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Active citizenship must for participatory democracy <Top>

By Our Correspondent
Manahari, Makawanpur, Feb. 11: Civic education can be instrumental in strengthening relations between the state and citizens, averred a host of speakers here the other day.

"The Nepalese state has alarmingly been rendered weak with the rise of non-state actors. Active citizenship and participatory democracy can consolidate the state through the effective application of civic education," they told a two-day seminar 'Civic education for consolidation of state-citizen relations' held on the premises of Manahari Multiple Campus.

It was organised by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) Nepal Office.

High Level Administrative Reforms and Monitoring Commission chair Kashi Raj Dahal said that civic education connected the people with the state, and enlighten the people about their rights and duties.

"However, the nation is at risk of being a laboratory of statute making on the trot. The non-state actors have brought the country to its knees," he said, adding that rule of law, transparency, effective service delivery and accountability were key to strengthening democracy and people's participation in the democratic process.

FES Nepal Office Head, Dev Raj Dahal, said that civic education could modernise the Nepali society, promote constitutional behaviour of leaders and citizens and help build their national perspective. "As one of the oldest nations of the world, Nepal has cherished history of civic enlightenment that needs to be revived to check the current moral and political decay."

Chief District Officer of Makawanpur District Narayan Sharma Dawadi said that he had floated a 30-point action plan after assuming office in the district.

He said that every citizen should know about the citizen charter put up in front of the government offices to facilitate service-recipients.

"I ask the local government agencies and party workers to inform the ordinary beings about the charter. It is up to the civil society members to monitor and inform my office whether or not it has been effectively implemented," he added.

Programme coordinator Shiva Raj Dahal underlined the need for imparting civic education to the youth so that they would batten down the hatches to build the nation.

District Education Officer Birendrajung Thapa said that teachers were the real torchbearer of civic education. "It is necessary to transform the people into citizens while education should generate social feelings and awareness among them."

Police Inspector Chitra Ghale said that the police and local people should team up to do away with crimes and various aberrations taking place in the villages.
He also asked the civil society to inform the police about the crimes occurring in their locality.

From the chair, Manahari Multiple Campus Management Committee Ram Hari Subedi said that the seminar was highly fruitful to enlighten the people about their duties towards the community.

VDC secretary Meen Raj Koirala said that the secretaries had groaned under the strain of oodles of works in the absence of elected representatives.

"The VDC is ready to conduct a public hearing in every four months if the local political parties come up with the idea and support it," he said.

A host of participants such as Nava Raj Subedi, Ram Prasad Dhakal, Ek Raj Upreti, Ram Prasad Dhakal, Shiva Kumar Karki and Raj Kumar Praja also expressed their views at the function attended by the people from different walks of life.

Source: The Rising Nepal (12 February 2017)

Interface Between State And Citizens <Top>

Ritu Raj Subedi

Democracy is a bottom-up process. An active citizenship makes it meaningful, dynamic and functional. It goes beyond the people's one-day election activities. In it, the people collectively participate in the crucial social, political and economic actions which have direct bearing on their daily life and society as a whole. They engage in the reasoned deliberations on the solution to the problems facing the community. They play their constructive role in decision-making and allocation of budget to the development projects. They raise the issues of corruption, malfeasance of bureaucrats and politicians, and red tape in the government offices. In this way, the participatory democracy works and benefits the people. This also effectively overcomes deficits of representative form of democracy that has failed to live up to the promises of social justice, inclusion and economic equality.

Participatory democracy

Nepal's new constitution has embraced the spirit of participatory democracy. It demands active participation of the people in the nation building projects though the oodles of rights risks making the nation a demanding society. It has guaranteed 31 fundamental rights to the people such as freedom of speech and association, right to food, work, social justice, education, health and so on. It has stipulated that the people should be loyal to the nation, abide by laws, provide compulsory services needed by the state and protect public property. Supernumerary rights and fewer duties of the people call for the spread of self-awareness, constitutional and civic enlightenment among the people so as to understand the national charter correctly and neutralise the strident sentiments and ambitions of some minorities.

An interface between the state organs and the citizens is the key not only to balance the lopsided attributes of national charter but also to implement and repose public faith in it. Against this backdrop, this writer describes an interactive programme wherein the public, experts, judges and government officials discussed the problems and expressed their commitment to helping each other in sorting out them. It was organised by a German political foundation, FES, at Manahari VDC of Makawanpur district last week. The ancientness of the site, scholarly thoughts of experts and enthusiasm of the locals generated a unique ambiance. It was near the Manahari River where the ancient sage Ashtavakra was born and raised. A child prodigy, Ashtavakra had challenged Rishis at the palace of King Janak and beat them in critical discourse on spiritual knowledge and the nature of soul, human existence and emancipation.

While the locals were taken aback by the fact that they are living near the bank of Manahari where Ashtavakra attained knowledge, the visiting experts invoked and connected his teachings with the civic education, which according to political scientist Dev Raj Dahal, "liberates citizens from self-tutelage, promotes the value of participatory democracy, fosters trust and volunteerism and opens the possibility for cooperative action across the nation's heterogeneous population of 125 castes and ethnic groups, 123 languages and more than 7 religions."

