www.fesnepal.org
Committed to Social Democracy...
HOME
ABOUT FES
Introduction
FES in Nepal
FES Worldwide
ACTIVITIES
Democratization
Media Development
Trade Union Development
Regional Cooperation
Conflict Resolution
Good Governance
Gender
NEWS/EVENTS
Past Activities
FES in the Press
REPORTS
Annual Reports
Seminar/Workshop Reports
PUBLICATIONS
List of FES Publications
Book Reviews
FES Publications in University Curricula



Inclusion confined to elitist ideology & political rhetoric?

Organised by the Center for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS-Nepal) and FES

17 April 2016, Kathmandu

Prepared by Ritu Raj Subedi


The term 'inclusion' has been a buzzword in the republican Nepal. Every political party and social group, which claims to work for the cause of marginalised communities, has supposedly made the word 'inclusion' as their viable political instrument. This is like a craze for the word 'socialism' that clings to the lips of different sorts of politicians ranging from the self-claimed left to centre to right these days though their actions and conduct hardly match the socialist principle and spirit. When new ideas and evolutions do occur, they risk of being hijacked by elites that hold sway over power, resources, media and decision-making bodies. With their superior intelligence, skill and manoeuvring capacity, they often influence the political, economic and academic leadership.

Nepal has ostensibly entered into the era of inclusion as it flits from one system to another with a hope of attaining prosperity and equality. The structural fault lines that have existed at social, political and economic level gave rise to the social and ethnic movements, which called for extra but effective democratic measures to redress the balance. Consequently, the provision of quota and reservation were introduced for the marginalised groups to bring them to the political and economic mainstream. With the application of inclusive provisions spelt out in the new constitution, the voices of dissatisfaction also resonated. Critics of inclusion put fort several logics, outlining its flaws. They argue that 'inclusion' was snatched by the elites of the social and ethnic groups for whom it was unveiled, and at the same time it has undermined meritocracy and brought the crowds of mediocrities to the vital places of decision making. This sort of criticism obviously calls for adopting scientific and practical approach to implement inclusive measures so that inclusion may not be a cause of exclusion of others. It is necessary to tame elites if they usurp 'inclusion,' masquerading as its champion and pose threat to democratic polity.

These views were echoed at a national seminar ''Elitist ideology and political rhetoric on the issues of exclusion and inclusion in Nepal' jointly organised by the CLASS-Nepal and FES Office, Nepal in Kathmandu on April 17, 2016. The experts and participants warned that new elites could hijack 'inclusive democracy' if the political leadership failed to embrace bottom-up approach to live up to the inclusive provisions of the new statute. Attended the by the representatives from different political parties, trade unions, students' organisation, universities, and media, the seminar was divided into two parts- inauguration and paper discussion sessions. Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada, Vice-Chairman of the National Planning Commission opened it and Dev Raj Dahal, head of FES, Nepal office, presented his key note speech. The excerpts are as follows:

Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada, National Planning Commission vice-chair

We are now in the process of formulating the 14th periodic plan and issue of inclusion is also one of its components. There is tendency to address the issues of exclusion through the gender, economic and ethnic perspectives. But, in my view, we have to focus on four areas- language, attire, geography and role- to overcome the exclusionary conditions and integrate the society. A Thakuri of Karnali has below Human Development Index compared to a dalit in Kathmandu. Thus, geographical consideration is necessary. Likewise, the women and marginalised communities should have their say in the decision-making be it related to politics or economy. We are capable of dealing with the issue exclusion. There is danger of disturbing our social and cultural fabric if the agencies from outside take over our agenda, masquerading as the champion of inclusion. The social exclusion arose after the political inclusion took a backseat. We need to create atmosphere at the political level to ensure the social and economic inclusion. The new statute has laid the political foundation to realise the socio-economic inclusion and therefore the people should square up to implement the constitutional provisions to this end. The citizens have their duty for the nation. The more they pay taxes to the government, the more they receive social benefits from the state. Provinces and local units have to frame laws and planning. Only a handful of individuals are involved in the decision-making and a large section of people is deprived of it. It is compulsory for the collectivisation of the means of production. In order to empower people, they should have been engaged in the decision-making. Policies should be refined as per the need of grassroots people.

