Monday, April 12, 2010

Attempts to persuade people to adopt federalism wrongly?

Ratna Sansar Shrestha

Some people have opined that “Nepalese People (not just Nepali people but including people from Madhes and Himal) have already adopted.” That is very far from the truth. So called federalism was brought in through the back door by unelected interim parliament by amending article 138. The constituent assembly was elected by the people of Nepal exactly for purposes as such and it is for this body to make a decision in this respect. Even those who don’t believe in federalism will be bound by the decision of this body if this body is to decide as such. I have had extensive discussions with majority of the members of constituent assembly and it is unlikely that this body will go for fragmentation of Nepal into over 100 provinces.

Some have implied that the “old system” without federal structure has “pushed Nepal into poorest countries in the world.” In an intellectual forum like this it doesn’t make sense to make sweeping comments in a generalized as such. People will believe only if you are able to substantiate the statement with empirical evidence. It’s unfortunate truth that Nepal is one of the poorest countries. I have no disagreement on this. But it’s not poor because it has not been fragmented into over 100 provinces in the name of federalism. As a student of economics I know why Nepal is poorest of the poor and none of the reasons have anything to do with not having gone for provincialization. I am prepared to accept the line of thinking justifying federal structure if people were to prove as such.

In my considered opinion, fragmentation of this tiny country into 14 provinces now (over 100 eventually) will result in unnecessary economic burden. I have already done an analysis about this and my article on the subject is published in the media and also uploaded in my website. But without being able to refute my analysis people have simply gone on to equate my statement with what “khas bhasha speaking people” will say. This is simply uncalled for. Again, if you are trying to persuade people with your line of reasoning, then you should try to disprove people’s analysis instead of, again, branding people like this or that.

It is unfortunately true that Nepal is suffering from “Rajaswa leakage”. But unfortunately, this will not stop even after fragmenting Nepal into so many provinces. Rather with the increase in number of ministers, members of legislatures, etc. in a number of unnecessary provinces, the leakage will increase instead; as there will more people with inclination to cause “leakage” and benefit therefrom. There are different sort of plan, policy and institutional mechanism that can be placed to stop such leakage. In the name of stopping such leakage, fragmenting this country will be like drilling many more holes to stop leakage from one hole in a vessel.

What people need to remember is that unitary system will continue to exist even in the provinces and the problems we have will be continued. It is true that what is needed is devolution of power to the grassroots. But that does not happen with fragmentation. People suffering from exclusion and marginalized people in various provinces of India are still suffering from the same problem because federal provinces continue to be unitary. There is a different of instrument that needs to be adopted to empower grassroots.

The examples of countries with successful federal structure needs to be supplemented with example of Yugoslavia that exists only in history as it went for ethnic federalism and which caused ethnic wars and eventual disappearance of the country. Similarly Soviet Russia used to be bigger than today, but with provincialization many of its provinces are no more with it.

Based on email discourse with supporters of federal structure for Nepal.

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