Friday, October 30, 2009

Prof Pradhan has agreed to make a cong. note - federalism

Ratna Sansar Shrestha

It is amusing to “hear” people opining that “primary agenda of restructuring is to effectively implement decentralization and make local governing bodies stronger.” This isn't true even in theory. Practically one doesn’t need to go too far to see that it’s not true. Just a look at our neighbor in south would suffice. Each state is unitary and the problem of the excluded, downtrodden, etc. is still all pervading and is being perpetuated. Basically, adopting a federal structure is fragmenting a nation into various provinces while decentralization is devolution of right to the grassroots. The former doesn’t automatically lead to the other. In Nepal, so far, only lip service has been paid to the concept of devolution of the right to the grassroots and it has never been properly conceptualized and implemented; whether during Panchayat or multiparty system. Therefore, federalism in the context of Nepal is like an old Nepali proverb: “applying medicine for headache in some unrelated place” (I am sure you have heard the popular proverb).

So far no full fledged discussion has taken place with regard to whether Nepal should adopt federalism. Those unelected people “decided” to go for it, without fully understanding the concept and without being able to know whether this is what will redress problems that Nepal is facing. Therefore, I couldn’t disagree more with your contention that discussion about it amounts to “killing time unnecessarily”. On another plane, if this country is to be split on the basis of ill-advised and immature concepts, there will be, I am apprehensive, a lot of killing – not of time but of people – in the process of, for example, demarcation boundaries of various provinces, to have cities dear to one declared as provincial capital and so on. It is lot better to “kill” some time in trying to understand what the problem is and what is the correct solution, what are the ramifications of the proposed solution, etc.; rather than rushing into something that could eventually lead Nepal to emulate Yugoslavia - beyond a point of no return.

I agree with you fully that the ruling clans have cheated people in general. Nobody needs to defend these people. But the problem was in the system, not merely in these people. If we look at the exploitation of Newa people, there were instances of Newa political leaders too doing nothing to mitigate problems faced by us and some actually engaged in exploiting there own community for various reasons, including aggrandizement of themselves.

You seem to be in favor of “ethnicity based federal restructuring” but in my considered opinion, that is the best way to lead to dissolution of Nepal as a nation. Because Newa being one ethno-linguistic-cultural group, there are 74 more of such groups and fragmenting this tiny country into 75 provinces will render this country untenable (financial and economically as well).
Besides, no ethnic group is settled in any specific geographic area and, therefore, even after declaration of, for example, Newa province, there will be a lot of Newa people living outside the province. People are also talking of special right to the specific ethnic group in a particular province and right to be part of governance in that province is to be limited to that particular group. This means Newa people living outside Newa province will be discriminated against; one for lack of special right and, further, due to restriction in joining the governance. This will set off involuntary migration from one province to other which could lead to nightmarish scenarios that people won’t even be able to envisage, including bloodshed.

You have amazingly divined current consensus as follows:
1) Do you want federal restructuring or not? - Yes,
> because 99% elected CA members support federal restructuring.

2) How many federal states are needed? - 11-15
> that is what most parties suggested, but none are sure on it yet.

3) If you are asked to have your federal state, which one would you prefer? Everybody would chose the one close to their ethnicity

I marvel at your capability to divine. But I am unable to lend credence to those numbers for following reasons:

1. I personally have met several members of CA and about 100 CA members have said that they are NOT in favor of federal restructuring. Many more of them don’t even have a clue as to what it entails. Quite a few of them think that you just add the word “federal” in the name: “federal democratic republic of Nepal.” They aren’t aware of the ramifications (including fragmentation of the country) of it.

2. Yes, it’s true that a number of political parties have come with those numbers. But most of them are doing so because they too want to look progressive as the other party. Basically, they think federalisms is fashionable and are confused as what ails this tiny nation and what will redress the ailments. Many people in the three major parties are now doing introspection and anytime soon they will start objecting to half-baked ideas that will ruin the motherland.

3. The word “everybody” you have used is rather sweeping generalization and I happen to know quite a few in all these “big” parties that tend to agree with me.

I could go on for quite a while. However, I have participated in the discussion on this topic ad nauseaum and, therefore, it will serve no purpose to repeat myself again. I am firm in my conviction, though.

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