EDITORIAL: Empower local govts

It is imperative that Parliament enact the required law at the earliest to pave the way for local governments to hire their staff on their own

Federalism will not be institutionalised unless the centralised bureaucracy – also called a permanent government – is also federated in line with the three tiers of political structure – federal, provincial and local levels – which have their own power and jurisdictions as defined by the new constitution. It has been more than one year since the local level elections were held. However, the local level units have been facing acute shortage of human resources due to the federal government’s failure to timely restructure the centralised bureaucracy. Before the local and provincial level elections were held last year, the then government came up with a voluntary retirement scheme for the civil servants who attained 50 years of age or who had already served 20 years or more. But the new government, led by the left alliance, came to power and tried to put a spoke in the wheel. Under the voluntary retirement plan, around 22,000 government employees were supposed to get retirement. For the last one year, the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration (MoFAGA) is trying its best to deploy as many 17,000 employees to local levels, mostly in rural areas, to properly execute their day-to-day works.

As the federal government failed to pass the required law to adjust the employees on time, some local levels, including Dharan Sub-metropolitan City, have written to MoFAGA, asking it not to depute central staff at the local level as “it goes against the spirit of the Local Government Operation Act”, which allows the sub-national governments to hire their own employees. Dhulikhel Municipality, KMC and Nepalgunj Sub-metropolitan City have also issued warning against deputing staff from the Centre. Mayor of Dharan Sub-metropolitan City Tara Subba has said the Centre wants to “influence the local levels” by sending the central employees at the local levels. But the federal government, as per MoFAGA Secretary Dinesh Thapaliya, has no other option than to depute staff from the Centre until a law governing the recruitment process of employees is passed by Parliament.

Earlier, the civil servants did not want to get transferred to local and provincial governments. Now, the sub-national governments do not want them to be transferred there. They want to hire their own staff as per their requirements. Except for a few well-facilitated municipalities, many rural municipalities are still short of human resources. The federal government wants to depute the surplus staff it has at the Centre to local levels, which, elected officials say, is against the constitutional provision. If this problem is not resolved soon, it will create hostility between the Centre and sub-national governments. Constitutionally, the provincial and local levels have the rights to recruit their own employees. Article 244 states that each State shall have a State Public Service Commission (SPSC) whose functions, duties and powers shall be as provided for in the State law. The Parliament also needs to determine grounds and standards for the purpose of the SPSC. It has, therefore, become imperative for Parliament to enact law paving the way for the formation of SPSC, which will start recruiting the civil servants as per the requirements of the provincial and local-level governments.

Avoid conflict

Human-animal conflict is while one of the major threats to the continued survival of many species, it also can put local populations at risk. That’s why several measures are taken to avoid the conflict between human and animals. Unplanned development may significantly increase human-wildlife conflict. In a recent case, a debate has been raging over the construction of a children’s park inside a community forest in Bharatpur of Chitwan. According to reports, the concerned ward and provincial government have already set aside a budget for the park to be built on 10 bighas of community forest land.

Conservationists, however, have opposed the plan to build the park, which will have high walls,  inside the Ramawel Community Forest. The forest area is a safe corridor for wild animals to move between the Chitwan National Park and Chure hills. In this regard, the conservationists concern is right. There is no doubt that there should be parks for children, but any such infrastructure should be built without affecting wildlife movement and activities. The concerned parties must find an amicable solution.