Dev Raj Dahal FES Nepal office head

Elite is a class of persons, which does socially meaningful activities, hold position of eminence, specialises in certain vital functions of society, possesses most of power, resources, media and institutions, end exerts more influence on decision-making than other members of society. The concept 'elite' has its origin in the ancient time. Elites set rules for the society, shape the values, define standards and norms, control the levers of social, economic and political power and make decisions for non-elite. From the days of Aristotle to now, elite remains a powerful actors of political authority. Oligarchs claimed that since they have property they should rule the people while democrats argue that since they are in majority they have the right to rule. Sociologists argue that elites, no matter whether they are wealthy or not, acquire technique to use, demonstrate and expand their power and stay in the commanding height of political economy under all regimes-liberalism, neo-liberalism, communism, authoritarianism, and praetorian rule.

As the enlightenment belief in the inalienable rights of people to shape their destiny through free will has been subverted through societal reengineering using class, market, caste, region and religious fundamentalism, democracy became only festivals of elite. The elites come from various sectors of society- foreign aid, civil society, educational institution, caste system, class position, economic entrepreneurship, political process, religious tradition, technological and informational structures and geopolitical game of regime change. Now elites foster network politics through communications and common interest position and tend to cultivate the ideology of elitism in Nepal with the changing stratification of society. Nepal's declaration of secular, federal democratic republic has been confined to mere rhetoric. Republic is grounded in popular sovereignty. The elite consensus for the procrastination of local government election and outcome of public opinion by CA marks a question on the elite's commitment. Secularism is contested by their own measures of racial and religious commission for certain groups of people while federal autonomy is undermined by both Constituency Development Fund and centralisation of party organisation, leadership and their organisation. In such a context, how inclusive citizenship is possible where people of diverse culture can get along and how distributive justice of wealth, income and equal opportunities is shared by all citizens? However, Flexibility of new constitution can offer a remedy to rectify this malaise.

The binary dialectic of inclusion and exclusion, freedom and inequality, haves and have-nots, the state and society has emerged since ancient times when sages and philosophers debated on which one- the primacy of human virtue or human nature or civic ideal is essential to the creation of good society. The revolt of elites 'privileges,' in whatever forms- wars, social movements, techno-knowledge control and elections- continues to pose challenge to the egalitarian prospect of participatory democracy. Democracy is a system of stakeholders, not only of shareholders and, therefore, it is essentially inclusive. Thus, all genuine stakeholders should struggle for non-commodification of nature, culture, security, law, education and health to materialise inclusion in true sense.

Lekh Prasad Burlakoti, CLASS Nepal chair

It is imperative to clarify labour issue before going for narrative of inclusion. We all are workers, therefore, labour issue demands due attention. Labour perspective needs to be adopted. It is wrong to categorise the people through ethnic parameter. The people whether they live in Karnali or Terai are same. The most important thing is to identify the repressed and excluded communities.

First Paper Presentation

The first session was moderated by C D Bhatta, programme officer at the FES, Nepal office. Dr Bidhyanath Koirala presented his working paper 'Debate on Inclusion: Who Wanted What'. Lawmakers Lal Babu Yadav and Surendra Chaudhari commented it.

The gist of Koirala's Paper

The western studies point out that Nepal suffers from exclusion at four levels- 1. Individual Level: it encompasses individual, physical, unemployment, educational, sexual, emotional and religious problems. 2. Social Level: It includes caste, ethnicity, class, colonialness, colour, majority and minority, and indigenous and settlers. 3. Professional Level: it contains profession, educational qualification, income, geographical presence, representation of religion and domination of political parties. 4. Global Level: it sees the global expansion and investment of companies and access to the international income, and expenditure made for the welfare of the people.

