- matters that matter
Nov 18, 2017-When the results of my grade 10 national examinations, then known as the SLC, were announced 22 years ago, my elder brother was in Tehrathum’s headquarters Myanglung—a small isolated town in the remote eastern hills. When he headed to my school’s notice-board, where a list of successful candidates was posted, he could not believe that my name was not there. He then called up contacts in Kathmandu who had access to the Gorkhapatra daily that published all the symbol numbers of students who had passed, to confirm that my number was in fact there.
Back home, my brother told me that I had gotten through; the teachers at my school had missed my number when they took down the details over the phone from examination authorities in Kathmandu. Before word came from my brother though, I had already been misinformed that I had flunked. For the next few weeks, as we waited for the mark sheets to arrive at our school, I could not be sure either way. By then, the incident had already left an indelible mark on my formative mind.And that was the problem with a centralised administrative system. Everything in remote districts and villages was governed from Kathmandu. Retiring teachers had to travel for days to the Capital to get their pension books. College students, no matter which part of the country they were enrolled in, had to get their academic transcripts from Tribhuvan University offices in Kathmandu. Development programmes were designed from Kathmandu without truly grasping ground realities.
The federal structure outlined in the constitution adopted two years ago seeks to change that. The two phases of elections scheduled to be held over the next three weeks will finally see our centralised nation transform into a federal one. They will serve as founding stones to when seven provinces will have their own legislatures and governments. The states will run their own administrations, plan development projects and implement them. Together with local governments, they now have the opportunity to tailor education programmes to suit the local need. The states will have their own security apparatuses, bureaucracy, and health and social workers. As a result, many things can potentially change. State facilities, services and justice will be in people’s reach. There will no longer be policy gaps created by the centre’s lack of understanding of the situation on the ground.
Ideally, a truly-adopted federation can change people’s lives and give them a say in their own affairs. But the common people, tired of decades of neglect and bad governance, do not understand what federalism truly is. They only want to know if the new order will put an end to the problems that have beset the nation one generation after another. In my village in the hills, people wonder how long they will have to wait before the rivers, hitherto left unused, can be tapped for drinking and irrigation. They wonder when migration to towns and plains will stop. When fertile lands no longer remain fallow. When youths do not have to go to foreign lands in droves for work, leaving only weak limbs at home.
Local empowerment, be it in the plains, hills or the upper Himalayan range, is possible if the right federal practice can be struck. This has the potential to cure most of the country’s ills concerning poverty and illiteracy. A decentralised regime and localised politics should be able to correctly identify people’s needs and a federal unit can effectively enforce policies and programmes with precision. North to south, Nepal’s topography is suited for a vast diversity of flora and fauna and farm and agricultural products. People of many races and cultures populate a small geography. Mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, valleys and plains make for great tourist attractions. Or, in other words, the nation is primed for material and social progress if properly utilised.
The ground for change has already been sown through the exposure provided by the changes in communication and technology. People have the yearning for prosperity, locally shown by cases of success in cash crops, vegetable farming and cultivation of high-earning herbs and big cardamom. Poultry farming, tea plantations, commercial beekeeping and improved cattle rearing have convinced young entrepreneurs that one does not have to toil in the Gulf to make a decent earning anymore. People educated or experienced abroad are already utilising their skills and capital in productive ways.
What the new provinces need is favourable climate for investments and easy access to market, both domestic and global, which is possible only through good governance, stable politics and fair policies. This is the right time for Nepal’s central and regional leaders to bury their bitter past and seek reconciliation for the greater public good. The country has made miraculous political achievements in the past decade. The next one should be devoted to uplifting people out of poverty. By the same token, at this crucial juncture, the voters should make their right choices and reject corrupt, criminal and lethargic politicians.
But first, let’s get one or two things right, politically and socially. Since we’ve jumped onto the federal bandwagon, let’s ensure this long, arduous journey isn’t abandoned till we reach our envisioned destination.
The writer tweets @GuragainMohan
Published: 18-11-2017 07:36