Nearly two years after the country started exercising federal system with three tiers of government, more than half of total seven provinces are yet to settle names and fix provincial capitals. So far only three provinces have named themselves—Gandaki (earlier known as Province 4), Sudur Paschim (earlier known as Province 7) and Karnali (earlier known as Province 6). The rest are still referred with numbers. So we have Province 1, Province 2, Province 3 and Province 5. These names not only sound odd but they also give the message that Nepal has yet to complete some of the basics of federalization process. This is why provincial assemblies of the remaining four provinces should now finalize names and fix their capitals without much delay. Karnali and Gandaki provinces set the example and a good precedent by unanimously endorsing names—which are agreeable to most people. There was some opposition to the name ‘Sudur Paschim’ but the provincial assembly passed this name without much controversy. It is already getting late for Provinces 1, 2, 3 and 5 to follow suit.
Fixing the provincial capital is no less important but, as things stand, not all provinces have accomplished this task. On Monday, the assembly of Province 1, despite not naming the province yet, finalized Biratnagar as its provincial capital. Yes, some disagreement had surfaced over whether Dharan, Biratnagar or Itahari should be the permanent provincial capital. Some political and civil society leaders had rooted for Dharan and others had demanded Itahari but at the end of the day, the provincial assembly agreed on Biratnagar. Gandaki has already fixed Pokhara as its provincial capital, Karnali has gone for Surkhet and Sudur Paschim has chosen Godavari as its capital. In this respect, Province, 1, 2, 3 and 5 lag far behind. Three provinces have not only failed to name themselves but also been indecisive on provincial capitals. This failure and indecision on names and capitals must not remain anymore.
Indeed, names mean a lot for the people living in the respective provinces. And as far as possible names that reflect culture, shared history and geographical realities of the provinces concerned should be preferred. Same goes with the provincial capitals. Such capitals should be located in places which are accessible for most of the population of the provinces. At the same time, it is also true that names alone do not matter much unless the provincial governments also enhance their capacity to deliver services to the people. The same can be said about the provincial capitals too. The notion that provincial capitals should be based in the large and already developed cities is flawed. As a matter of fact, if such capitals are established in less developed cities or towns, they can potentially spur more infrastructure developments in those towns. The most important thing the leaders of provinces should consider is that provincial governments must deliver services as per the expectations of people. Province, 1, 2, 3 and 5 can take a lesson or two from Gandaki and Karnali (in names and capitals) and Province 1 (in capital) and expedite the process of naming and fixing the provincial capitals. Provinces of Federal Democratic Republic Nepal should not be left nameless and capital-less. Not anymore.