Development At Local Level

prem khatryPrem Khatry

After about two months of election, there is some kind of ‘lull’ at the local level politics and development discussion. This, however, is not due to the lack of spirit, planning or resources. Newly elected mayors, chiefs and their team members show visible level of utmost energy, preparedness and sense of credibility and sincerity. One only wishes this spirit remains as long as they are on the chair.  
The Culture Division of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation organised a roundtable discussion session at Sindhuli Madi, the headquarters of the district early this month. The objective of the programme was to renew and update the existing Master Plan in the possession of the government for the promotion of the historic Sindhuli Garhi (Fort) as a tourist hub in the years to come (TRN, July 11, 2017).  
The newly elected mayor Khadga Khatri outlined his plan to allocate special budget for the promotion and protection of the Fort that heralded a new era in the history of Nepal – the defeat of one contingent of the British Army that headed towards Kathmandu to stop the advance of the Gurkhas for the unification of Nepal. Britain then was the only super power of the world. Yet, the Gorkhali had forced their army to retreat and finally head towards Delhi.   
Along with the CDO of the district, Mayor Khadga Khatri of Kamlamai Municipality co-hosted roundtable discussion along with the local elites and politicians belonging to different political parties of the district. The recent city council has approved the plan and allocated some budget to begin the work. If the plan proceeds as desired, the Garhi will have historic features including a site museum exhibiting the main highlights of the confrontation with the British led by Capt. Kinlock. On Nepal side, the name of Bansu Gurung, a Gorkha fighter responsible to save the route from British incursion, has been surfaced.  Time will come when Banshu’s descendants will be sought and honoured next to his proposed statue.

Dirty capital
Mayors have their style and knack to handle problems, one can believe. In Kathmandu, the haste for a pollution-free, clean and green city is said to be in place and this deserves appreciation. The news about city fathers’ fancy and expensive mobile has been buried.  There are, however, heaps of challenges to face and meet. One can only hope the promises repeatedly made during the campaign are met squarely and fast.
The much debated and less trusted Melamchi water should not be a dream anymore, but the roadwork now seems more urgent than the dream water. Enough dust has been inhaled; enough dirt has been carried home through outfits all the way to the kitchen and the bedroom.  Still, there is hope the ‘fathers and mothers’ will read the mind of their city folks and improve the image of the city we love, we chose and plan to dwell, to live and die on time, not before.
Mayors and Village Council Chiefs this time have learnt a very tough yet useful lesson from their voters.  People in many constituencies have demolished the traditional vote banks structure and came out openly to encourage a young leader with less care about their party whips or disciplines.  This pattern of thought gave golden opportunity to many novices to come forward with feasible plans, total commitment and concern for the people’s welfare. The three major parties have found an issue to chastise their local deputies and cadres and either remove them from party ranks or bring them to size.  If they do so, this will only have a backlash in the upcoming elections like the Pradesh No Two, the federal and the parliament. After all, people’s judgment is what matters in a democratic society.
When mega cities like Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Biratnagar, Birgunj, Pokhara, Chitwan, Nepalgunj, Dharan, etc have serious management problem in the field of transportation, water, health and sanitation, education and employment second category cities also have similar problems. On the other hand, the village councils may have less hectic issues to face, but they have inadequate counseling resources in the field of health, education,  general and priority based planning. They appear in haste in terms of development spree running in their nerves, but it is essential that they find politics free intellectuals and technicians who have planning and resource mobilidation experience.
The basic force for change in any given system is education because it is the mother of all systems in place. Our public education system needs great, almost herculean effort to put it in place. For example, there are reports a big chunk of money for building construction in quake affected areas went unused and was frozen. On the other hand, the NGOs have done better than the government itself in this sector. This is unfortunate. Partisan politics is coming heavy in many development fields most particularly in education. The local authorities must pay attention to this serious situation. Freeing education from politics is not easy at the moment, but efforts can level the mountains of evils in no time.

Prof Mana Prasad Wagley, a noted educationist with a long experience in the field of education the other day  issued a very serious 15-point ‘memorandum’ in the name of the local government  to encourage them to take necessary step for the change in education. Prof Wagley leaves a legacy of keeping education free from partisan politics for the sake of attaining quality in education.  Each point, each word he presents in the statement published by a daily is meaningful and needs serious thought about education reform to go with other development agenda at the local level.  Wagley is suggesting, even requesting the local government to be bold, to not look ‘up’ as it was done in previous eras and just work to establish quality education to go with reforms in other sectors.  His formula could be called a ‘thesis’ and a tool to follow through in order to make strong foundation of education at the grass-root level. This is a qualified and valid bottom line for reform in education.
Finally, with proper and well thought out  planning, local governments can bring visible and appreciable change in the history of Nepal. At the moment, the development machinery is falling apart due to lack of credibility, high corruption rate, lack of law and order and unbearable political pressure on all sectors. A ‘clean’ village is what sparks the light further and brings joy in the face of the common man, his family, his neighborhood and ultimately the nation.  This is the time when the local leaders must free themselves from their party and become leaders for the entire citizenry of the nation.         

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