Gain Legitimacy Through Performance


The Prime Minister, ministers and the coalition party officials commit to work towards achieving transformative changes in the governance and development of the country.  Obviously, for the present coalition government that had been brought into shape through a cobbling of political forces mutually estranged to each other, there exist no other options than to deliver and function to redeem the pledge made to the citizens during the democratic elections. 

However, current patterns and style of working and tendencies, among others, characterised by announcing public holidays to highlight and aggrandise their partisan turfs and interests are liable to make the present coalition government less credible and unpopular. The coalition government may risk getting lost in a maze of tall promises and rhetoric without any substantive outcomes to its credit. Many grandiose schemes have been, of course, promised in their respective manifestoes issued during the polls but they will have no value and importance should they remain unimplemented. 

The government needs to perform to inspire hope in the people. When a government makes tall promises and fails to deliver to meet the basic aspirations of the people, popular disappointments and disenchantments are bound to grow and manifest. In fact, the government has been anticipated to target the basic day-to-day problems, inconveniences and hardships faced by the people in a convincing manner, but it looks a bit disarrayed lacking in focus. For example, Deputy Prime Minister and Urban Development Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha had promised that the Kathmandu roads will be fully toned up, improved and made sleek. The capital city will be made swanky completely free of dust and dirt within a short span of time.

Participatory governance

However, as the present government is nearing completion of three months of its ascendancy to power since the last election was held, nothing worth to note has been done to keep the pledge.  The Kathmandu roads and city ambience looks much more spoiled, dusty and deteriorated. 

The city transportation is further mismanaged rendering the city commuting very difficult. Undoubtedly, the nation had opted for federal reorganisation of the state for ensuring participatory governance and development so that the people at the far-flung and remote areas of the country could own up and align with nation building process. But this transformative promise of federal governance appears more or less overlooked and neglected. Not only at the central level, have political functionaries at the sub-national level gone overboard to nurse their own vested interests and egos.

When one scans through the news media headlines, one can come across several instances that indicate as to how local villages in the far off districts have been allowed to suffer and languish in deprivation due to highhandedness and parochial interests of the dominant local politicians who work in collusion with local contractors. Even the government officials and technical personnel who dare to stand by and follow the rules and regulations -- though they are very few -- attempted to be tamed. And the powerful local politicians use or abuse their political levers to harass the committed officials upholding the interests of the people.

It must be mentioned that local politicians from ward chairmen to mayors have been involved in unleashing what is called as dozer road building boom. This dozer road construction boom has been executed by cutting into steep fragile hillsides haphazardly without any kind of planning and ecological considerations. The dozer road construction is mostly carried out with an absence of proper drainage, reckless and mindless destruction of vast swathe of green vegetation. 

Dane Carlson, a landscape designer and researcher from Denmark who knows intimately the ongoing dozer road construction boom comments in a write up published in a local daily not very long ago saying that the dozer road construction is quick and easy practice that mostly benefits contractors, unscrupulous government officials and politicians. It damages communities, landscapes and ecosystems across Nepal and beyond. Likewise, a recent report published in The Nepali Times exposed the details of the staggering percentage of contractors elected to mayoral posts at the local government across the nation. 

The mayors in the local governments generally give contracts to their own firms for dozer road construction. In another report published not very long back, it is said that the road building caused the destruction of more than  283  local irrigation projects out of 440 irrigation projects in Bajhang district alone. As result, villages like Rayal have been badly impacted where paddy plantation has not taken place due to destruction of local irrigation system entirely built and managed by the local populace.  Hundreds of families are thus left to fend off for themselves for reason of destructive and unsustainable road building practices clamped down in the villages without regard to the natural drainage pattern and ecosystem.

Dozer assault

This writer has been a witness of the similar practices of dozer assault on the  fragile hill ecosystem in Ward No.8 of Malarani Rural Municipality  in Arghakhanchi   district where local elected politicians especially Ward Chairmen have masterminded and led the dozer-based road construction  to cut the hill slopes haphazardly. Those whose do know and observe the situation remark that the local politicians work in collusion with local contractors, technical personnel to foil any attempt to scrutinise the action. Local communities are neither consulted nor allowed access to information regarding the project operation.  

The government headed by Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda  should  be aware of the pitfalls and shortcomings seen in the performance at all levels over the years through course correction measures and infuse new hope and inspiration among people who are now feeling cheated by the politicians who made tall promises during the elections but failed to deliver. 

(The author is presently associated with Policy Research Institute (PRI) as a senior research fellow.

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