Dr. Dhawal Shumsher Rana is the mayor of Nepalgunj Sub-metropolitan City in Banke. Rana first became mayor of Nepalgunj Municipality in 1997 and two decades later, the city’s residents once again elected him to lead the sub-metropolitan city. Rana, who holds a PhD in political science, has now completed three years of his current mayoral term. In this context, The Rising Nepal’s Banke correspondent Govinda Sharma talked to him about the overall development status of Nepalgunj and various other topics related to his work and the sub-metropolitan city.
How has the past three years in office been? How would you evaluate it?
The works have been carried out in a satisfactory manner. I am satisfied with the development that is taking place here now. Personally speaking, though, it is very mentally and physically exhausting for me.
You had presented a manifesto to the voters during the election. How successful have you been in implementing it?
We prepared a one-page manifesto. There were others who made manifestos of up to 10 pages. We only included those things which we could feasibly achieve. Almost all the things included in our manifesto have been completed. This is the last stage of our third year. The fourth budget is ongoing. Some projects have been completed while some are about to be completed.
Nepalgunj is one of the major cities of the country. What are the main tasks that have been accomplished under your leadership?
When we took up office, all the roads here were in a state of utter disrepair. All of them have now been renovated. Drainages have been constructed with one under construction. The parks were in ruins. They have been rebuilt and are ready to come into operation. The administration has also been greatly improved. From the perspective of good governance, being able to create a corruption-free municipality is a huge achievement. We have to able to swiftly build and begin operations of a state-of-the-art bus park and a landfill site.
What is Nepalgunj doing on the issue of good governance and transparency?
As per the rules, we hold public hearings on a quarterly basis. We have fully upheld people’s right to information. We will not allow any kind of irregularity. You will observe full transparency here. We mandatorily take permission from the board before moving forward on issues of finances and expenses. Elected representatives, employees and residents of the city know how transparent the sub-metropolitan city’s works are. So far, we have not found any instances of corruption. We maintain absolutely zero tolerance to corruption.
How do you plan to utilise your remaining term?
We have only 16 to 17 months left of our five-year term. We need to start a girls’ school and college. Their buildings will be completed in two to four months. All the parks will be built in five to six months. My focus now will be on systematic operations of services rather than constructions.
What is the status of support or coordination provided by the State or federal governments in the works of the local government?
Nobody has obstructed any of our works but the State and federal governments haven’t provided the necessary assistance either. I have repeatedly asked the Chief Minister to love all the sub-metropolitan cities in the State equally. We don’t need more than others, please divide the resources equally. Sometimes, the complimentary budgets we receive for projects are less than that of the neighbouring Gaunpalika. This time, the central government has reduced such budgets to zero. We are saddened by this. We have the support of national and international organisations and donors.
You were the mayor in 1997 too. What differences have you experienced between then and now? We didn’t have such a big responsibility 20 years ago. The local units are a government now. They weren’t a government back then. We weren’t allocated much budget at that time. It was difficult to even get small tasks accomplished. We don’t have such problems now. The rules and regulations are also stricter now. But it was comparatively easier to work in the past than now.
No single party holds a majority in the municipal executive. How easy or difficult is it to work in that context? Four parties hold near equal positions in the municipal executive. The coordination among everyone is very good. We are all moving forward together. All the members have helped in carrying out the city’s development. There has always been a good relationship among everyone.
What is Nepalgunj doing in preventing and controlling COVID-19 infections? We are doing everything we can. We have followed the government’s protocol. As people from Lumbini, Karnali and far-western districts pass through the Nepalgunj border point while entering the country, we built quarantines in the no man’s land between Nepal and India and helped everyone. We have eased some of the daily problems encountered at the border. We have operated an isolation centre. We are adding isolation beds in Bheri Hospital. One employee of our sub-metropolitan sadly passed away from COVID-19. Although many public representatives and staff have themselves contracted the coronavirus, we continue to work to curb its spread.
You had been leading the movement to merge Nepalgunj into Karnali State. Now, the State has been named Lumbini and its capital has been fixed at Deukhuri. How does Nepalgunj view this? We had always been saying that Butwal would be too far for us. Our priority was to have Nepalgunj as the State capital. With that unlikely, we believed that it would be better to be a part of Karnali. Now that Deukhuri Valley of Dang has been made the capital, it will be somewhat easier for us. The distance we need to travel has reduced by half. The ideal option is to still have Nepalgunj as the capital or to join Karnali State. But for the people of Banke, Dang is comparatively more accessible than Butwal.