There are various standards and theories to examine whether or not there is inclusion. They serve like spectacles to see things in their own perspective. Nepalis have habit of prying into others' personal life and problems though they offer no solution to them. We have been entangled in hierarchical values based on superiority and inferiority of castes, places, wealth, education and power. In this sense, we have developed ghettoid mindset and norms that influence daily life. We have another bad habit of labelling people quickly. Consequently, we hesitate to accept different views and follow inclusive spirit. There are structural discrimination against women, Dalits and other marginalised communities and they require inclusive measures to raise socio-economic status.

Following ways can ensure inclusion at practical level:

  1. Let's first start inclusion from ourselves and families.
  2. Let's accept our evaluation from others so that we keep the tendency of self-gratification at bay.
  3. Let's propagate the ideas of inclusion and form inclusion groups involving the people from cross-cutting section of society.
  4. Conduct the result-oriented researches on the complex social issues.
  5. A utilitarian inclusiveness runs through our blood and double standard guide our social behaviour. Let's stop seeing our society just from the eyes of westerners and apply multiple lenses to comprehend its specifics.
  6. Lets' start to explore and apply the multiple measures and connectors at the community level.
  7. Suit the word to action. We see everything in hierarchy. It requires coherence dismantle hierarchy.
  8. Let's keep written record of local inclusion index- figure, result and interpretation- to carry out comparative study and reforms in the community.
  9. Let's follow merit-based distributive reservation system by following the composite index.
  10. Don't take reservation as rights. Upon being empowered, stop getting reservation benefits.
  11. Let's embrace political correctness 'to avoid certain attitudes, actions and, above all, forms of expression which suggest prejudice and are likely to cause offence. This may be against men or women, against older people, or against people with a particular skin colour, racial background or physical disability.'

Surendra Chaudhari, lawmaker

Elites come from any caste and community. They attempt to manage and transform the society. The state has to protect the weaker section of society by enforcing the progressive tax system. The marginalized people want equity and share in the resource allocation and decision-making. We form our opinions based on the events. The strategic shift is needed. Our policy should not be to make Dalit community dalit (oppressed) forever.

Lal Babu Yadav, lawmaker

The new constitution is historic. The inclination to blow up the issue of ethnicity in Terai must be halted. It is high time to give up the tendency to do politics in the name of ethnicity, gender and region, and we should embrace a common identity as Nepali. We should think about the next generation. It is necessary to promote social inclusion after the statute has guaranteed political inclusion. Democracy means equality. Let's respect Madhesis living in the Kathmandu Valley. Intellectuals do not indulge in his/her interests. They think for the entire society.

Bishnu Maya Bhusal, advocate

  1. The new constitution, which is the 7th in the constitutional history of Nepal, incorporates many progressive contents that can be equally applicable to Terai that has witnessed unrest.
  2. We need to devise proper methods to implement inclusion because there are complaints that the bureaucracy is losing its meritocratic strength while recruiting new manpower. It has created unequal justice. There is the need for the change of mindset when it comes to applying quota system.
  3. It is imperative to carry out the study on exclusion and come up with suggestions so that meritocracy should not be ignored totally.
  4. In the reconciliation process, we adopted the American approach and did not go for our own indigenous approach.

Ambika Chalaune, student leader

  1. Certain castes, regions and gender were discriminated and lagged behind in terms of development and empowerment owing the misrule of the past. Inclusionary provisions seek to redress the balance but there was not adequate discussion on it.
  2. It is wrong to put everyone into the same basket in the name of inclusion. For example, a Brahmin of Karnali cannot be on a par with his counterpart in Kathmandu.
  3. We should buttress the system and discourage the political patronage.

