State honors distribution leaves room for improvement
July 8, 2017 05:00 AM NPT
By: KP DHUNGANA
KATHMANDU, July 8: Famous cine actress Manisha Koirala on July 3 posted her picture with the founder of Maiti Nepal Anuradha Koirala in her twitter handle. The caption read-- With Padhma Shree Anuradha Koirala.
Koirala was familiar with the Indian tradition of mentioning the state honors before a person's name.
If the same tradition is followed in Nepal, the name of the chief secretary of the government should read Suprabal, Jansewa Shree, Sukirtimaya Rastradwip, Prasiddha Prawal Janasewa Shree Som Lal Subedi.
According to the Bibhusan (state honors) Act 2064 BS, state honors recognize those making a distinguished contribution in various fields. If the state honors received by Subedi are seen against the criteria set for this purpose, it is hard to find anyone else who has made a similar contribution to the nation.
Sitting at the helm of the bureaucrat, Subedi has already done a hat-trick in terms of state honors over the past seven years.
Subedi received the Janasewa Shree Third while a Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development seven years ago. He also received the Sukirtimaya Rastradip in 2016, and the Prasiddha Prabal Janasewa Shree in 2017.
Another civil servant receiving state honors in successive years is Lok Darshan Regmi.
Currently serving as Home Secretary, Regmi receives a medal no matter which office he serves in. He has never missed an award since 2013, except in 2015 when the government decided not to organize an awards ceremony.
In 2013, Regmi received the Suprabal Janasewa Shree as Joint Secretary at the Finance Ministry. This is the third in the hierarchy of Janasewa Shree medals. He had already become secretary of the ministry in 2016 and he received the Sukirtimaya Rastradip in that capacity. In 2017, he also received the Prasiddha Jana Sewa Shree.
Going by a Supreme Court ruling, Regmi as Home Secretary is not even eligible to receive any medal or state honor. Responding to a write petition filed against the awarding of the Sukirtimaya Rastradip to then home secretary Gobinda Kusum seven years ago, the apex court had questioned the impartiality of state honors. The sitting Home Secretary acts as member-secretary of the awards Recommendation Committee.
However, the apex court's ruling did not prevent Recommendation Committee secretary Regmi from including his own name among the honors recepients. President Bidya Bhandari endorsed the recommendations and conferred the award on him 'for making a significant contribution to national life'.
Interestingly, Regmi not only recommended his own name for state honors but also his father Laxmi Kant Regmi for the prestigious Suprabal Janasewa Shree.
Another lucky individual is Joint Secretary Yadav Koirala, who heads the Home Ministry's section that oversees the distribution of awards and state honors. In the past three years, Koirala has received two top state honors, the Suprabal Janasewa Shree third as Chief District Officer of Kaski three years ago, and the Sukirtimaya Rastradip this year.
Secretary at Local Development Ministry Dinesh Thapaliya also received two state honors in the last three years. And former secretary Nabin Kumar Ghimire and General Secretary at the Parliament Secretariat Manohar Prasad Bhattarai are among civil servants who received state honors every year.
State honors are also conferred on those serving in various constitutional bodies. Former chief election commissioner Neel Kantha Uprety received the Suprabal Janasewa Shree Third as election commissioner in 2011. He received the Prabal Janasewa Shree Second as chief election commissioner three years ago.
In the security agencies. the state has been conferring honors even on those implicated in corruption and those facing action for incompetence while discharging their duties.
Former home secretary Khem Raj Regmi argues that there is unfair competition among government employees for state honors as these are taken into account in promotions.
Although the provision of awarding additional points for promotions on the basis of medals received has been removed lately, the unhealthy competition continues because of the prestige attached.
Regmi argued that civil servants and other government employees do not receive awards on the basis of performance but due to access to senior bureaucrats, nepotism and favoritism. The competition among police officials is particularly evident as police personnel receiving medals still get additional points for promotions.
The Home Ministry spends roughly Rs 50 million each year to prepare the medals. As the number of those receiving medals is increasing each year, this expense is also in increasing.
Home Ministry Spokesperson Dipak Kafle said they have begun doing homework to make the honors more objective and transparent. "Of course, there is room for improvement," said Kafle.
Number of those getting state honors since 2010
Civil servants: 415
Armed Police Force: 126
National Investigation Department: 24