepal's Constitution

Organised by Center for Consolidation of Democracy (CCD)

12 September 2015, Kathmandu

A half day interaction program on "Prosperity and Social Justice in Draft of Nepal's Constitution (2015)" was organized on September 12, 2015 (25 Bhadra 2072 BS) by Centre for Consolidation of Democracy (CCD) in Local Development Training Academy in Jawalakhel, Lalitpur. In the program Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel ex-Vice Chairperson) of National Planning Commission (NPC) and Chairperson of CCD presented on "Issue of Prosperity in the Draft of Nepal's Constitution" and Deputy Chairperson of CCD, Prof. Dr. Yagya Prasad Adhikari presented on "Social Justice in the Draft of Nepal's Constitution". The presenters also answered the questions from the floor following the presentation. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), Nepal had supported the program.

Chairperson of CCD Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel chaired the inaugural session of the program. Minister of Forest and Soil Conservation Mahesh Acharya was the chief guest of the program. Members of parliament (then Constituent Assembly as well) Man Bahadur Bishwakarma, Ram Chandra Pokharel, Mohan Baral, Amrit Aryal, Jeevan Pariyar were present during the program. Prof. Dr. Kul Shekhar Koirala, Vice-Chancellor of Nepal Sanskrit University, Madhu Acharya , Deputy Director of Policy and Training Department of Nepali Congress, Gopal Krishna Ghimire , Chairperson of Democratic Lawyers Association (DLA), Dr. Posh Raj Pandey , former member of National Planning Commission, Dr. Dinesh Bhattarai , Foreign Affairs Advisor to then Prime minister and representative from FES Nepal Dr. Chandra Dev Bhatta and many other University teachers, intellectuals and people associated with various political parties had also been active participant in the program.

In welcome speech of the program, Prof. Dr. Bishnu Shankar Poudel said that CCD has been consistently advocating for social justice and democratic socialism. Poudel also said that because of long history of discrimination and marginalization in Nepal, if social justice and democratic socialism are not institutionalized democracy cannot be consolidated.

Talking about the objectives of the program, Prof. Dr. Yagya Prasad Adhikari said that social justice and democratic socialism should not be thought of as guiding principle of particular political party. He emphasized that besides Nepali Congress, they also should be ideological elements of Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML), United Communist Party of Nepal -Maoist (UCPN-M), Madhesh based parties and other political parties as well. Adhikari reminded the role of great leaders of Nepali Congress Ganesh Man Singh, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and Girija Prasad Koirala in establishment of CCD and thanked FES, Nepal for continuous support in organizing programs.

Speeches of different people in the inaugural session went as follows:

Mahesh Acharya (Chief Guest, Minister of Forest and Soil conservation)

Organizations and institutions involved in research and in depth studies should keep on advising and suggesting political parties and the government.

Nepal is already in the web of globalization of due to unprecedented speed and scale of flow of trade, knowledge and technology. The discussion programs aimed at advising on policy making should also think about how the policies can address and manage globalization.

Democratic constitution is to ensure life, dignity and freedom and these things are not possible without social justice. Therefore, social justice will be an integral part of the constitution. To ensure social justice we need to ensure dignified life and livelihood, liberty, ensure fundamental human rights, right to employment, right to food, easy access to health services, secured shelter, clean environment and other ways of empowerment of people. If these issues can be included in the constitution itself, it will be easy to implement issues of social justice. B.P. Koirala used to say that socialism and democracy could foster only through just distribution of resources and opportunities. Social justice can be important guiding principle for this purpose.

For example, cooperatives can financially enable and empower people and can help in the process of responsible and easier livelihood and these can be important vehicles of democratic socialism and social justice.

Eliminating caste based discrimination, preserving and conserving different languages and cultures and provision of clean environment can contribute to social justice.

In the age of liberalism and globalization there has been strong advocacy for lesser role of the state in distribution and management of resources. In this context, scholars and researchers should offer advices about the role of the government and private sector in distribution of resources. The scholars should study about the degrees of roles of state and private sectors in enhancing productions and distribution of such products and impact of these activities in maintaining social justice in the context of our society.

There can be an alternative way of political economy wherein there may be possibility of attaining social justice through market friendly economy that gives enough space for private enterprises. Researches should be directed to see possibility of such thing happening.

Minister Acharya recalled that he had been to Germany to study about three decades ago under the scholarship provided by FES and expressed happiness that he got to be the chief guest in a program sponsored by the FES.

Dr. Chandra Dev Bhatta (Representative from FES Nepal)

Listening to the minister's speech makes us hopeful and feel as if good days would come but the reality is that democracy and social justice have not been translated into reality. Leaving basic services such as education and health in the hands of profit oriented and uncontrolled private sectors could limit 'social justice' only in rhetoric. We have to redefine development according to present social, political and cultural context of Nepal. Outside forces have become dominant players even in our policy making and political system because we are trying to blindly imitate and implement developmental and political models developed and dictated by the others.

