Federalism should be a tool to serve the citizens, not a cause for confrontation between federal structures
Federalism is new in Nepal and we certainly need extensive—and informed—debates and discussions as the country strives to strengthen and institutionalise the system. If the country starts bungling in the very beginning, we are set for a rocky road ahead. Province 2 government’s move of going ahead with its own Provincial Police Bill should serve as reminder of how carefully the country should tread the federalism path rather than a cause for confrontation. At present, the move, however, has triggered a debate, which needs to be taken to a swift logical conclusion so as to address other possible issues that could pose a threat to hard-earned federalism.
Nepal moved to federal structure after years of struggle against the unitary system which kept powers concentrated at the centre. The interim constitution of 2007 guaranteed federalism, and in 2015 the Constituent Assembly delivered a new constitution, ushering in a new era in Nepal. Accordingly, three tiers of election—federal, provincial and local—were held last year as a result of which a central government in Kathmandu and seven governments in all provinces are in place now. But this is just a technical part. For smooth functioning of provincial governments, the government and Parliament at the centre must introduce the required laws based on which the provincial governments can make their laws and regulations. After all, federalism is an idea consisting of a specific combination of self-rule, of limited rule and of shared rule to ensure coexistence and cooperation of different levels of government so that they can work simultaneously in the larger interest of the citizens.
But the federal Parliament, even after 10 months of its election, has failed to introduce required federal laws that will provide for the setting of smooth functioning of governments at lower levels. There seems to be quite a lackadaisical approach on the part of federal government as well. Province 2’s Provincial Police Bill is an outcome of that only. Province 2 government may have its argument that its Police Bill “is in line with the constitutional provision”, but this at the same time also can give rise to a counter-argument that it could have waited for the federal law to come into force. This, however, is just an example; there is a host of other issues to deal with which there must be federal laws in place. And amid the debate over Province 2 Police Bill, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, co-chair of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, on Tuesday said such a move by Province 2 government could invite danger. His statement is uncalled for. As a top leader of the ruling party, his duty should be to help find ways to address the potential dangers rather than add fuel to the fire. That said, what is of utmost importance is there should be no further delay in introducing the required federal laws to facilitate smooth functioning of lower levels of government. Federalism should be a tool to serve the citizens and expedite development, not a cause for confrontation between federal structures. The federal and provincial governments must work in tandem to ensure that people indeed can enjoy the fruits of federalism.
Tele-medicine has become popular in Phalebas Municipality in Parbat district. A good number of locals have been benefitting from the service which came into operation at Char Bhanjyang Health Centre some nine years ago. It provides health counselling for epilepsy, mental health problems and other health issues related to urinary track system, skin and neurology. The centre provides health counselling to patients through Skype. Medical specialists and doctors from their home and abroad provide health counselling to the patients and even advise them whether they need surgery.
The health centre makes arrangement of specialists over Skype based on complaints and symptoms the patients describe at the centre. Then, the centre refers the patients to other health facilities in coordination with the Pokhara-based Western Regional Hospital. This scheme has saved a lot of time and money of the locals. This facility can also be replicated in other health centres in rural areas in coordination with the state-of-the-art hospitals in Kathmandu. It will greatly help people get basic information about their health problems. The government had better come out a policy to make it fully functional in all health centres.
A version of this article appears in print on October 26, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.