Civic education for cementing ties between
people & state
Two-day seminar organised by FES
8-9 February 2017 (Makwanpur)
Prepared by Ritu Raj Subedi
In the aftermath of promulgation of new constitution, the nation
is heading towards stability and economic development. It is bracing
for elections aimed at enforcing the new constitutional provisions.
The decade-long insurgency, prolonged transition, Madhes agitation
and rise of non-state actors have weakened the state, creating
serious challenges to nation-building project. Ensuring the people's
trust in the ability of state to deliver the goods has become
an overriding task at the moment. It is vital to bridge the gap
between the state and citizens. A robust democratic system can
be created only when the citizens fulfil their constitutional
duties. A vibrant interaction between the state and people is
the key to the functional democracy and inclusive economic growth.
Against this backdrop, civic education has become instrumental
in boosting state-citizen interface. Active citizenship and
participatory democracy can consolidate the state, and civic
education is a viable means to advance this cause, averred experts
and local leaders at a two-day seminar 'Civic education for
consolidation of relations between the people and state' held
on the premises of Manahari Multiple Campus in Makwanpur. It
was organised in the second week of February with a view to
launch democratic deliberations on the burning local and national
issues. As the theme of the event suggested, it engaged the
participants in the constructive debates about the matters of
public concerns. Representatives of different political parties,
cooperatives, consumers' and mothers' groups, police officers,
chiefs of district level offices, teachers, students and social
workers attended it. Excerpts
Kashi Raj Dahal, chairman of high level administrative reform
and monitoring commission
Ancient sage Ashtabakra came from Manahari area while Makawanpur
is the home district crusader of 'Thaha' campaign Rup Chandra
Bista. Therefore, it is place of spiritual and political enlightenment.
We came here to share knowledge with each other. Civic education
connects the people with the state and makes the people aware
of their rights and duties. However, the nation is at risk of
being a laboratory of statute making. The non-state actors have
brought it to its knees. Rule of law, transparency, effective
service delivery and accountability were key to strengthening
democracy and people's participation in the democratic process.
Just by writing rosy things in the statute, the people cannot
exercise their rights. They should keep an eye on the activities
of the parties and government. The people are sovereign and
they demand to implement the provisions of statute.
Dev Raj Dahal, FES Nepal office head
Our society was knowledge-guided but it has been now superseded
by power. In Nepal, measures to bring the state closer to citizens
through education, consultation, local governance, administration,
justice, security, decentralisation, people's participation
in democratic development, nation-building and peace-building
works are gaining increasing attention. Participatory democracy,
rooted in the sovereignty of Nepali citizens, has established
them not only its stakeholders but also its beneficiary. These
measures have shifted citizens' conventional roles as recipient
of government support, voters, consumers and clients to claimants
of legitimate rights to participate in decision-making and demand
the interface between power and accountability and between law
and justice, including public goods and services. A positive
interface exists between civic education, character building
and competitiveness of citizens. Now they have multiple channels
to articulate their voice and shape public opinion, influence
public issues, policies and decision making.
In the context of weak national centre, building shared identity
and shared responsibility of citizens and leaders in Nepal has
become essential task to expedite the recovery of the important
aspects such as food, shelter, education, health, drinking water,
irrigation, production, business and prevent future disruptions.
Acquiring resilience in three areas what Arendt calls 'labor,
work and action' is a must for 'disclosing oneself to common
reality that all citizens share' and constantly 'engage in the
spirit of inquiry' about the condition of their subordination
by archaic family values, blind faith, traditions, laws and
institution. Education, divorced from the life-world of ordinary
citizens, becomes empty of meaning and substance. The deeper
insight into human conditions and its improvement requires the
application of human values and rights. While the labour and
work are linked to personal survival, intergenerational continuity
and progress, enlightenment of citizens from constraining condition
of tradition, institutions and practices is the greatest gift
of civic education.
Functions of civic education are:
- Building democratic and active citizenship
- Fostering state-effectiveness
- Strengthening constitutionalism
- Promoting citizen-driven politics
- Building resilient economy
- Incentivising civic participation
- Linking the top to the bottom of society
- Reimagining a common future
Therefore, civic education can modernise the Nepali society,
promote constitutional behaviours of leaders and citizens and
build their national perspective. It helps Nepali citizens build
their national perspective which is vital to build the state-citizen
interface. It enables them to know their ties with community,
society and the state and exercise their labor, gender, human
and constitutional rights and duties within the nation and beyond
Chief of District Office Narayan Sharma Dawadi said that he
had floated a 30-point action plan after assuming office in
the district. It has become necessary to chart out the clear
standards with regard to the operation of crusher industries.
The legal issues related to them will not be sorted out by the
local administration. However, the crusher factories have no
right to pollute the environment and I will call a meeting of
stakeholders to check it. A citizen charter has been put up
in front of the government offices to facilitate service-recipients.
I ask the local government agencies and party workers to inform
the ordinary beings about the charter. It is up to the civil
society to monitor its implementation. I urge all to inform
my office whether or not it was effectively implemented. Earning
good name is the biggest asset in one's life. The people's consciousness
is the heart of Loktantra. It is the duty of citizens to work
for the broader interest of community and society.
