For nearly last two years after the local elections were held in 2017 to bring governance to the people’s doorsteps, Nepal’s local governance system has largely earned a bad fame. Mayors and deputy mayors of municipalities and rural municipalities have been found involved in multiple scams of misusing using funds to purchase luxury vehicles, or not remaining in contact with the very people who elected them in the first place. The Kathmandu Metropolitan City, which should have been the example for all local governments, has so far been the classic example of failure with its mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya doing nothing substantive to alleviate immediate problems of valley denizens. But it seems all is not gloom. Republica has found that some local governments and their representatives are emerging as exceptions.
The elected representatives in Bairiya Patti Rural Municipality in Siraha district have set a new example. This Rural Municipality completed installing electricity poles and supplying electricity to people’s houses earlier than expected. They have connected the village with road networks. As a matter of fact, several villages of Siraha and other parts of Madhes have seen changes in the last one year. Several electric services—such as electric rice mills and cyber centers—have been introduced in the villages. Farmers have started using electric tools in their fields. Road networks have been widened to ease mobility of goods and people. Local representatives are involved in constructing, repairing and widening roads. This has brought smiles in people’s faces and they are thankful to their leaders with whom they only used to have complaints and resentments in the past. With roads, electricity and irrigation facilities a lot of changes have come in people’s lives.
This exemplary change in few villages of Siraha, a Madhes district, is meaningful and sends a strong message for all other local government representatives who are sitting idle. One message of this change is that things in Madhes, the region lagging behind in development despite vast potentials for agriculture and industrialization, can be drastically changed if the local government representatives work according to the promise they made to the people. In Siraha, people are all praise for their local leaders, which is rare in Nepal, because these leaders addressed immediate development needs of the people. Another takeaway of this change is that when leaders become accountable their relationship with people gets stronger and they don’t need to fear being defeated in the next election. When local elections were held two years ago, there was so much excitement and a lot of hope because the elections were happening nearly after two decades—during which local institutions were nearly defunct. But this hope and excitement is fading in many places because elected leaders have largely neglected the people. Constitution has given sweeping powers to local governments. If they work honestly, they can make a lot of difference. Local leaders in Siraha are being praised for this. If leaders elsewhere follow suit, they will be praised as much.