As one who was always opposed to the idea of ‘state restructuring’ to create a new layer of political representation and bureaucracy, while effectively demolishing the existing structure involving districts, village development committees and municipalities, I am not surprised by the difficulties involved in such radical transformation.
Most of the provinces and many local authorities are currently complaining that, not only have financial and material resources not been effectively transferred as promised, but the necessary redeployment of personnel required to provide the human resources has not occurred and, even more importantly, the legislation required to implement the necessary changes to the structures of government and administration has not been passed.
In Province 2, this concern is robustly expressed by both provincial and local authorities. Local journalists, businesses and academics in a series of public discussions and private informal interviews in Birganj and Janakpur expressed similar views.
There was some sense of rivalry between the two communities of the new Province 2, in part regarding the allocation of powers and resources as between Birganj and the Bhojpuri-speaking areas in the west and Janakpur and the Maithili-speaking areas of the east. The name of the Province is not yet decided, although most concede that it is likely that Janakpur will be officially named the capital or headquarters of Province 2.
There is surprising enthusiasm here regarding the greater responsibility at a more local level for the development of the Madhesi economy and society, even if all were agreed that the region remained politically marginal and economically underdeveloped, with generally poor access to health and education facilities, poor human development indicators and major issues of inequality and social discrimination.
There seems to be a determination on the part of those in office to make the most of the new powers and resources they still hoped would be made available to transform the region and achieve improvements. But there is also concern and anger at the slow progress of decentralisation and devolution. This is the only province which has a government and assembly dominated by politicians who are not linked to the newly created CPN, and they are proud of this distinction.
David Seddon is Director of Critical Faculty, author and co-author of many publications on Nepal, and currently writing a three-part book on ‘Nepal and the Great War’.
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