Nepal | July 13, 2020

Nothing done to create special, protected or autonomous regions

Ram Kumar Kamat
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Kathmandu, April 27

Although the government drafted dozens of bills and created multiple structures to implement the constitution, it failed to create special, protected or autonomous regions, a key provision of the constitution aimed at empowering marginalised and vulnerable communities.

The Balananda Paudel-led Local Levels Restructuring Commission, which was to create special, protected or autonomous regions, failed to do so when it submitted its report to the government, recommending the number of local levels across the country.

Article 56 (5) states that any special, protected or autonomous region can be set by the federal law for social, cultural protection or economic development.

Rights activists say the government failed to create these units mainly because it lacked political will to follow up on the constitutional provision.

Section 99 of the Local Government Operation Act stipulates that the federal government, in consultation with provincial governments, can declare any area of local levels or district special, protected or autonomous region. Section 9 of the Act also allows provinces and local levels to declare areas under their jurisdiction as cultural and tourist destinations.

Indigenous rights activist Shankar Limbu said the federal government should take the initiative to create these regions. He said grievances of marginalised communities fed the Maoist insurgency and if their grievances remained unaddressed they could continue to pose problems for society.

Vice-chair of Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities Govinda Chhantyal said although indigenous nationalities demanded creation of special, protected or autonomous regions to ensure the targeted communities’ self-rule in their areas with guarantee of political rights, the constitution ensured only socio-economic rights for them. Even this provision remains unimplemented. “Both the ruling and opposition parties are responsible for the delay,” he argued.

Chhantyal said the Paudel-led LLRC, which was to create these units for marginalised communities failed and it betrayed the marginalised communities. “We have been telling political leaders to either create a new commission to facilitate formation of special, protected and autonomous region or bring a new bill in the Parliament to expedite the process.” He said that around 50 special, protected and autonomous regions could be created across the country.

Limbu said various communities had submitted their report to the Paudel-led commission, offering their assessment of areas where special, protected or autonomous regions could be created and the government could use those reports as reference.

Former member of the Local Level Restructuring Commission Sunil Ranjan Singh said if special, protected or autonomous regions were not formed, marginalised communities would continue to suffer.

Federal Affairs and General Administration Minister Lalbabu Pandit said his ministry had not taken any initiative to facilitate formation of these regions.

Joint-secretary at the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration Rudra Man Singh Tamang said the Local Government Operation Act authorised provincial governments to create cultural regions or tourist destinations but they had not done so yet. “Local levels also need to take initiative to realise creation of these special, protected and autonomous regions,” Tamang said.

Although the Paudel-led commission intended to determine the numbers and boundaries of special, protected and autonomous regions, it failed to do so.

Singh said it had become necessary for the government to determine the exact number and boundaries of special, protected and autonomous regions across the country.

A version of this article appears in print on April 28, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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