KATHMANDU, Sept 19: Wednesday marks the third anniversary of the promulgation of the new constitution through an elected constituent assembly (CA). These three years were crucial in terms of the implementation of the new constitution as holding elections to the federal parliament, provincial assemblies and local units and putting in place various institutions as envisioned by the constitution were a must for the implementation of the statute. The government also needed to formulate a number of laws and regulations to bring constitutional provisions relating to various rights of citizens into implementation.
As the country commemorates the third anniversary of the new constitution on Wednesday, all these important tasks aimed at implementing the new constitution have been accomplished - the federal parliament, provincial assemblies and local units have been put in place. Parliament completed the formulation of all laws required to implement the new constitution and also endorsed all bills related to the citizens' fundamental rights on Sunday.
But as the process to implement the constitution now moves in a full-fledged manner with a two-thirds majority government in place, the optimism that people had when the constitution was promulgated seems to be dying down. There are concerns already that the new institutions have grossly failed to deliver anything tangible, leaving the ordinary people questioning the new governance system in the country.
Analysts argue that the mounting frustration of the people over the poor service delivery amid increased tax burden could pose a serious challenge to the implementation of the new constitution. Local governments have been facing criticism for imposing tax even on livestock and the people's representatives have been accused of buying luxury vehicles for them from the taxpayers' money.
Constitutional expert and former Maoist lawmaker Khim Lal Devkota said the local governments have also failed to implement their annual budgets and accelerate development activities at the local level. “The constitution has authorized the local governments to prepare and execute budget at the local level. But even the local budget has failed to impress the people due to the lack of its implementation,” said Devkota.
While the dissatisfaction grows over the failure of the local and provincial governments to deliver services, the conflict between provincial and federal government over their jurisdiction is equally likely to exacerbate the situation. The chief ministers of the provinces have already complained that the federal government has not been liberal in empowering the provinces as per the spirit of federalism.
Dispute over resource allocation, taxation and distribution of natural resources are some of the likely issues which may invite conflict between these two tiers of government in the days to come. In a meeting of the chief ministers held in Pokhara recently, the heads of province governments expressed their dissatisfaction over the way the federal government has been treating them.
Also, the government has yet to give full shape to various bodies including Natural Resource and Fiscal Commission that are supposed to distribute revenue among provincial governments and federal government. As the relations between provincial governments and federal government are souring lately, there has not been the meeting of Inter-Government Council that is supposed to bridge the differences.
Amid concerns whether the government will be able to meet the constitutional deadline of September 19, parliament succeeded in enacting all laws necessary for the implementation of the fundamental laws. As the citizens' fundamental rights are so exhaustive, there are concerns how the government will finance to meet all those fundamental rights guaranteed in the constitution.
Speaking at a press conference organized on Monday at his office, Law Minister Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal himself expressed doubt over the full implementation of the fundamental rights. “I still see challenges in the implementation of the fundamental rights of the citizens,” he said.
As per the provisions in the new constitution, appellate courts have been transformed into high courts and even local units have been entrusted with the responsibility of settling ordinary disputes. But the justice delivery process has not been effective as expected. Chief Justice Om Prakash Mishra informed a parliamentary committee last week that over 200,000 cases are still sub-judice in various courts.
What remains a challenge now is addressing concerns of some disgruntled groups in some of the constitutional provisions. There are concerns — perceived or real — among the people that some of the constitutional provisions discriminate them. As the frustration mounts over poor delivery of services, the government needs to observe extra caution that these disgruntled groups do not capitalize on the people's frustrations to derail the country's journey toward peace and stability.