Provinces scramble to reconcile differing views

Kathmandu, February 8

Naming of Provinces 1, 2, 3 and 5 and designation of their headquarters is likely to take some time as the provincial governments scramble to reconcile divergent views.

Nearly a year since the formation of provincial governments, only three provinces — Karnali, Sudur Paschhim and Gandaki — have been able to finalise their names and headquarters.

While some of other provinces have formed formal mechanisms to make recommendation on these two vexing issues, the rest are holding informal studies.

In Province 1, the provincial government aims at finalising these issues in the ongoing session of the provincial assembly that began Sunday. The session is likely to run for the next three months.

Province 1 Minister of Internal Affairs and Law Hikmat Karki said finalisation of provincial name and headquarters was taking time ‘in search for unity in diversity’.

He said even political parties were divided on the issues of name and headquarters of the province as leaders were trying to promote their respective hometowns for headquarters.

Various names have been proposed for the province such as Koshi, Birat, Sagarmatha, Kirat, Limbuwan, Mechi, and Kanchenjunga.

On the other hand, places like Itahari, Dharan, Dhankuta, Chatara and Gothgaun have been proposed for headquarters. Biratnagar is the province’s temporary headquarters.

“Although we have not formed a formal committee per se, we’ve been holding consultations with experts, with opposition parties and even the federal government,” said Karki.

“If a unanimous decision is not possible, we will finalise the issues on the basis of a broadest possible consensus within this session of the provincial assembly,” he added.

Similar is the situation in Province 3. The issue is getting so complex in the province due to its immense ethnic diversity, the provincial government has not even begun formal consultations.

Strong recommendations are coming in for naming the province ‘Newa-Tamsaling’, but reaching a consensus is going to be quite difficult, according to Province 3 Minister of Internal Affairs and Law Salikram Jammarkattel.

On the other hand, the majority of the provincial lawmakers are in favour of relocating the headquarters from Hetauda, the temporary headquarters. Although there are also voices for not relocating the headquarters to avoid any possible untoward situation as seen in the past, strong recommendations are coming in for naming a town in Kavre as provincial headquarters, said Jammarkattel.

“So we will first finalise the issue of headquarters in the upcoming winter session of the provincial assembly that begins from next month, and then we will enter the contentious issue of naming the province,” he said.

As far as Provinces 2 and 5 are concerned, both provincial governments have formed task forces to make recommendations.

A dialogue committee formed under Province 2 Chairperson Niti Ayog Haribansha Jha has completed its study and is finalising its report for submission.

The committee has already held interaction with the people of the province in all eight districts — Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Sarlahi, Bara, Parsa and Rautahat.

According to a knowledgeable source, the committee is likely to recommend the province’s name as Madhes Pradesh and Janakpurdham as its headquarters. The province’s temporary headquarters is also Janakpurdham.

Province 2 Minister Suresh Mandal said the ongoing winter session of the provincial assembly would most probably finalise the issues, including the province’s official language.

As for Province 5, its special committee to hold consultations with stakeholders has not yet started work. The committee was formed some four months ago with a three-month mandate, but it just got its coordinator Dipendra Pun.

The naming of the province might not be that contentious as the majority of the provincial lawmakers and stakeholders are of the view that the province should be named based on Lord Buddha— Gautam Buddha, Siddhartha, Lumbini and Gautam, among others.

However, the issue of provincial headquarters is likely to be troublesome with strong recommendations coming in for both Butwal, the temporary headquarters, and Dang.

Province 5 Minister of Internal Affairs and Law Baijnath Chaudhary said the provincial government would take a decision on the basis of the committee’s report rather than which leader said what during the election campaign.“Since the committee has just begun its work, it is likely to take some time to finalise name and headquarters of the province,” he said.