Seminar Report on State-building and Constitutional
Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
9 February (Sakhu), 24-25 March (Barhabise)
One day-seminar on state-building and constitutional
dynamics was organised on February 9th, 2009 at the outskirts
of Kathmandu (Sankhu). A total of 70 people took part in this
seminar. And likewise, a two-day-seminar was held on 24-25 March,
2009 in Barahabise of Sindhupalchowk district where more than
100 people actively participated in the seminar proceedings.
Both programmes drew people from different walks of life such
as teachers, members of trade union, journalists, students,
local politicians, member of civil society and other stake holders
of society. The programme was attended, among others, by quite
a good number of women participants as well.
In both occasions, the main objectives of
the programme were to educate people of the peripheral level
on the various facets of constitution, federalism, governance,
democracy and other contemporary issues. Mr. Dev Raj Dahal,
Head of FES in Nepal, Mr Kashi Raj Dahal, Constitutional Expert
and Chandra D. Bhatta, an expert on civil society, spoke on
the issues impinging the process of state-building as well as
on the constitutional dynamics.
Altogether 30 participants asked questions
on various themes but the major bone of contention was on 'federalism',
lack of democratic political culture and other policy relevant
issues that underpin Nepali political discourse for many years.
Many respondents were of the view that they have been robbed
off by the politicians particularly on the subject of 'federalism'.
Although federalism has been accepted in principle but without
enough debate (advantages and disadvantages) as what type of
federalism would serve the interest of state and society.
Federalism, as they were told, in the beginning
thought that it would resolve owes of Nepali society and unite
different societal groups into a common thread. What appears
with the passage of time, however, is that rather than uniting
society for a greater cause of nation-building it appears that
the fabric of Nepali society is deciphering day-by-day. One
participant (Mahendra B Shrestha from Nepal Workers and Peasant
Party) in Barahabise even wanted to know whether at all federalism
could be stopped from happening. This has become so because
different shades of opinions have been floated by the individual
intellectuals, political groups, think-tanks but there is no
common consensus among political parties on the exact model
of federalism that behold this state and minimise societal problems
in the long term. In contrast, many participants feared that
federalism built on the basis of ethnicity (which has been widely
advocated, where in neither ethnicity has been scientifically
defined in Nepali context) will backfire on 'state'. Against
this background, the best model would be to convert existing
Five Development Regions into the federal states, suggested
one participant in Sankhu. Otherwise, for a state like which
is heavily dependent on external aid even for the 'political
servicing' let alone developmental work; federalism would prove
disastrous in terms of financial viability.
Participant(s) also debated on the issue of
'secularism'. They were of the view that declaring Nepal a secular
state should not have been left solely on the shoulder of political
leaders as they have been repeatedly found not respecting the
wider sentiment of people at large.
Moreover, on the policy front, many participants
were of the view that education and health should be free of
cost and dual policy on these sectors (private, public) should
be discouraged. In the same vein, a good number of participants
feel that successive regimes have not done justice to the youths.
Youths merely have been used and abused when necessary. Even
in the current discourse on constitution 'youths' have been
One participant (Damber Bdr in Sanhku) talked
about the economic development of the country. He said that
bourgeoning gap between poor and rich needs to be minimised.
The economy of this country has been left in the hands few individuals/entrepreneurs
who control both production as well as distribution. These individuals
and entrepreneurs are engaged in building-up their own economic
empire. This type of economic policy has greatly impaired those
who have been at the receiving end and as a result are having
difficulty to meet their hand-to-mouth problems. All sorts of
inequalities including economic should end so that everyone
can feel ownership towards state and society. This is the only
way to achieve political stability in the country. Merely, radicalising
society for the interest of political leaders will not address
the daunting problems that Nepalese have to confront with.
In the course of current peace-process many
issues have surfaced but no attempts have been made to balance
between 'hardware' (the basic foundations) and 'software' (the
basic norms) of democracy. The successive political leaders
are throwing political tantram merely to justify their reasons
rather than reasons of the polity. The political parties are
either becoming family firms or firms of individuals who command
the writ. The criminalisation of both politics and political
behaviour is badly tarnishing the image of the 'new regime'.
To some extent, it appears that people of Nepal have realised
this and they wanted to get rid of this type of dirty politics.
What is true, however, is that unless we do not establish democratic
political culture, people cannot feel democracy.