Friday, 7 May, 2021

Constitutional Agenda For Youth Mobilisation

Mukti Rijal

Media reports say that the government is going to enact the new youth volunteer mobilisation policy in the days to come. Deliberations are being convened to generate and collect ideas about what can be done to mobilise youth power into serving the needs of the nation. Though government has formulated policies towards youth mobilisation in the past time and again, these have not been effective enough to generate and achieve the intended results. Perhaps the new policy being discussed these days should be the first of such kind in the new federal context of Nepal. It is therefore in order to review and examine the new constitutional provision in regard to youths and youth mobilization as it should inspire and dictate the core elements of the policy.
Needless to say, the federal constitution of Nepal 2015 restructures the state into three tiers –federal, state and local. Each layer is endowed with competence to exercise the state power. The state power and resources are allocated and divided among the federal, state and local government through schedules that list and define functional jurisdictions for each layer. While some functions are exclusively vested to each tier which they can exercise more or less independently, others require concurrence and cooperation of all three tiers for both policy legislation and implementation. Not all functions can be foreseeably listed either in exclusive or in the concurrent list. They come under the purview of the residual power. The residual power according to the constitution is vested in the federal (central) government which is clearly mentioned in its Article 58.

Residual power
When it comes to the subject of youth and youth volunteer mobilisation, it is a subject matter of residual power which is vested in the federal (national) government. When national government takes up a subject exercising the residual power, it is presumed that the national government will do it in consultation with Pradesh (state) and local government according to the principles of the federal governance. The national government should not do it unilaterally because this will pose hindrances especially in its implementation as the subnational governments – Pradesh (state) and local- may resist if their interests, commitments and stakes are not taken into account.
A scanning over the constitutional provision in regard to youth and youth volunteer mobilisation shows that chapters like Fundamental Rights and the State Policies are very important and relevant. Article 18 of the constitution guarantees the right to equality to all citizens and no discrimination can be meted out to them based on the ground of caste, race, religion, gender and so on. However, there are certain exceptions to this provision as the state can make special law through recourse to affirmative action (positive discrimination) to give preferential treatment to the members of disadvantaged or underrepresented groups in order to address their vulnerability and inequality.
Article 18 stipulates the youth among the category of groups for uplift of which the government can legislate positive action policy and enact special law. This shows that the constitution empowers the government to enact transformative law for mobilisation, participation and empowerment of the youths in Nepal. Another pertinent provision in the new dispensation is embodied in Article 51 of the State policies chapter of the constitution. Article 51(J) spells out societal development and inclusion policy of the state. A sub article of it enunciates policy in regard to mobilisation and empowerment of the youths. The constitutional provision relating to youth mobilisation and participation in the state policies is very comprehensive and salutary.
The provisions cast an obligation upon the state saying that it should create a congenial environment for mobilisation and participation of youths for national development. It should undertake measures to create conditions and opportunities in enabling youths for realisation of their political, economic, social and cultural rights. Moreover, according to the constitutional provision, the State is required to provide substantive and privileged opportunity for youths in the field of education, health, employment for their self-growth, empowerment and development. State should also empower and mobilise youths in enabling them to contribute towards overall development of the nation.
A cursory look into the constitutional provision shows that the youths are among the special category of groups in Nepal entitled to receive favourable and positive treatment from the part of the state. The state can make laws and policies through recourse to even positive discrimination measures to give youths a special treatment. Since the government should report to the parliament about the progress made towards implementation of the state policies, it is a welcome step taken by the government to formulate policies for the mobilisation of youths.

Shared responsibility
However, the caveat is: the federal government can take initiative to formulate policy for mobilisation of youths through exercise of residual power. It should do it in consultation with and concurrence of subnational governments. Productive mobilisation of the youths can be achieved through shared responsibility and obligations of the federal, Pradesh (state) and local government. There are reports that some state (Pradesh) governments have also formulated their youth mobilisation policies applicable to their context and situations. The federal government should also take note of these policies at the subnational level and formulate an effective policy that can address and cater to need of the federal dispensation in the country.

(Rijal, PhD, contributes regularly to TRN and writes on contemporary political, economic and governance issues.