KATHMANDU, Nov 19: With the commission for restructuring local bodies all set to submit its report on the number and boundaries of local units within two weeks, a dispute over whether or not the local units should be under the jurisdiction of the respective provinces has emerged as another complication in the task of local restructuring.
Leaders of the Madhes-based political parties have been insisting that the local units must be brought within the purview of the provinces. Other major political parties and representatives of various related organizations have, however, strongly objected to this.
They said such a move would go against the basic principle of federalism, which is to devolve power to independent local units.
The disagreement has brought the task of local restructuring to a grinding halt in the eight districts of Province No. 2. The deadline given by the commission to the technical committees in the districts for submitting their reports passed more than two weeks ago, and no progress has been made.
The related provisions of the new Constitution state, “The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal shall have three main levels of structure: federal, provincial and local.”
Rani Sharma of Nepal Sadbhawana Party said the local units should be brought under the jurisdiction of the provinces as this would help to check and balance the local units and prevent them from becoming unruly.
“The Madhes-based parties are allegedly trying to snatch away the rights of the local units with their demand that these units be kept under the control of the provincial government. But that is not the case,” she said, adding, “Keeping the local units under the provinces will make them more responsible and accountable and this will benefit the country in the long run.”
Speaking at an interaction program in the capital on Friday, Sharma said that bringing local units under the provinces will not deprive the units of their powers and their independence as enshrined in the new Constitution. She also said that the government should first resolve the provincial dispute before restructuring the local units.
However, Krishna Prasad Sapkota, former local development officer and a member of the CPN-UML, said that the demand for keeping the local units under the provinces goes against the principle of federalism.
“In federal states, local units are autonomous but the Madhesi parties are demanding that the local units be brought under the purview of the provinces. How would that make our country a federal state?” he questioned.
Likewise, Krishna Prasad Jaisi, chairman of National Federation of District Development Committees and a member of the CPN (Maoist Centre), stressed that the local units cannot be kept under the provinces under any circumstances. “Madhesi parties are mounting pressure on the government to bring the local units under the provinces through an amendment to the Constitution. This is entirely against the principle of federalism,” he said.
Keshav Rijal of Nepali Congress echoed Jaisi and rights activists said such a demand is truely obnoxious.
“Madhesi parties are trying to snatch the rights enshrined by the new constitution in local units. We should all be careful about this,” said Subodh Raj Pyakurel, a rights activist.
As of now, as many as 63 districts out of the total of 75 have already submitted their reports to the commission while 12 districts, including the eight districts of Province 2 are yet to do so.
On Friday, a team from the commission held talks with Minister for Federal Affairs and Local Development Hitraj Pandey and asked him to take initiatives to ensure participation of the Madhesi parties in the task of local restructuring.