Seminar Report on Promoting Active Citizenship
for Building Modern State
Organised by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)
21-22 June 2011,
Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Nepal Office
organised a two day seminar on Promoting Active Citizenship
for Building Modern State in Mahendranagar of Dhanusa District.
There were around 150 participants though representation of
women in this seminar was meager. This normally happens in the
central Terai. The programme was attended, among others, by
the government officials, leaders of the political parties,
academicians, teachers, media personnel, lawyers, civil society
members, students and other stake-holders of the society. The
inaugural session of the seminar was chaired by Umesh Chandra
Jha - Principle of Shiv Shakti Higher Secondary School. Dev
Raj Dahal - Head of FES Nepal Office, highlighted about objectives
of the seminar. Dahal was of the view that strong and responsible
opposition is required for democracy to function. In the absence
of democratic opposition there is no way that we can expect
to consolidate democracy in a real sense of the term. This is
what exactly happened in Nepal for the last sixty plus years.
Nepali people always desire for democracy and fought for that
but we never had significance presence of democratic parties
in the house let alone in opposition. Hence the need of the
hour is to expand democratic base with democratic values and
principles across different layers of society. Equally important
is to revitalise people's effective participation in the institutional
life of the state and inculcate the culture of active citizenship.
There is an urgent need to take them together if we really wanted
to build a modern state.
There were altogether three papers presented
by Dev Raj Dahal, Lal Babu Yadav - Associate Professor of Political
Science at the Tribhuvan University and C D Bhatta.
Dahal presented his paper on state,
Yadav on federalism, election and other contemporary issues
and Bhatta on democracy, civic education, and citizenship building.
Dahal argued that political leaders of Nepal have brought Nepal
into this situation. There was very active participation from
the participants and asked number of questions on different
Ram Kumar Paswan was of the view that
everything including administration system of the country works
for the benefit of rich - capitalist class for that reason,
but not for the poor and powerless. Under such a state of affairs,
how can we think of building a modern state in Nepal or introduce
social justice in our society. How can people feel the change
and presence of the state existential? He also enquired whether
discussion would make any contribution to address these issues
in a real sense of the term or not.
Mubarak Kabari said that in India civil
society groups, citing the example of Anna Hazare and Baba Ram
Dev, are advocating for corruption free society and have initiated
this campaign by putting tremendous pressure on the government.
The silence in civil society for its part in Nepal, when it
comes to the point of raising issues of public importance such
as corruption, evokes questions behind their ill motives. Perhaps
the engagement of so called civil society's in siphoning off
donors money could be the reason behind this slumber.
Kabari also asked how many states could
be viable in Nepal given its current economic situation and
Jagdish Prasad Singh enquired, despite
its importance in citizenship building - why civic education
is sidelined by the states? How can we revive civic education
in our education system ? Singh also asked whether politically
driven civil society and its leaders can contribute to build
peaceful society or they care only the agent of instability.
Suresh Thakur opined that political
leaders who have been in the power are working for the foreign
interest, they are speaking for them, advocating their agendas
in Nepal - these are the reasons, among others, which carries
the colonial mindset thereby disabling to establish an egalitarian
society in Nepal.
Anand Kumar Mahato of Shri Shiv Shakti
Higher-Secondary School was particularly concerned about the
fact that P.N. Shah made single-state by uniting 22-24 states.
Today, we are discussing about building modern Nepali state
once gain. Is this the right process, what exactly we want to
do here? Are we going to return those states who they belonged
to while P. N. Shah took an initiative for unification? Is it
possible? Do we really have to do this?
Can we incorporate in our upcoming constitution
about the abrogation of Sugauli Treaty which most of the Nepali
look as an attack on Nepali sovereignty asked one participant
who wished not to disclose his name? This participant further
asked whether the unabated direct and indirect Indian interference
on Nepali state of affairs - be it the case of water resources,
development or domestic politics could be minimised where we
can truly feel members of a sovereign state.
Dhanik Lal Mahato of Shiv Shakti HS
School asked about the major contentious issues in the constitution
writing process and how can we address them?
