May 22, 2007, Washington DC: The Member of Parliament and an emerging leader of Nepal Nepali Congress Sujata Koirala said that the Government of Nepal is working diligently towards constituent assembly election despite some delay resulting from mistakes made by Seven Party Alliance and the Maoists during recent months. She was speaking on a program in Washington DC organized by America Nepal Society (ANS).
Ms Koirala told that Nepali Congress Party has not so far developed any specific model for federalism, such as the one brought out by the Maoists. However, her party is moving ahead in the direction of federalism and inclusion, and is working through it.
The main speaker of the program Dr Pramod Dhakal, Executive Director of Canada Forum for Nepal, presented his working paper titled “Risks and Opportunities of Federalism on Inclusion” in which he introduced three models of governance – centralized, decentralized and distributed. He said, “The value of federalism is in the empowerment and inclusion of people. But if a model of federalism is built by thinkers who are abreast with traditional power structure, they will only add new layers of hierarchy on top of those already existing.”
Dr Dhakal opined that decentralized model builds powerful, strict and failure-prone systems whereas the distributed model builds prosperous, innovative, and fault-tolerant systems. He said, “Although better than centralized, the decentralized models proposed by most intellectuals today are built on the basis of hierarchy and are theoretically incompatible with core tenant of equality, freedom and democracy. Such models are utilized by empires in their declining phases because the model is based on control and subjugation of the population. But, almost all empires become prosperous, resilient, and innovative in their rising phases by using distributed models.” He said that distributed model is being ignored in Nepal due to the conformist practices of teaching, which condition us for thinking everything in terms of hierarchy. He said, “Only distributed systems whose individual units are founded on the principle of inclusion can be compatible with democracy and bring lasting prosperity and harmony in the society.”
Dr Dhakal said, “True prosperity is composed of not only of material affluence measured in GDP but also of spiritual enrichment, continually improving systems, and innovation. And, education, organization, and discipline are the foundations for building such prosperity whereas inclusion is the foundation of all foundations. And, there is no pre-fabricated prosperity and justice to be imported without building those foundations.” He opined, “Intellectuals are perpetually doing analysis of the thesis and antithesis instead of synthesizing the existing ideas to create new ideas; and this stalemate has harmed Nepal instead of helping.”
“We have this faulty belief that Nepal has one autonomous economy. In truth, there are at least two distinct economies: one in the cities and the other outside them. While 15% Nepalese who consume 85% of the resources are intent on the continuity of the hierarchical system, others are impatient and want revolutionary changes in political, social and economic front”, said Dr Dhakal. “Not only should we seek devolution and distribution of power but also uncompromisingly seek the primary ingredients that give birth to all prosperities – namely education, organization, and discipline.”
Dr Chitra K Tiwari, a well-known commentator on political and foreign relations, added that if Nepal cannot shelve monarchy at the earliest, issues of inclusion and federalism will become a matter of dream only. He said, “Already the interim government has become like April Fools joke. This government has already demonstrated its incompetence in the same way as Deuba Government sacked by Gyanendra was for its ‘incompetence in conducting election’. This is only playing on behalf of the king and against the aspirations of the people of Nepal. Also, it is unable to solve problems of Tarai and Pahad.” He further emphasized that there is a possibility of centralizing the power on the name of decentralization.
Another discussant, Dr Shyam D Karki, a prominent Nepali intellectual, said, “Nepal has remained Kathmandu centric for a long time and such approach has been counterproductive. The way the Bada-Hakims sent by Ranas were viewed as tax collection-agents, the CDOs of today are also viewed by the people in the same light – as representatives of Kathmandu and loyal enforcers of edicts that come from Kathmandu.” Then again, he argued, civil war compounded the problem by escalating the centralization of the power. He said, “Federalism has no alternatives, and devolution of power is necessary, to save Nepal. It is only a question of how this should be done.”
Dr Karki emphasized that Nepal has yet to have extensive debate to formulate mechanisms for dividing power structure and to define who gets what. “The role and share of various governing units on revenue, taxation, infrastructure ownership, development, health, education, and other areas, must be clearly defined before we can move ahead.”
Started with the screening of an inspirational documentary film, Sukh Bahadur Adhikari – Grade 4, prepared by visiting artist Dil Bhushan Pathak, the program was moderated by ANS President Prem Sangraula and the speakers were introduced by ANS Secretary Khem Bhattachan. In the program, ANS collected and handed over a donation to support the worthy work of Mr Pathak in making the documentary film for social change. Mr Prem Sangraula spoke on the importance of the topic and Mr Bhattachan said that the outcome of the discussions will be passed on to the political players of Nepal.