Programme coordinator Shiva Raj Dahal underlined the need for
imparting civic education to the youth so that they would batten
down the hatches to build the nation. Civic education helps
people attain knowledge and enlightenment about the statute,
the citizens' rights and duties.
District Education Officer Birendra Jung Thapa said that teachers
were the campaigners of civic education. It is necessary to
make a person citizen and education should generate social feelings
and awareness in the society. Without social awareness, no development
is possible. Future of each family is linked with the schools.
Parents expect that their teachers should be honest, good, friendly,
punctual and ideal. However, parents are the first teacher and
school teachers the second. A true citizen is one, who thinks
about the welfare of others. Now, the schools should be the
torch-bearer of civic education.
From the floor
Shalikram said that the state has given short shrift to the
villages that are reeling from myriad problems. Ek Raj Upreti
said that Manahari VDC is under the threat of becoming a wasteland
owing to the frequent floods in three rivers passing through
it. However, it is the crusher industries that have really posed
a threat to it. Around 450 tractors used to extract sand and
stones from the rivers and hills. On the one hand, the crusher
industries have failed to provide 10 per cent of tax to the
local development, flouting the agreement, on the other hand,
they have polluted environment. Nava Raj Subedi said that even
after completing higher study, the youth are forced to leave
country in search of jobs in foreign land. This has exposed
the faulty education system. Sukra Bahadur asked for opening
education faculty in the campus so that the students are not
compelled to go outside for the study. Sitaram Giri demanded
for the proper management of sand and stones to the benefit
of the locals. Rekh Raj Ghimire said that it is imperative to
cement the state-citizen relations and pass the mantle of leadership
onto the fresh leaders.
Kashi Raj Dahal's response: It is politics that frames
the laws but when the politics becomes weak, it is tough to
enforce the rule of law.
From the floor
Ram Prasad Dhakal said that the development budget has
not been properly managed and spent. The progress in the development
projects is hardly 25 per cent as monitoring is weak. The representatives
of political parties are not responsible. Gauri Shankar Lama
disclosed that the government has allocated budget to the construction
of local monastery but the money has not yet been disbursed
for it, giving rise to speculation of irregularities. The concerned
agencies see to it that laws have been implemented in letter
and spirit. Ek Raj Upreti said that social awareness is not
up to the desired level. How to tame the social media for libel?
It is a moot question pestering us.
Dev Raj Dahal- Democracy should be indigenized as per
the domestic context. While the US has adopted capitalism, Germany
and Nordic countries have embraced democratic socialism with
various social justice programmes.
Kashi Raj Dahal's response- The new statute has a provision
to unveil the fiscal budget by mid-May so that money is spent
on development works in time but the budget allocation is delayed
by the bureaucratic process involving its authorisation and
release. As a head of central monitoring body, I have realised
that even the 10 per cent of budget has not flowed into the
local development. Loktantra requires that the parties and government
should be accountable to the people. Democracy Day should be
observed in substance. It should not be confined to a one-day
celebration. Where there is civilian supremacy, there is true
democracy. The people should be empowered. The statute has granted
31 fundamental rights. Democracy does not function in the absence
of election. Proportional representation system of election
has bred many anomalies. There has been tendency among the parties
to run away from the election. If the defeated are sent to power,
this will be mockery of democracy. Proclivity to evade tax needs
to be discouraged.
DVC secretary Meen Raj Koirala said that the secretaries
had groaned under the strain of oodles of works in the absence
of elected representatives. The DVC is ready to conduct a public
hearing in every four months if the local political parties
come up with a proposal and support it. The consumers have to
supervise the local development projects.
From the floor
Nava Raj Subedi said that the victims of earthquake,
who do not possess the land ownership certificates, have been
deprived of the government grants. It is unfair treatment on
the part of state towards the citizens. Gautam Lama said that
around 10 VDCs are located in the hill area and they have no
access to the basic amenities provided by the state. They demand
a separate administrative unit to look after their daily problems.
We want that the voice of remote people be heard in the district
headquarters. Kalpana Bartaula said that the dust and sand,
generated by the crusher industries have made the Manahari people
choke. They are running illegally. Shiva Kumar Karki said that
the development plans should be executed with the participation
of the people. The local administration should keep a tight
rein on the illegal organisations involved in the activities
of extortion. Bimala Karki said that the seminar opened their
eyes to their level of intellect and ignorance. It taught that
if the locals had worked with discipline, they would have achieved
many things in the past.
Kashi Raj Dahal - The government has a policy to set
up Area Administration Offices in different places to meet the
needs of the people through the one-window system. In democracy,
the state should be strengthened. Reform in education and promotion
of good leadership is the need of the time.
Police Inspector Chitra Ghale said that the police and
local peoples should team up to root out crimes and various
aberrations taking place in the villages. I asked the civil
society inform the police about the crimes they see and hear.
My office looks after the area covering only 25 kilometres.
The cops keep their nose to the grindstone till the midnight
so that peace and security is maintained in the locality.
From the chair, Manahari Multiple Campus Management Committee
Ram Hari Subedi said that the two-day seminar was highly
fruitful to enlighten the people about their duties towards
the community. It helped us to learn about the ancient history
of VDC, too.