Even if there is capital formation in our country, capital flight has increased significantly. By 2015 AD (2072 BS) our dependence has been about 70-72 %. Farmers and agriculture as a whole have been affected by the apathy of the state. This will further increase the dependence on other countries. Such state of affairs cannot be friendly to democracy and social justice. The development model tested in some countries of Africa is tried to impose in Nepal , which is irrelevant and unsuitable in Nepal's context.

Gopal Krishna Ghimire , (Chairperson of Democratic Lawyers Association)

Instead of keeping 'employment' as guiding principle of the state, it has been listed as the fundamental right, which is not going to be economically feasible for the country. The right to employment and allowances for unemployed may appear soothing and just from the perspective of 'social justice' but it can make citizens passive and the government will almost for sure not able to afford this.

Prof. Dr. Kul Shekhar Koirala (Vice-Chancellor of Nepal Sanskrit University)

Our social and political system should be in line with our culture, language and tradition. I assure that Nepal Sanskrit University (NSU) through its research will contribute in knowledge production related to social justice in Nepal's context.

The speeches in inaugural session were followed by paper presentations by Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel and Prof. Dr. Yagya Prasad Adhikari. Pokharel's presentation was titled "Nepal's Draft Constitution 2072 and Issue of Prosperity" and Adhikari's presentation was on "Nepal's Draft Constitution and Issue of Social Justice". Dr. Posh Raj Pandey, former member of National Planning Commission and Prof. Kapil Sharma from Department of Political Science in Tribhuvan University commented on the paper presented by Pokharel and Adhikari respectively. The presentations and comments were followed by floor discussions.

The presenters and commentators answered the questions that were asked to them during floor discussions. The main comments, suggestions and questions from the floor are as follows:

Prof. Kunji Lal Yadav (Patan Campus, Tribhuvan University)

  • Minister Mahesh Acharya and Dr. Jagadish Chandra Pokharel said that we should aim at increasing per capita income. However, can social justice be achieved by increasing per capita income alone?
  • It was said during minister's speech and during presentations that cooperatives can help in fostering democratic socialism, it would have been better if the relationship between these two would have been elaborated.
  • Most probably social justice could be achieved if there are equalities in participation, duties, rights and distribution of resources.
  • The discriminations based on caste, religion should be reduced but defining them as the main sources of identity and taking benefits in the name of caste, and religion is not appropriate.
  • After the result of referendum in 1980 (2036 BS), many cadres of Nepali Congress suggested B.P. Koirala not to accept the result of referendum (in favour of reformed Panchayati System) because the elections were rigged. However, B.P. Koirala said that the results must be accepted because of commitment made by the Nepali Congress leadership. Present leadership in various political parties should also engage in politics of commitment.

Prof. Dam Raj Regmi, (Head of Central Department of Linguistics, Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur)

  • The Constitution of 1990 (2047 BS) gave more role to private sector than the government in management of economy, government was more of a facilitator. The Interim Constitution of 2007 (2063BS) also had similar provisions. As a result, many state controlled industries were privatized. However, in present draft of the constitution it has been said that state remains not merely as a facilitator but as an active player itself in management of economy. The presentations made here say that such provisions may have negative repercussions. Elaborations could have been done for further clarifications.
  • The Interim Constitution says that children have right to education in their mother tongue. It also says that English and French can be mother tongue of Nepali children but some local and organic languages have not been listed as the mother tongue. For example, language of Rana Tharus (which is different from that of Dagaura Tharus) has not been listed as the mother tongue. Why did such error happen? Since this issue of language is also associated with social justice, is it possible to get the answer of this?

Dr. Indra Adhikari (Researcher)

  • Prof. Dr. Yagya Adhikari in his presentation said that hungry stomach does not search for identity of caste and religion. Most probably, Prof. Adhikari does not mean to say that caste and religion are not related to social justice because having worked for long in the sector of social justice; he knows well that caste and religion come as important factors in social justice discourse in Nepal. In Nepal's context, religion and caste play important role in creation of class because experiences of certain castes and religion are not included in knowledge system of our country. For example, for a person from Madhesh who wants to enter Nepal Army, his mother tongue does not help in the proficiency required in Nepali and English language. This limits their entry and participation in the institutions of the state. Similarly, visiting temple and taking oath with hand on Gita, limits a Muslims entry in Nepali Army. Such structures of state institutions appear to be contrary to social justice. These are just few examples. Therefore, caste and religion cannot be negated when we talk about social justice in Nepal.

Prof. Dr. Govinda Man Singh Karki (Tri-Chandra Campus, Tribhuvan University)

  • In Nepal's context, prosperity is also related to geographical location of places and people. For example, Province no. 3 (where Kathmandu is located) is double the Province no. 6 (where Karnali is located) in almost all indicators of prosperity. It would have been better if presentations and papers had focused on how such a huge gap could be narrowed.
  • When Nepal goes to federal structures there will be three levels of government- Federal (Central), Provincial and Local. It would have been better if the presentations had focused on how these three levels of governances affect the prosperity.
  • Chairperson of UCPN (Maoist), Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) says that capitalism is their final aim but entrepreneurs are scared about the word 'socialism' in the constitution. If the presenters could have explained in simpler terms about the type of political economy this constitution would create, it would have been better.
  • It would have been better if the papers had put articles in draft constitution that could address issues of education, health, women, children, old aged from the perspective of social justice.
  • I felt happy to see that education has been defined as fundamental right even in the draft of the constitution but the minister said that government would engage itself in sectors in which private sectors do not engage themselves. However, private sectors have been investing aggressively in the sectors of education and health. Does it mean that government will let free hand to private investments in the sectors of education and health? Is it not against social justice?