Rama Poudel from Nepal Trade Union Congress

  1. We have confronted a very scary scenario in the labour market. Everyday day 1,500 to 1,800 youths leave the country. Around four million Nepalese workers are outside the nation to make both ends meet and everyday at five bodies of migrant worker land here.
  2. Until the state espouses a class vision for inclusion and ensures the representation of labour in the decision-making level, internal conflict is unlikely to go anytime soon.
  3. The tendency to look down the workers should be ended. The labour representation in the National Reconstruction Commission is necessary to meet its goals.

Lalbabu Pakhrin from CONEP

  1. There is a vast gap between the commitment and action. Praxis is the greatest philosophy.
  2. Workers were the key partner in the 2006 popular movement but the political parties left them in the lurch. As a result, the gains are in peril and politics is sliding into regression.
  3. The unrestraint ambition has grown intolerance and chaos. It is only through the class movement that the issue of inclusion can be well addressed.

From the floor

A host of participants, including Tek Narayan Rasaili, Kalpana Karki and Radha Kandel put forth their views on the paper and commentators' views. Their views are as follows: The people should be empowered through knowledge, skill and capacity building. They should be taught how to catch fish. There will not be empowerment just by giving them fish. There are many commissions formed to ensure inclusion but they should not be confined to papers. The education system requires a major shake-up. Changing mentality is another important thing. Divergent perspective should be applied to meet the inclusionary provisions.

C.D. Bhatta

Liberty, equality and fraternity have been cardinal values of democratic revolutions worldwide but these days fraternity is sorely missing. A sense of esprit de corps is vanishing. Inclusion requires three things- power, resources and organisation. The existing policy should be squared with the practice. Access to education and resources are key to the inclusion. But irony is that educated class is creating deep chasm. Here is a Nepali proverb- Kam padhya halo chhodyo, dherai padhyo gaun chhodyo. Its literal meaning is like this: when an individual gets little education, he stops ploughing the field and if he obtains higher education, he leaves the village. This saying applies to our context these days. Until addressing the labour issue, it is unlikely that we will be able to address the social, economic and political problems of the nation. The change should come from oneself, home and offices. Our scholars explain Nepali society from the western perspective but such explanation may not be true all the times. There are some fundamental differences between the societies and this should not and cannot be undermined. That said, there are some common needs, common issues, and common aspirations of the people such as social justice, human rights, and inclusion which cannot just be ignored. Unless and until and unless social justice is not guaranteed, democracy as such cannot be realised.

Second Paper

Dr Surendra Jha had presented their working paper at the second session moderated by Rajendra Acharya, director-UNI APRO (TUDA). NC lawmaker Jeevan Pariyar, CPN-Maoist leader Lekhanath Neupane, director of Trade Union Policy Institute Umesh Upadhaya and Meena Uprety commented Jha's paper.

The gist of Jha's paper

  1. Provincial demarcation, the proportional representation of Madhesis in every organ of the state and determination of electoral constituencies on the basis of population are the major demands of the Madhes agitation. Nepal is a multinational state. The two Madhes revolts resulted in the declaration of proportional inclusiveness and federal set-up.
  2. The presence of Madhesis in the civil service is far and few between. The number of secretary and CDOs can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The principle of reservation is not applied in promotion.
  3. The representation of Madhesis in the Nepal Army is only 6 percent, the Nepal Police 17 per cent, the Armed Police Force 7 per cent and the judiciary 9 per cent. Likewise, their participation in the decision-making bodies of major parties is negligible. Their presence in the constitutional commissions is almost nil. They have nominal presentation in the ambassadorial posts.
  4. The leadership of political, administrative, security agencies and judiciary should change their mindset in order to implement the principle of proportional representation in all organs of the state. In addition to it, there should be constitutional and legal clarity to this end.

Lekhanath Neupane

  1. Nepal is not a multi-national state but multi-nation state. The nation is related to psychology and material elements while the state is linked to the border.
  2. We require structural base and programme base to highlight and solve the problems but the paper lacks programme base.
  3. We need to view the socio-economic problem from the class perspective. Inclusion should start from the upper caste people. Mentality is the key challenge.

