Social Democracy and Role of Youth in Nepali
Organised by Public Policy Pathsala (PPP)
25 March 2011, Lalitpur
Ritu Raj Subedi
The Rising Nepal
What should be the role of youths in social
democracy? Does social democracy offer ample space to the youths
to realize their individual as well as social goals? Experts and
intellectuals pondered over these questions and attempted to highlight
the relations between youths and social democracy at a national
seminar 'Social Democracy and Role of Youth in Nepali Politics'
in Lalitpur on March 25, 2011. Public Policy Pathsala and FES,
Nepal office, jointly organized the workshop where the youth leaders
from three major political parties presented their separate working
papers. The organizers sought to make the programme pluralistic,
dynamic and balance with the participation of students and youths
representing divergent political ideologies. In Nepal's democratic
movements, the youths played critical role and made tremendous
sacrifices for the same. Yet, they are not given vital role when
it comes to managing the gains of movements and carrying out socio-economic
transformations. This forces them to take a back seat, languishing
all the times as the country comes under the grip of instability
and chaos. Some youth leaders argue that one of the reasons behind
the recurrent failure of Nepal's democracy is the neglect of youths
in the political process. "The youth are often left in the
lurch after the political upheavals. As a result, the parties
failed to manage the outcomes of revolutions," they said.
Former vice-chancellor of Tribhuvan University
Kedar Bhakta Mathema said that the Nepalese youths were suffering
As the youths turned the agents of the parties,
they lost their independent voice, he said.
"Youths should not be carried away by
populism but strive to strengthen institutions and put system
in place," added Mathema.
He said that public institutions in Nepal
declined owing to over-politicization and high dose of unionism.
"The parties have abused the public institutions by sharing
the public posts sans the meritocracy and competency."
Mathema said that the student politics had
spoilt the public schools. Stating that the education sector
had been highly commercialized and liberalized, he asked the
state to invest in the social sector including education. "There
is also lacking critical thinking in education."
He noted that even the honest leaders became
corrupt as they reached power.
He expressed his concerns that the people's faith in system
was declining. "This must be checked."
Tone Bleie, Academic Director of Centre for
Peace Studies at University of Tromso, Norway, said that she
was struck by the differences on the concept of youth leadership
in Nepal and her country Norway.
"In Nepal, most of the leaders are over
50-60 years old but in Norway they occupy the important position
in their 40s and retire between 50 to 60 years old. To the contrary,
the Nepalese leaders are aging, personalized and caste based.
In Norway, the leaders resign when they are discredited but
this is not the case in Nepal."
Shedding light on political, economic and
labour movement in Norway, Bleie said that Norwegian society
was an outcome of compromise between the communist and the centrist
parties. The social contract created a solidarity-based development.
She said that there was intergenerational gap in the Nepalese
She called for enhancing inner party democracy
to give chance to young generation leaders.
The Norwegian scholar also criticized the
Nepalese for their contrasting behaviours with their compatriots
and foreigners. "They act double standard. They make one
kind of dealing with the foreigners and quite different with
their own Nepalese fellows."
FES-Nepal Representative, C.D. Bhatta said
the parties always used the youths in the revolutions but they
were left in lurch as the parties reached power.
"The youth have no access to decision
making and creative participation for inter-generational justice.
They are also deprived of social and economic security,"
Annually 400,000 youths entered the labour
market and the state should create jobs for them.
Bhatta said that the country's public and
private education systems produced two different classes of
youths. "This gap must be bridged."
He said that comprador economy was creating
joblessness in the urban areas and it was only through the social
democratic economic model that the nation could resolve the
Writer Sumit Sharma said that the programme
aimed at providing insights on practical politics to the youths.
Sharma said that they needed to carry out the kind of struggle
that would strengthen the state. "There is the need of
merging all 'isms' into the fold of loktantrik socialism."
Public Policy Pathsala chairman Dilli Ram
Subedi said that the seminar highlighted the role of youths
in social democracy.
"The dreams of the youths have been shattered.
It seems we youths are just fit to dance with Bryan Adams,"
he said. He stressed on public education for the youth.
Nepali Congress youth leader Gagan Thapa presented
his working paper 'Modernization and Its impact on the Orientation
of Nepali Youth' that drew a wide range of comments from the
floor. Senior journalist Yuva Raj Ghimire moderated the session.
