Nepal | July 20, 2019

EDITORIAL: Cold-shouldered

The Himalayan Times

By cancelling the scheduled meeting with chief ministers, PM Oli has shown his unwillingness to listen to problems of the provincial governments

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli abruptly cancelled his planned meeting with Chief Ministers (CMs) of all provinces scheduled for Sunday, citing lack of preparation. He was supposed to chair the constitutional Inter-Province Council meeting which was expected to address their grievances through legal instruments. The PM’s aides informed the chief ministers on Friday evening about his decision to cancel the meeting, obliquely expressing PM’s “discomfiture” over the chief ministers’ conclave in Pokhara held on Thursday and Friday. They expressed their resentments through a nine-point resolution with the federal government for not helping to enact laws, which could pave the way for their smooth functioning. The sub-national governments, dominated by the ruling Nepal Communist Party, have been caught in a bind for want of laws for over the last six months. The PM, sources said, took umbrage at the meetings of the CMs and the provincial attorneys general. He also dubbed it part of a “strategy” to corner the federal government.

During the two-day Pokhara summit, the CMs had mainly raised four key issues: Legal instruments based on which the provincial governments can maintain peace and security in their respective provinces independently; early formation of National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission, which could allocate resources to the sub-national governments on proportional basis; jurisdiction of the provinces related to development works; and deployment of adequate human resources to carry out their daily administrative works. These are genuine issues and the federal government cannot ignore them.

The government, which enjoys nearly two-thirds majority in Parliament and is the most powerful one in more than two-and-a-half decades, must address these concerns raised by the provinces which do not have any working experiences and institutional capacity to run their administrations and development works. After the general elections held last year, Nepal has gained political stability at the Centre. But the sub-national governments are still in their nascent and transitional stage due to the absence of necessary laws and adequate supply of human resources. The Oli government’s primary duty is to draft the required bills and forward them to the federal Parliament so that it can pass them at the earliest to make the sub-national governments fully operational as per the spirit of federalism. The PM and the Council of Ministers should play a role of facilitator and overcome all legal and constitutional hurdles that may arise in the course of implementing the federal system. What is frustrating to note is that the provinces do not have any plans to move ahead on their own strength due to lack of legal provisions, budget and human resources. However, the chief ministers’ demand that a “central-level political mechanism” be formed to settle the rows between the Centre and provinces is unacceptable as this demand is extra-constitutional. The federal government also must form Provincial Public Service Commission in each province so that required number of staff can be hired legally. Making the provincial governments ineffective will mean making federalism intentionally non-functional.

Suicide prevention

A sharp rise in suicide cases in the country of late is a matter of grave concern. According to Nepal Police, 15 people commit suicide every day in the country. As many as 2,854 males and 2,242 females committed suicide in Nepal in the 2017/18. According to the WHO, 800,000 people commit suicide in the world every year. These are shocking statistics. On top of that, statistics on suicide are prone to underestimation, as there are chances of under-reporting due to stigma and fear attached with it.

Depression seems to be the major cause of suicide in Nepal, according to experts. It is a fact that everyone feels down at times. There could be various reasons for this. In today’s world where there is a lot of competition in every field, chances of people experiencing depression or being overcome by suicidal thoughts are very high. Depression and mental health issues are still not openly talked in our society. There is a need of raising awareness about mental health issues. Family and friends can be of great help. We need to talk about mental health so as to save people from depression and suicide.

A version of this article appears in print on September 11, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.

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