LAHAN, June 26: People who had expected rapid development and significant growth in their villages post-federalism are disappointed by the elected local representatives' non-transparent behavior.
Last year, a week-long sit-in was held in Sukhipur Municipality, Siraha which was attended by four ward chairmen along with 25 locals. The sit-in was organized under the banner of the Joint Struggle Committee, demanding investigation into corruption and good governance.
The protestors participating in the sit-in demanded investigation into the irregularities in the formation of the consumers' committee, purchase of weapons, and other developmental construction work. However, when their demands went unheard, they also requested for help from CIAA which in turn asked the District Coordination Committee (DCC) to investigate the irregularities and submit a detailed report.
Ward 5 Chairman Shailendra Kamti said that mistakes had also been made on their part last year. “The mayor ignored our demands last year as it was already endorsed by the municipal council. This year, we have boycotted the municipal council meeting and staged protests,” he said.
According to Deputy Mayor Renu Sah, the municipal council meeting was held to present an estimated budget for fiscal year 076/77 without making transparent the expenditure details of development grants for fiscal years 074/75 and 075/76. Deputy Mayor Sah has accused Mayor Ram Awatar Yadav of misusing the budget allocated for the last year and current fiscal year to serve his own personal needs.
Those who protested against the ward council claim that the mayor has not made public last year's expenditure details. Wrad 10 Chairman Ram Lakhan Mahato said that they have demanded fair investigation into the municipality's expenses. He hinted at a huge embezzlement of funds, and demanded investigation against those guilty.
According to Mayor Yadav, however, a municipal council meeting had already been held as scheduled. The meeting was attended by the deputy mayor, five ward chairmen, and 13 protestors. The mayor didn't wish to talk about his failure to make transparent the expenditure details of the last and current fiscal years. “We disclosed the details of the expenditures in a board meeting but they weren't satisfied,” Mayor Yadav said.
The locals of Aurahi Rural Municipality-4 have staged protests stating that funds provided by the provincial government was spent without any transparency. The locals started the protests against the ward chairman and the provincial government on Monday. On Tuesday, while trying to padlock the Ward 4 office, the protestors "vandalized the ward office. Ward Chairman Upendra Yadav said that office furniture was damaged by the agitated protestors in the process.
Locals from Itatar who had taken to the streets, demanding the formulation of a consumers' committee in a transparent manner also halted work "happening non-transparently and unconstitutionally." During Tuesday's protests, the construction of a basic school in Itatar with a budget of Rs 2.5 million was also halted "as it was being conducted by the non-transparent consumers' committee."
Locals who participated in the protests accuse Ward 4 Chairmen Upendra Prasad Yadav of formulating a consumers' committee alone, backed by the provincial Minister for Finance Bijaya Kumar Yadav. The ward chairman and minster are both from the Samjawadi Party Nepal. The ward had received Rs 5 million to construct Mahadev Mandir, Rs 7.5 million to black top the Nuwakot road leading to the Hulaki road, Rs 2 million to gravel the road from the Gagan River banks to the Indian border, Rs 5 million to fence Khajanapur School, Rs 5 million for pond renovation, Rs 2.5 million for community building construction, and Rs 2.5 million for constructing basic school in Itatar.
The rural municipality allocated Rs 5 million for ward-level development plans. Surendra Yadav, a local, said that the protests were held because of the formation of "a non-transparent committee" to oversee these plans. The locals complain that despite repeated attempts at requesting for transparency, their demands went unheard.
Many development works which should have finished by June 30 haven't even begun yet because of disputes over the formation of the consumers' committee. “The committee was built in a rush but no party has been given the sole responsibility of any project. We have tried to include everyone,” Chairman Yadav said.
With the fiscal year drawing to a close, many projects haven't even been initiated because of the ongoing debates. Intellectual Hareram Thakur, a local of Sukhipur Municipality, said, “The public had hoped that development would be faster after the introduction of federalism but the system has become even more disorganized now.” According to him, the locals do not have any knowledge whatsoever about what the local representatives are doing. "It seems, they are all making efforts to spend the budget in hurry so that it wont freeze," he added.