Thapa termed 'modernization' as a hybrid of
changes brought forth by the anti-colonial, nationalist and
pro-democracy movements, which particularly began after the
Second World War. He said that 1950 political change was the
turning point in Nepal's quest for modernization as it witnessed
the systemic rationalization of authority, the differentiation
of structures and expansion of political participation along
with the increase in number of schools, colleges, industrialization
and subsequently the growth of middle class.
On the impact of modernization on youth, Thapa
said, "Nepali youth, who fought against injustices during
and after the geographical unification of Nepal, today, remained
locked within the space determined by the political parties
or remain crushed by the power elites, social structure, poverty,
unemployment, HIV/AIDS, and restricted opportunities and choices."
"However, the influx of technology, migration
and education opportunities have largely empowered the Nepali
youth. They are driven by hunger for knowledge, new ideas and
innovation," he added.
Thapa finally proposed the idea of 'modernization
of traditionalism' to solve the problems of Nepali society.
Commenting on his paper, freelance journalist
Shekhar Kharel said that the working paper was relevant as well
as interesting. Kharel said that the modernity drove the youth
towards consumerism. He agreed with Thapa that the modernization
was of hybrid nature but he noted that modernity would finally
lead to the forward-looking changes.
He attributed the absence of democratic institutions
to the recurrent failure of democratic set-up in Nepal.
Kharel appreciated the Nepalese youths stating that they excelled
in the global competitions. "But, unfortunately, the state
has just used them like spare parts of wheels."
Stating that Nepal is a unit of global political
and social movements, he urged the Nepalese youths to keep abreast
with the changes taking place in the world.
There was an encouraging participation of
the representatives in the discussion. They criticized the paper
for being unable to include economic factors that determined
the Nepalese society and the youths. "It is purely a theoretical,"
some of them opined.
They said that the rays of hopes have been raised in Nepal with
the participation of the youths in political movement. They
stressed on unity in the diversity.
Arjun Upreti, an NC district member from Dhading,
said that Thapa's paper failed to touch the economic dimensions.
It does not mention as how Nepal could tap water resources and
tourism potentials. "There is a tendency of buying a mobile
phone by selling buffalo. Is it an impact of modernization in
Nima Giri posed a question, "Does the
youth means only male?" She said that there was injustice
on women when it comes to defining the role of youth in the
Nepalese political and social movements.
Tone Bleie said that the Nepalese youths,
who went abroad for job and study, had helped modernize Nepal.
She argued that the Scandinavian nations offered an alternative
to Anglo-Saxon model of social democracy.
"There is a challenge to interact with
the cultures of other nations," she said and called the
participants to define the modernism from the perspective of
Buddhism, which she said, enlightened the relations with material
Madhav Ghimire from Rampur of Chitwan said
that international agreements Nepal signed on multi-lateral
and bilateral basis would hamper the development of agriculture
sector here as they deprived the rights of local people on the
rivers and other natural resources. "There should be future
vision when the agreements are signed." The new constitution
must address the problems faced by the urban and rural youths,
Another participant said that education and
cultures had great impact on the modernity. Sushil Sharma said
that the students had identified themselves with the political
parties, which had affected their progress. He said that the
varsity had turned into a political battle ground and politicization
of education had spoilt the career of the youths. Krishna Dharel
asked the paper presenter to distinguish between modernity and
globalization. Another partaker blamed that the working paper
was full of political elements and did not mention the vital
area of economy and agriculture. He said that it portrayed the
youths in negative light.
One participant asked to make soul-searching
as to why the nation failed to institutionalize the gains of
In his response, paper presenter Thapa said
that his document was not complete and aimed at triggering the
debate on the matter. He admitted that 'modernity' was a vague
subject and urged the participants to see the subject in term
"If there is not freedom from injustice, it could not be
freedom. Neither could there be newness."
From the chair, journalist Ghimire said that
youth linked the present with future. "The youths have
played an important role in the ongoing process of modernization.
However, there should not be a dividing line. The youths should
commit to the common interests of the people and society."
Political scientists Ananda Aditya chaired
the second session wherein CPN-UML youth leader Yogesh Bhattarai
read out his working paper entitled 'Youth: the Harbinger of
Prosperous and Loktantrik Nepal.' Yuga Pathak commented the
paper. Youth, aged between 16 to 40 years, consist of 38.85
per cent of total population. Every year 500,000 young people
join the labor market while 1,000 youths leave the country for
job and study abroad.
"As the state fails to address their
aspirations, the country is facing the acute shortage of the
working population. Children and old people are dominating the
rural belts," Bhattarai said.