Dilip Lama asked what type of foreign
policy would best suit Nepal and how does globalisation starts
? Birendra Singh of Bateshwor asked about the measures to minimise
corruption as it can really contribute towards state-building.
Suresh Kr Sah asked could these lots
of political leaders can draft constitution within the extended
time of three months? Ram Avatar Mahato asked if the state really
goes into federalism - how we can distribute rights between
centre and federal states. He also asked what could be the reason
that State-Owned Enterprises are going down whereas private
institutions are becoming more prosperous day-by-day.
Murari Dhalak of Sitapur, Bhagawa asked
how can we believe our CA members can write constitution who
are involved in various scandals, scams such as red-passport
and more interesting who just attended 50 days of the total
CA meetings but look for the allowances for 1100 days ? What
are the bases to believe them?
Ram Kumar Paswan further asked the role
and function of the CA members? Whether they have gone there
to write the constitution as to do gunda-gardi ? Within the
framework of federalism whether one Madesh one Pradesh can be
accommodated or not asked one participant who decided not to
Laxmi Mahato asked how can we eradicate
corruption from our society that exists can and every level
- be it bureaucracy, political parties, business houses or police
Rajeshwor Prasad Mahjato asked what is the objective of this
seminar on state-building and citizenship-building? How can
we provide quality education to our student though we have promised
Prem Kishore Sah was particularly concerned
about the corruption that takes place at the local level where
all political parties are involved and make a mockery of fund
allotted for developmental work. Everybody including CDOs, LDOs
and other take their share of pie from this.
We normally preach that people should
not forget their history, roots, and originality but in practice
its not happening? We have decided to go for a secular state
by undermining as Hindu identity ? How will it benefit us asked
Sajjan Singh of Sitapur.
How citizens are connected with local-self
governance and what is their role in it asked Raj Kr Sah. If
601 CA members could not draw constitution - should they be
penalised for that asked Jitendra Kr Singh.
How can we eradicate corruption from
our society which is prevalent everywhere asked Tanka Prasad
Baral. Muna Nepal a teacher by profession. Another point he
made was that teachers who have been working for forty years
have not got permanent position in Nepal? This is not the type
of justice we are looking for.
Murari Dahak wondered how can we have
a federal state (sustain) when they poverty is rampant. Could
we sustain it? What would be the result if conflict broke between
in federal state one the federalism is failed?
Ram Chandra Shah asked what type of
federalism would best suit to Nepal state? How can we empower
poor in a democracy and what type of economic policy would be
best for Nepal ?
Different types of NGOs and INGOs are
operation in Nepal with different types of activities. Some
of them are involved in dubious work. How can we stop them coming
to Nepal enquired Laxmi Narayan Mahato of Shiv Shakti Higher
Mukunda Dahal asked poverty is increasing
in Nepal day-by-day and it has gone up after the establishment
of so called loktantra in the country. This generates some fundamental
question whether democracy is a system that promotes poverty
in the country .
How can we think of having a modern
state when there is no mechanism to provide opportunities to
the youth in the country? They are forced to flee from the nation
asked Yougendra Prasad Chaudhari.
Why foreigners are using Nepal as a
laboratory of everything. Why we have failed to contain it rather
than blaming them of their interference in our state affairs
asked Dhanaik Lal Mahato.
The seminars emphasised one the need
of promoting civil society that is non-partisan, transparent,
and work for the broader welfare of the society rather than
merely working on the agendas of donors or political parties.
There was a strong voice that civil society should fight against
corruption that is rampant in our society - that alone can contribute
towards building people's confidence on state and political
system. With regard to federalism, it appears there seems to
have been great deal of confusion at the grass-root level and
people there feel that given the economic situation, Nepali
state will not be able to sustain it. The need to introduce
civic education in our society at different levels to instil
the sense of accountability in societal actors was also demanded
in this district. Another point that was raised is that the
good people have not gone into Nepali politics and there is
an urgent need to develop such a mechanism. We need to find
out democracy within our own tradition and culture which will
be more sustainable.