Jeewan Pariyar

  1. We have to study the Nepali society from anthropological/sociological point of view. I do not agree that the NC and UML did nothing to promote inclusion. They have played important role in this regard.
  2. It is dangerous trend to open regional parties in the name of Madhes. The exploitation of Dalits in Madhes is high. If their problems are not addressed now, they will also revolt tomorrow.
  3. It requires unequal laws to address the unequal condition. There should be an overhaul in psychology, policy and mindset.

Umesh Upadhaya

  1. Constitution is not a panacea to all maladies. There is comparatively equal society that does not possess a 'good constitution.' Change in attitude and behaviour is necessary.
  2. The rise of social groups has undermined the economic agenda and grown inequality. We need programmes to end economic inequality. The people should pin down the leaders to fulfil their promises.
  3. It gives a wrong message if the parties become regional or work for the particular groups. As the new statute has envisioned the socialist-oriented and welfare state, the political leaders should harbour class vision.

Meena Uprety

  1. Jha's paper keeps mum about the status of women in Terai. The problems of women should be understood by the males and of Dalits by the non-Dalits.
  2. Madhes movement was highly politicised. It is related to feelings and sentiments. Economic prosperity is necessary to overcome social discrimination. Inclusion is empowerment and social justice.
  3. Frustration is running high and negative attitude towards the politicians are rife. This must be changed. It requires political and social solidarity to ensure inclusion. Policies should focus on structural issues and knowledge should be transformed.

Comments from the floor

Dhruba Lal, Shankar Lamichhane and Tilakjung Thapa, among others put forth their views. The paper is one-sided when it claims that it is only state that committed atrocities during the movement. We should explore political solution to the problem. Please do not stress on the movement that inflict pains on the common people. The Madhes-centric parties have to adopt such measures that do not make the people suffer. Owing to the Madhes movement, the Madhesis have themselves fled the Terai. The agitation has also dealt a blow to the business and commerce.

Rajendra Acharya

The problems lie in the mindset. One Nepali should honour the dignity of another Nepali. There are many opportunities for the inclusion but the economy is the key. I think psychology and economy remain the major challenges that come in the way of attaining inclusion.

Shankar Lamichhane

Madhes is a geography or ethnicity? Solidarity is necessary. We raised the issues from negative angles to heat up the debates. This is innovative approach. It is imperative to link the prosperity to the working class people.

Some conclusions

  • Adopt scientific and practical approach to implement inclusion and avoid exclusion.
  • Focus on language, attire, geography and role to overcome the exclusionary conditions.
  • There is danger of disturbing our social and cultural fabric if the agencies from outside take over the agenda of inclusion.
  • Democracy is a system of stakeholders, not only of shareholders and, therefore, it is essentially inclusive. Thus, all genuine stakeholders should struggle for non-commodification of nature, culture, security, law, education and health to materialise inclusion in true sense.
  • It is imperative to clarify labour issue before going for narrative of inclusion
  • Let's stop seeing our society just from the eyes of westerners and apply multiple lenses to comprehend its specifics
  • The marginalized people want equity and share in the resource allocation and decision-making
  • It is high time to give up the tendency to do politics in the name of ethnicity, gender and region, and we should embrace a common identity as Nepali
  • In the reconciliation process, we adopted the American approach and did not go for our own indigenous approach.
  • It is only through social justice that inclusion can be guaranteed and realised.
  • The leadership of political, administrative, security agencies and judiciary should change their mindset to implement the principle of proportional representation in all organs of the state
  • It requires unequal laws to address the unequal condition. There should be an overhaul in psychology, policy and mindset.
  • The rise of social groups has undermined the economic agenda and contributed to increase inequality.
 
Copyright©2001. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Nepal Office
The information on this site is subject to a
disclaimer and copyright notice.