He, however, highlighted the youths' role
in democratic movements of different periods.
He said that one key reason behind the crisis
besetting the Nepali politics was to minimize the role of youths
following the success of revolution in which the youths had
played their decisive role.
"The parties tend to make a self-declared
move to retain the old leadership and apply the personal and
factional approach, instead of national perspective, to solve
the problems," he added.
"Till the date, the nation lacked the clear youth policy
to address the 40 per cent of population, triggering cultural
deviation, brain drain and capital flight. This situation has,
in turn, also threatened the political rights gained through
various people's revolutions."
Linking the democratization of the parties
with the role of youth he said, "Only a vibrant relations
between the leadership and the cadres, and between cadres and
the people could make a political party accountable to the people.
The cadres and the people will gradually distance from the parties
if the party functionaries are understood as 'manual workers'
and the leaders as their master."
Bhattarai said it was only through the interventionist
role of new and young generation that the political parties
could be democratized.
"The Nepalese youth," Bhattarai
said, "should once again play their critical role to prevent
the country' from being relapsed into the new rounds of conflict,
division of the nation arisen from the ethnic and communal violence
and the rise of dictators of any sort," he noted.
Commenting on his paper, Yug Pathak said that
the ability and capacity of youths needed to be increased.
"The contemporary politics is
plagued by tendency of middlemanship in the parties. The youths
seek old connection to rise in the party. This psychology has
its root in the society," he said.
He said that the experiences showed that the
bureaucratic and political structures were not amenable to the
Pathak said that the course of change was not always linear.
It is sometimes zigzag. "So, there is the need of leapfrogging
to bring about revolution."
Participants, named, Arjun Bhandari and Subarna,
from the floor underscored that the youths themselves should
intervene the parties to assert their role.
One participant asked Bhattarai to apply
the gist of the paper in his own party. "If so, it could
contribute to improve the politics."
Another speaker questioned Bhattarai as to
why the UML formed Youth Forces with militant nature.
From the chair, Ananda Aaditya said that the
best creativity of a person came during his or her prime youth.
Dwelling the problems facing the youths, he
said that the nation has witnessed the draining of youth's brain
and brawn. "This trend must be stopped."
UCPN-Maoist youth leader Lekha Nath Neupane,
in his paper entitled 'Youth and the Country's Politics,' dwelt
on the various dimensions of Nepalese youths and underscored
the need that the youths must launch a crusade to purify the
politics from corruption and discrepancies. Columnist Anil Bhattarai
commented his paper while Dr. Shree Krishna Yadav moderated
Defining the youth, Neupane said, "Youth
is a community having multi socio-economic dimensions. It is
not a class. Neither is it formed on the basis of economic structure."
He said that the politics had been made a
profession for amassing huge wealth while feudalistic familial
domination was manifested in the political parties.
"The youths should make a clarion call
that the politics is a service, sacrifice and commitment, not
a profession. They must spread the epochal consciousness that
the financial position of all becomes strong if the nation becomes
Neupane advised the youth to develop their
faculty of self-criticism. "They could not justify their
ability by just scolding the political parties and their leaders.
We should learn and again learn. The learning process is serious,
difficult and proceeds with hard labour."
The emerging Maoist leader called for mobilizing
all the Nepalese youths by formulating the 10, 20 and 40 years
vision for national building programmes. "There should
be one-third presence of youths at the decision-making level."
Commenting his paper, Bhattarai said that the youths should
increase their expertise.
He said that the relations between the state
and its citizens should be democratized.
"The level of inequality is rising and
the youths should brace for minimizing it," he added.
Participants from the floor suggested that
Neupane and the like-minded Maoist young leaders should raise
the issue in their party as to why its leaders have become rich.
They said that the Maoist affiliated YCL had
made the politics as profession and was involved in extortion.
Some said that the election of student union
leaders should be proportionate.
One participant questioned, "Who will
bear the financial cost of labour army that is proposed in Neupane's
In his response, Neupane noted that the state
should bear the cost of labour army since it would engage in
the development activities.
Responding to another query, he said he would
not hesitate to denounce the 'highhandedness' of YCL if its
members were found involved in such activities.
He said that structure of Free Student Union
was corrupt and must be restructured.
Concluding the session, Dr. Yadav said that
the process was very important in democracy.
He offered insights on democracy, stating
that it incorporates the elements delivery, election, openness,
judiciary, fundamental rights, equality, accountability and
control of power, among others.