Federalism: need of the time?

January 25, 2008 at 7:30 pm 3 comments

Federalism: need of the time?

Bal Krishna Jha (B.E, MBA)

Bal Krishna Jha

Unity is strength. This is an age old proverb which has been tested against odds of all times, and has stood up tall to its claim almost always. Interestingly, unity can exist only when there is diversity. Unity does not mean losing individuality and being submissive. It is other way round. Individual strength should be recognized and shared among the members and the weakness must be complimented by others. Similarly, to build a united Nepal, we must first recognize the importance of all its regions.

The division of federal states from a single state is comparable to the division of nuclear families from a joint family. The thought of separation from a joint family arises when the contribution of any of its members is not duly recognized. This also happens when there is unfair control and claim of the common assets among the siblings and parents. In this situation, there arises a diminishing sense of ‘owning and belongingness’ and more of a ‘compulsive sharing’. It is then advisable that the joint family be divided.

With this analogy, one can understand why the different communities are demanding the federal structure in Nepal, based on the differences in their socio-economic conditions, ethnicity and geographical identities. It also becomes clear as to why the centre is pressing hard to stop this federalism on the pretext of protecting the country from disintegration. The division of joint family into nuclear ones does not imply a break up, but indicates the requirement of some ‘space’. The nuclear families do have relation with the families of other siblings and parents.

Though the tarai is just 23% of the total area, it has more than 70% of the total cultivable land, and around 70% of the industries. Nepal has only around 10% of people in service sector. This means that the real flow of economy is from tarai to the hills. Tarai has very little to take from hills, but it is not the same for the hills, including Kathmandu. Hills must depend on tarai for almost everything. Kathmandu is prosperous only because of the existence of high density of the power centres.

In addition to this anomaly, the existing policy of the government to divide Nepal into five development regions vertically is another brick in the wall to make the contribution of tarai appear marginal and insignificant. This is the practice deliberately implemented since the Panchayat regime. This move has been successfully able to understate the role of tarai in terms of its production capacity, quantity and quality of human resources, its competitive advantage of being close (proximity and culturally) to one of the fastest developing nations of the world. Therefore, the recognition of tarai as a major contributor in the nation building and sustaining is due on the part of the Government.

It is interesting to think of the situation when terai is one of the federal states within Nepal, and with its capital somewhere in tarai. People from not only all the parts of tarai, but also from the hills would come around the capital of this federal state. The market would flourish here on the virtue of easy availability of resources and skills and abundance of raw materials. There would be a multiplier effect in the economy of tarai, which would provide prosperity to all the people associated with this market. Further, there is no doubt in Tarai growing at a comparable rate of growth as that of its neighbor across the border.

The madhes revolution is revolving around the issue of its autonomy. Some factions are demanding federal state of tarai, whereas, some are demanding a separate independent state. However, given a greater autonomy, the madhes movement might settle for a federal structure.

In the changed context, when most of the population and hence parties have endorsed the federal structure in Nepal, the question remains what the ideal amount of power sharing between the states and the centre should be. Should it be the centre deciding on what powers to endow to the states, or should the states be deciding what powers to leave for the centre? Or should it be based on the principles of check and balance of power and economy between the states and the centre?

Various issues such as control and sharing of resources, presence of what levels of judiciary in the states, movement of labour and goods, security of state and nation, adoption and implementation of a common or different acts, laws, rules, etc according to local conditions and many more need to be debated between the stakeholders. The urgency of this dialogue is inevitable.

In this condition when political parties are just buying extra time, there seems a greater role for the civil societies in the coming days. Now it is high time that the civil societies start mushrooming in all the parts of the country, posing as stakeholders of the society and speaking on the issues of their concern. The civil society would then be able to press the government to be accountable to their deeds and be answerable to them. This development will give the sense of urgency in the minds of politicians, and would remind them from time to time, that the days of enjoying absolute power is soon going to be over. The political leaders must relinquish the strategies adopted since the Panchayat regime. Now, the power is going to be in the hands of people. Therefore, it is advisable that the process of operationalizing federal structure with sufficient provision of autonomy begins soon for safeguarding national unity and integrity.

Jha is a research associate at Centre for Economic and Technical Studies (CETS), Kathmandu. He can be reached at balkrishnajha@gmail.com.

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Entry filed under: Articles.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dr Ramesh  |  January 31, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Mr Jha,
    I have got an oppurtunity to read your articles during these days. Your articles are totally misleading and it looks like that you have only hatred in your heart for all community except your own’s.
    In your article you say that having only 23% of land area and 48% of population, the Terai has 70 % of industries. That means that Pahade has not discriminated Madhes on the issue of industalization the country. Is it anomaly for Madhesi? You say that there is everything in Terai- i ask you hydro power and tourism the main 2 income generators for Nepal- where they lie? The importance of energy sector will be deciding in coming years and you are talking like 15 th century feudal.
    The country is divided in 5 different regions for the integration of the society, but not to undermine Terai.
    You have a crack brain with ill and prejudiced opinion. Plese dont write any article where no facts are there but only your ill sentiment.
    And what research are you doing by the way? I’m also a researcher. If you make logics that way your research will also go to nowhere.

  • 2. subhash  |  February 2, 2008 at 12:03 am

    ke ho ramesh ji
    pheri testai murkhata ko parichaya cha ni tapai ko yo comment ma pani
    jha ji is absolutely right.

  • 3. sanu maya kc  |  December 1, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Dr ramesh is right. Land belongs to people. We get land from nature. But industries have to build. And the ‘ Phade Regime” has build the 70 % of national industry in Terai. Why? Why Pahade are so stupid? Why dont they build industries in Hilly region? Because it is easier to build in Terai. Pahade never thought of dividing country in Pahade and Madhesi. If they have such kind of things in their brain, they have not build country’s 70% industries in Terai. It is now so called Madhesi politicians are raising these issues. Because they have no other issues to do politics.And people like Bal Krishna Jha, who dont have thier own thinking power, are falling in such politician’s trap.
    Secondly, I’m in favour of the issue that if Madhesi want seperate country, they should be given that chance. Let them govern themselves. I dont think that the country ‘Madhes’ will not be better than Bihar and UP. And then we Pahade also will be get rid from the blaming that we are the cause of their poverty. By the way the Pahade as a whole are also not the rich and developed people. Do you Madhesi have ever think of people living in Jumla and Humla?They are also Nepali(and Pahade , of course) and when the day they get rice to eat, for them it is like a festival.
    So, in my opinion, to be rich and developed we have to change ourselves, many of our belief, and cultural and living and thinking styles. Otherwiswe we will be blaming each other and getting poorer.

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