Om Adhikari (Trade Unionist)

  • The country is about to promulgate constitution within few days and the program on such an important topic of 'social justice' is quite late. Such program should have been conducted earlier.
  • In the presentations and comments, many of you said that trade unions got their demands included in the constitution and interests of the entrepreneurs were not well addressed. It is not against investors' and entrepreneurs' interest, when workers demand basic minimum salary, dignified working environment and insurances for work related health problems and accidents.
  • It would have been better if paper presented how federalism would affect economic system and prosperity through such economic system.

Kisan Prasad Adhikari (Lecturer, Prithvi Narayan Campus , Pokhara, Tribhuvan University)

  • We are talking about prosperity but conflicts seen in different parts of Nepal are not due to issues concerned with prosperity but due to inability of state to maintain social justice. Therefore, issues that rose here in the presentations and in floor discussions should be incorporated in the constitution.
  • Social justice can be an ideological platform for leftists and rightists to reconcile to give solutions to the problems faced by the country.
  • Political discourse now has almost totally been focused on caste, sex and region. These should not be totally negated but their appropriate and knowledge based solutions must be sought.

Shiva Kumar Yadav (A Nepali Citizen, this is how he liked to identify himself)

  • People in Surkhet, Far West, Jumla, Baglung demanded provinces according to convenience for them and they got but Madhesis are not getting their demands fulfilled but just bullets from the state. Is it a social justice?

Narayan Dutta Mishra (Politician, Nepali Congress, Kailali)

  • Identity is not only about caste, sex, religion but a region as well. For example, people in Far Western region of Nepal like to identify themselves not by their caste, religion etc. but by their region. So-called advocates of identity politics say that it is against federalism. It is time to say a 'no' to federalism that divides nation that too under leadership of CCD only.

Dr. Purna Nepali (Researcher and Lecturer)

  • From perspective of social justice Chitwan's Chepangs, Sunsari's Musahars and Dolpa's Brahmans cannot be put under same category. All of them might have been denied social justice but the causes and ways of denial of social justices are diverse hence different methods and approaches should be adopted to provide social justice to them.
  • B.P. Koirala's concept of small house and agricultural land sufficient for a single family is still relevant and this vision should not be taken in ordinary manner and dismissed. UN has recently observed International Year of Family Farming to promote self-sufficient households. We could not tell international community that our late leader's concept was similar to this. We could have connected our leaders name to UN's this concept.
  • If historical discriminations and marginalization cannot be addressed another conflict even more dangerous than Maoist Conflict can emerge. Neoliberal market economy cannot give solution to everything; it instead completely distorts democratic socialism.
  • Complete ownership of properties and economy by of state is not good but greater ownership of properties and distribution of resources by private sector can be even more dangerous. Democratic socialism is the best middle path.

Ambika Regmi (Student of Linguistics)

  • When Central Bureau of Statistics was listing speakers of different languages, Rana and Katharia Tharus said that their language was different from language of Dagaura (Chaudhary) Tharus, but in order to show larger number of Tharu language speakers, language of Dagaura Tharus was listed as language of Rana and Katharia Tharus as well. Did Rana and Katharia Tharus get social justice this way?

Krishna Bhandari Mumukshu (Central Department of Nepali, Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur , Kathmandu)

  • Though the papers were good in terms of the content, there were many errors in use of language. Attention should be paid to language of paper in such standard programs.
  • The papers end on notes of dissatisfaction. The participants have to go home with this sense of dissatisfaction. Could the paper not be ended in a happier note?

Nagina Yadav (Ph. D. Scholar in Finance)

  • In prosperity of any country Gross Domestic Product plays an important role. Natural, human, geographical and physical resources play important role in GDP of a country. Monetary policy of a state also plays important role in determining GDP. Just distribution of resources can contribute in social justice but economy and GDP also play important role in maintaining social justice.

Jeevan Pariyar (Member of Constituent Assembly and Member of Executive Committee of CCD)

  • Social justice includes political, cultural and educational justice as well. I thank Prof. Dr. Yagya Adhikari for discussing these things in detail.
  • We come from a society that assumed that women, Dalits and other disadvantaged categories should not study. These assumptions are antithetical to social justice. We have to try to change such thoughts and behaviours based on such thoughts.
  • Ensuring equality as human individual and just distribution of resource are best ways of provisioning social justice and these things have to be kept in mind when we talk about social justice.

Prepared by: Shiva Prasad Tiwari
Faculty Member, Masters Program in International Relations and Diplomacy (MIRD)-Tribhuvan University.
Email: shiva.irs5@gmail.com
Contact no: 00977-985116529

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