Federal government at the heart of many disputes at the local levels

- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu

Nov 27, 2018-

Amid a row, a case was filed at the Supreme Court about three months ago demanding that the centre of the Thasang Rural Municipality in Mustang be relocated to the Lete area.

A faction of representatives at the village assembly led by Chairman Buddhi Prasad Sherchan had decided to change the centre from Kowang to Lete. It sparked strong protests from those who want Kowang to remain the centre.

Kowang is a traditional village rich in Thakali culture while Lete has a relatively better infrastructure.

“For better facilities such as roads, government buildings and adequate space to run the rural municipality smoothly, I wanted to make Lete the centre,” said Sherchan.

However, he faces allegations that he wanted to promote Lete since it is his home village. Sherchan has failed to muster a two-thirds majority in the village council necessary for changing the name and the centre.

Bibek Tuladhar, one of the petitioners, claimed that Sherchan had sought to present the proposal of changing the centre to the village assembly right after being elected. “There was a majority in support of Lete, but the backers of Kowang as the centre didn’t allow the village assembly to convene,” he said.

According to the Local Government Operation Act-2017, local federal units can change their name and the headquarters with a simple majority within six months of election. After six months, a two-thirds majority is required to change them. Local representatives from Kowang argue that Sherchan failed to muster enough support in three assemblies to his bid to change the centre.

“The chairman does not have enough votes to change the centre. As Kowang is a historical village rich in culture, the centre of the rural municipality should not be altered,” said Man Prasad Gauchan, a member of ward-2, at Kowang.

The dispute also has political dimension. The chairman is from the Nepali Congress while most of those opposing the decision are from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).

This is one of the local units where local disputes prevented relocation of the centre. The federal government has received a total of 52 applications for a change in the centre and the name, or both, according to the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration.

The matter has yet to be decided owing to disputes at the concerned local level, absence of the required majority, and the lack of due procedure for decision-making at the local council, according to the ministry. In some cases, the court has stayed the decision to change the centre.

Effort to change the centre of the Tilathi-Koiladi Rural Municipality in Saptari from Tilathi to Koiladi also faced a roadblock due to a dispute between the people of two locations. Stakeholders had agreed long ago to designate Tilathi as the centre. After Satishkumar Singh of the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal was elected its chairman, the first village assembly decided on February 4, 2018 to name Koiladi as the centre.

This sparked popular protests with Tilathi locals staging mass hunger strikes. On February 20 this year, the Rajbiraj bench of the Janakpur High Court stayed the decision to change the centre.

“The first meeting of the village assembly had decided to change the name and the centre, sparking protests the very next meeting,” recalled Suchita Kumari Yadav, vice-chairperson of the rural municipality. Following the court order, the rural municipality is conducting its affairs normally, according to her.

Chairman Singh had been charged with trying to transfer the centre of the rural municipality to his home village. A proposal to change the centre of Tapli Rural Municipality in Udayapur from Rupatar to Katahare has reached the Federal Affairs Ministry. A November 8, 2017 meeting of the village assembly chaired by Vice-chairman Kamal Maya Rai had decided to transfer the centre. The proposal was unclear if the meeting was held after the chairman delegated the authority to the vice-chair.

Chairman Uddav Singh Thapa said no meeting of the village assembly had decided to change the centre. “Since the vice-chairperson wanted the centre transferred, she organised the meeting without my authority,” he said. He, however, claimed that everything got normal after the vice-chairman agreed to keep the centre at Rupatar.

After the local elections, the federal government has already approved the change in name and centre of 93 local units so far, according to the Federal Affairs Ministry.

Published: 27-11-2018 08:51

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