‘Only way to avert centre-province conflicts’

Kathmandu, October 25

Lawyers say regular meetings of the Inter-Provincial Council provisioned in Article 234 of the constitution can prevent conflict and misunderstanding between the federal and provincial governments.

The recent passage of the provincial police bill by Province 2 Assembly had led to conflict between the federal and provincial governments with Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal warning the government of Province 2 against enacting the bill.

The prime minister, who chairs the Inter-Provincial Council meeting, had cancelled a scheduled meeting in the second week of September. The Prime Minister’s Office is yet to call the meeting. Sources said the PMO cancelled the meeting as it interpreted the meeting of chief ministers in Pokhara as an attempt to gang up against the central government.

Constitutional expert Bipin Adhikari said he did not believe the PM was against holding the meeting, which could help resolve problems between the federal and provincial governments as well as between provincial governments and it was only that the meeting had been delayed. “The PM may talk to all the chief ministers, but nothing can be as effective as an institutional mechanism for finding amicable solutions to political problems. When political problems are not resolved, they can emerge as legal problems,” he argued.

Senior Advocate Mithilesh Kumar Singh said all the office bearers of the Inter-Provincial Council were ex-officio members and it was possible for such a body to meet in a few hours, but this was not happening. “All evils of democracy can be cured by more democracy,” he said, adding that the root cause of conflict between the central and provincial governments lay in the former’s attitude, which had delayed devolution of power. “Provincial governments need to deliver to meet  people’s expectations. If chief ministers are not given the power they need, they cannot satisfy the electorate,” he argued.

Advocate Sunil Ranjan Singh said the constitution had adopted cooperative federalism and the provision for Inter-Provincial Council was incorporated with a view to strengthening this concept. “But the mechanism has remained inactive. The PM cancelled the meeting,” he said and added that the centre had been ignoring the concerns of provincial governments.

“Provincial governments have complained that the centre has neither provided them human and other resources nor brought umbrella laws,” Singh said, adding that the constitution had not stipulated anywhere that provincial governments could not make necessary laws before umbrella laws were enacted by the federal government.

Singh said the federal government had failed to ensure good governance, end the syndicate system in the transport sector and provide relief to people. He added that people had started questioning the performance of the central government.

“It appears that the federal government is trying to divert public attention by criticising the Province 2 government’s move to enact laws.

Secretary at the PMO Laxman Prasad Mainali, who looks after social development and provincial coordination, said a date had not been fixed for the Inter-Provincial Council meeting. He, however, said   media was spreading wrong message by harping on conflict between the central and provincial governments. “The centre-province relations are harmonious and we are talking to the provinces,” he added.