The imbizo, moderated by High Level Administrative Reforms and Monitoring Commission chair Kashi Raj Dahal, offered the right platform for the participants comprising social workers, members of local cooperatives, political parties, teachers and students to articulate their aspirations. Dahal, who is also the chair of Administrative Court, invited Chief District Officer (CDO), District Education Officer, inspector of Area Police Post and DVC secretary to listen to and address the problems of the people without delay. It was a sort of public hearing that lasted for two days. On the first day, a woman participant complained that drivers were using the road to wash their vehicles, causing damage to it and making it dirty. As soon as the interaction concluded, inspector Chitra Ghale rushed to the site to warn the drivers. The cops also seized pipes from them. The locals were assured that the east-west highway, which also links Terai with the capital, would not fall into disrepair in their locality.

However, it is the underdevelopment of the VDC that worried the locals greatly. It mirrors national malady that hits the development projects. Insufficient allocation of budget, lack of effective monitoring, corruption and negligence of political parties marred the development activities. One participant said that no project had completed more than 25 per cent of works. This is a worrisome scenario that demands urgent response from the government. Partly, in the absence of elected representatives, the development activities are taking place at a snail's pace.

The locals emphatically brought up negative impacts of the stone crusher industries that are eating away at the surrounding ecology and fragile Shiwalik hills. "The crusher industries have turned the life topsy-turvy with the government losing millions of rupees in tax," they said in unison. The crusher industries have extracted the stones and sand from the local rivers and hills, posing a serious health hazard to the locals. It is believed that mafias are active to plunder the resources without giving due share of profits to the locals and government. Such industries have to be set up 5-km away from the villages as per the given directives but this provision has been openly flouted and the government is at its wit's end as how to manage them.

Civic education

Nepali state has been weakened to the extent that it is faltering to implement laws and indigenous development policies and programmes. Despite having rosy provisions in the constitution, the Nepalese democracy has not deepened. A handful of rent-seeking leaders have captured it, leaving the masses high and dry. This has delinked the people from the state. To stop the erosion of state and democratic values, the people should wake up to the constitutional rights and duties. It is only with the civic education that the democratic deficit can be overcome and vibrant relations between the state and citizens can be restored as it converts the 'people into jagrit manushya (awakened human), helps them acquire maturity and make critical judgment, build national identity and close gender and inter-generational gaps'

Source: The Rising Nepal (11 February 2017)

Nepal not immune to impending global recession <Top>

By Ritu Raj Subedi

Kathmandu, Jan 26: A noted economist has said that the national economy was in a shambles and not immune to the impending global recession.

"The outcome of the six-decade-long planned economy is pessimistic," said Professor Madan Kumar Dahal while analysing the macroeconomic indicators of the country.

He shared his views at an interaction organised by the FES, Nepal Office here.

"Our economy is highly costly. Agriculture is subsistence in nature though its contribution to GDP is 33 per cent," he said. "And we are extremely dependent on India."

Economic growth stands at 0.77 per cent, down from 3.5 per cent in the aftermath of the earthquake and unofficial blockade by India.

Over 65 per cent of the Nepalese are living below the poverty line as per the reports of UNDP and Oxford University released last year. There is a yawning gap between the import and export ratio. The country annually exports products worth Rs 70 billion but imports goods worth Rs 703 million. Development expenditures stood only at 53 per cent last year, and the current spending goes beyond the revenue collected from different areas.

"The country should have revised its economic policies in order to deal with the difficult situation that arose from devastating earthquake, unofficial Indian blockade and prolonged transition, but this did not happen," said Dahal, adding that low investment in infrastructure development and widespread corruption have hit hard good governance and economy as well.

On the soaring inflation, Professor Dahal said that the country was not in a condition to curb it because Nepal did not produce goods and it depended on imports for virtually all things.

According to the World Atlas 2016, Nepal ranks 17th among the world's 25 poorest nations.

"But, here is an economic quandary. Nepal has the lowest economic growth, but here the banks and financial institutions are in profit and distribute dividends among its shareholders. This is an incongruous situation. This demands a serious enquiry," he said.

He said the World Economic Forum had predicted that another recession - bigger than the 2008 economic crisis - would hit the globe again

"It also has sent an alarm bell ringing for the Nepalese economy. If the bigger recession occurs, it will put around 4 million Nepalese migrant workers out of job," he warned.

Touching on federalism, he said that it should be guided by the principle of economic development.

"The mountain, the hill and the Terai have close and natural ties. If this interdependency is destroyed, this will invite disaster."

The 14th three-year plan seeks to increase by 7.2 per cent. The country has focused on high and sustainable economic growth to ensure social justice.

He outlined the need for building a self-reliant economy, ensuring security of life, fiscal discipline and infrastructure development. "It is high time Nepal espoused an outward- oriented national economy to usher in prosperity of the nation."

Today is the age of globalisation, and we have to benefit from it and we have to enhance the quality of human resources going abroad, he said. "The tax structure should also be revised and a congenial atmosphere for foreign investment must be built," he added.

"We have to take planning and development works aggressively with a view to carrying out a green revolution by framing a 15-year agro plan," he said.

He suggested that Nepal's huge trade deficit with India could be reduced only by selling electricity to the southern neighbour.

Casting a critical tone towards the politicians, he said that the Nepalese leadership had no sense of compunction about the abysmal economy.

"Endowed with abundant natural resources, we are an unfortunate people living between the worlds' fastest economies. There is no hurdle for foreign investment. What we need is a leadership with a vision and strong will power," he said.

FES Nepal Office head Dev Raj Dahal said that Nepal had a long history of resilience and it should be maintained.

"The youth are the future of nation. We have to retain them at home, not to send abroad," he said, adding that small identities should be transformed into a national identity so as to build a strong and unified Nepal.

Source: The Rising Nepal (27 Januar 2017)

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