Govt’s ‘affirmative action’ on Janajatis ‘confusing’

Kathmandu, August 28:

The government’s policy to adopt affirmative action on the welfare of the indigenous and nationalities and the Dalit has created a confusion among activists and government officials alike over what it actually means. “I could not make out what the government meant by an affirmative action,” said Bal Krishna Mabuhang, former general secretary of Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN). NEFIN general secretary Dr Om Gurung, however, said the term affirmative action must be replaced by the term ‘reservation’. The NEFIN had, immediately after the announcement of the plans and policies of the government for the year 2062-63, handed over a memorandum to the vice-chairmen of the cabinet of ministers demanding replacing the phrase ‘affirmative action’ by ‘reservations’ and then reserve quotas

in different sectors for the uplift of the marginalised population.

Dr Gurung said, “We are preparing for a decisive joint movement to press the government for the reservation.” Member secretary of National Foundation for Development of Indigenous Nationalities (NFDIN) Tamla Ukyab said the constitution itself should include the policy of reservation or the government can implement it by formulating special laws. Had the government fixed reservations as recommended by a committee formed under the then finance minister Dr Prakash Chandra Lohani, it would have been enough for at least a decade.

The team had analysed the Human Development Index to find out which groups actually needed reservations. Under-secretary at the Ministry of Local Development Hem Sharma Pokharel said even the government officers are not clear about the differences between reservation and affirmative action.

Pokharel said the Ministry of General Administration is preparing regulations with certain quotas to the deprived communities as per the Civil Service Act. A high-level government official said a new regulation would depend on the personal discretion of ministers. Only two per cent of the high-ranking government officials are from the indigenous and Dalit communities, the 2001 census reported, showing a clear case of under-representation. Dr Gurung also said, the political parties and the government have responded to the dissatisfaction and demands forwarded by the indigenous and Dalit communities positively, at least on paper. “But the sister organisations of the political parties are still found to be opposing the idea of reservation.”