Kedar Thapa, who began his political career as a leader of Nepal Student Union, during the time of partyless polity, is now mayor of Ilam Municipality. He was elected to the post from the ticket of the Nepali Congress in the May 13 local level election by defeating his friend and UML candidate Dhiren Chemjong. Earlier, Thapa had led Tarun Dal in Ilam. On Wednesday, Mayor Thapa shared the development plans of Ilam Municipality with Kokila Dhakal, Ilam correspondent of TRN. Excerpts:
What do you see as the main needs of Ilam Municipality?
Our most pressing need is to raise the living standard of the people. We need to think about how to deliver prosperity to our poor and disadvantaged denizens. We also need to improve our education. We need to reduce the gap between the public and private schools. Another thing we have to focus on is expanding access to health. We have to bring all the citizens under the health insurance scheme and ensure they get reliable health services when needed. The city also needs to work on constructing all-weather roads connecting its all wards.
How do you plan to fulfil these needs?
We plan to develop one community school each in wards 2, 3, 11 and 12 as model schools by reforming the curriculum. These model schools will provide improved scientific education. We will gauge the success of this programme in these four schools and then expand it to other educational institutions as well. There is a gap between the educational level of the core city and the village development committees added later to make the present-day Ilam Municipality. We plan to close this gap by improving the standard of schools in the later-added remote areas.
What projects has the municipality prioritised?
We plan to provide three-year scholarships to two community school students who achieve the best results in their Secondary Education Examination (SEE). This scholarship will be given for the students to study in the technical schools of the municipality. We have also prioritised the establishment of a medical college and an agriculture research centre. We have to manage land for the medical college. Our previous mayor began work for this and we are following up on the progress. Land has already been managed for the research centre. We also plan to purchase a roller to upgrade our roads.
This year, immediately after our election, we had to focus on preparing the budget so we could not lobby for our projects at the federal and provincial levels. Nevertheless, we are in constant contact with them and are working to get the necessary budget allocated.
How will you manage budget and resources to execute the municipality’s plans and projects?
We have received budget for pre-approved projects, many of which, are almost complete. These projects include the stadium being constructed in ward 10, multi-storey parking being constructed in ward 7 and a few bridges. We have received nominal budget for several new projects as well but are still looking for more resources.
However, we did not receive any money from the provincial government this year for the development of our tourism infrastructure. The provincial minister for tourism hails from Ilam but still, we did not get any budget. This is rather unfortunate.
Minister Khinu Langwa Limbu seems to have snubbed her home district. At the federal level, we are working with the Nepal Tourism Board to get some budget.
As per our previous pledges, we have reduced taxes and to make up for the lost revenue and increase the municipality’s overall income, we have formed a Revenue Consultation Committee. We are presently waiting for its recommendations.
How is Ilam Municipality working to meet the spirit and vision of the new constitution?
The local level will proceed according to the letter and spirit of the constitution. We always put the people at the centre of all our policies. We work to fulfil the needs of our citizens, not the interest of the elected representatives. We try to develop programmes with long-term benefits.
How does the local government plan to utilise the infrastructure already constructed?
We are discussing with airline companies for the operation of commercial flights to and from the Phalgunanda Sukilamba Airport. We are trying to utilise the open space at the district headquarters for sports. We are coordinating with the relevant authorities, including the federal government, to preserve the historic tea estates of Ilam and promote it as a national heritage. We are also pondering on how to utilise few other structures that the municipality has constructed.
Have you succeeded in bringing Singhadurbar to Ilam? What have you done? What remains to be done?
We are working to realise the dream of Singhadurbar in villages through infrastructure and social development. The municipality and its wards have received many rights and powers which should be utilised. We have not fully brought Singhadurbar to Ilam but we are on our way.
How will Ilam Municipality be at the end of your five-year tenure?
The residents of all the wards will be able to travel to the district headquarters easily. We want to revolutionise the electricity, education, agriculture, health, drinking water and infrastructure here. Most importantly, our goal is to improve people’s livelihoods.