|Kamala Sarup: Democracy And Development In Nepal
Wednesday, 1 December 2004, 10:06 am
Opinion: Kamala Sarup
Kamala Sarup: Democracy And Development In Nepal
By Kamala Sarup
The Peace Media Board Advisor Dr. Alok K. Bohara, already argued:
"Whoever we may blame for the crisis of democracy in Nepal, we have to agree that all Nepalis are in this together. The other point most would accept, one that is the source of many of Nepal's current problems, is that political and economic power is concentrated in the capital. A federal system of government to devolve power across Nepal would be an essential first step in resolving the present crisis. Kathmandu's over-importance, its pampered class and its unconcern are resented by many millions of Nepalis outside the Valley, and the Maoists have succeeded in taking advantage of that sentiment. The government, instead of only pursuing a military solution, must start thinking of a three-pronged strategy that includes security, economic development, and political change..
"On the political front, a federal mechanism would preserve the constitutional monarchy and strengthen multiparty democracy, and it would not require any changes in our administratively-defined geographic units such as village councils, district units and development regions. The current constitutional provisions dealing with the monarchy, and legislative, executive and judicial power and responsibility would remain intact".
Prof. Bohara further argued:
" Other changes would be required in the constitution, including:
- Introduce five regional assemblies. Two or three directly elected representatives from each district within the region would determine the size of the assemblies. The members of the village assemblies would elect the governor, avoiding a conflict of interest between the governor and the assembly members.
- The governor appoints a district officer or commissioner‚??a career civil servant‚??for each district to coordinate development efforts, but the district-level entity will not have the authority to levy taxes.
- Reduce the size of VDCs and the number of ward representatives.
- The governors pick experts who are not members of the assembly to form the cabinet. This ensures that there is no conflict of interest between the lawmakers and the members of the executive branch (the cabinet).
- Taxing power and responsibilities should be based on the size and scope of each level of government. The Planning Commission and the Monitoring Body can help in this regard. Any disputes among the three layers of governments about power and responsibilities can be settled by the Supreme Court.
- Give the central authority (eg, the Lower and Upper Houses based on two-thirds majority) the complete power to take over regional and local governments in case of a grave emergency situation, such as local and/or regional insurgency that threatens national security.
- The regional government should not be allowed to raise armed forces. It may be delegated some policing role.
- The regional legislative body should not pass laws that contradict national laws. Any disputes must be settled in the Supreme Court.
A parallel judiciary system, which is not discussed here, needs to be worked on eventually to fit the proposed institutional mechanism. A constitutional provision is needed to devolve power to the regional government and reduce the functionality of the district-level entity in order to avoid and reduce duplication, conflicts, and the expenses of coordination". He said.
Democracy is a system, which functions in accordance with the set of morals and values. It grows and flourishes only when political activities are initiated by abiding to the norms and values enshrined in a democratic set up.
In Great Britain, Japan, Italy and even in India, the bureaucracy is capable of addressing the challenges arising out of political instability. In Japan and America, the bureaucracy is powerful and the political confusion and uncertainties do not impede development and policy-making exercises.
Ideally, every political party agrees to the notion that government machinery and academic sphere should be exonerated from political influence, however, in practice, they treat these places as a recruiting center for their cadres. The crisis of confidence in the system and the distrust on political leaders have come about mainly due to the blatant abuse of power, lack of political and ethical values among our leaders. The tragedy with our democracy is that the entire bureaucratic and academic plus other institutions are brought under strong influence of politics. The government machinery is intimidated, undermined and weakened due to excessive political interference. The situation even after 12 years of democracy has not improved.
An article published in Nepali Times, Dr. Alok Bohara further added: Unlike the republic demanded by the Maoists, the proposed decentralised polit