Nepal is going to mark the Constitution Day on Friday, commemorating the promulgation of the historic dossier that ushered the nation into a federal democratic republic. The country adopted federalism in place of unitary system blamed for obstructing the expansion of power to the grassroots. Federalism does not only decentralise power but also enables the various layers of government to provide the public goods and services at the doorsteps of the people promptly and efficiently. Considered as the engine of self-rule and shared rule, the federal system pays sufficient heed to the judicious allocations of national wealth and natural resources unevenly scattered in the different parts of the country. The marginalised people, regions, ethnicities and cultural groups have a greater say in the federal polity that also requires adequate amount of budget, energy and political understanding to operate smoothly and efficiently. It demands proper coordination between centre, state and local units for suitably distributing budget and constitutional rights among them.
With the formation of the new government in February last year, the country is in the early phase of the implementation of the federal system. No doubt, it is facing teething problems in enforcing the new governance system and democratic order. The federal and state government often lock in horns over the distribution of powers and fiscal resources. Chief Ministers of different states rue that the centre is reluctant to allot constitutional rights and responsibilities to them. Such a conflict is not new given that it is trial and error learning method that guides the three-tier of governments to achieve their stated goals and vision.
Despite being an expensive system, federalism has slowly started delivering on its promises. Still it is beset with multiple challenges. Those holdovers from the previous system are trying to put a spoke in federal wheel, thereby making the entire governing system dysfunctional. The anti-federal forces are rearing their ugly heads in a futile attempt to turn back the clock. In order to square up to this initial hitch, all pro-federal forces should join hands to make federal system effective and catalytic, thereby achieving peace and economic prosperity. The other day, ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda warned against the ‘anarchic and reactionary elements’ hell-bent on dismantling the federal democratic republic gained through seven-decade-long struggles. While urging the party’s students’ wing to face off against the anti-federal agencies, Prachanda noted that his party-led government was in the process of creating the basis of socialism through the process of prosperity and development.
At the same time, Prachanda admitted that there was ‘individualistic and self-centred tendency’ among them. This realisation amply suggests that the government and its instruments must assess their performance and adopt more people-centric approach to meet the lofty goal of federalism. It is open secret that the public coffers have been drained to meet the vested interest of party leaders and their cronies. Funds disbursed for building new federal institutions have not been properly utilised. Elected representatives are on a spending spree, buying posh vehicles and other unproductive items. It has become urgent to put a check on such a profligate trend and mobilise scarce resources in building critical infrastructures that directly benefit the people. Only pointing the finger at the ‘old forces’ can hardly help institutionalise federalism and give immediate respite to the people deprived of basic needs and public utilities.