EDITORIAL: Flexibility required

The agitating parties must give the major parties the benefit of doubt and call off their agitation till the Federal Commission on the boundaries of the Pradeshes does its work

It has been more than two weeks since the new constitution came into force on September 20. The Madhes-based parties, however, have resorted to agitation blocking supplies of essential goods, including the petroleum products, from entering the country from major customs points demanding that their major concerns be addressed through the constitutional amendments. The blockade has crippled the normal life across the country, including the Tarai-Madhes region. The Madhes-centric parties have warned that they would continue their agitation and sit-in campaign at the customs points unless their demands are met by the three major parties which command a two-thirds majority in the transformed parliament. The key demands of the Madhes-centric parties include, among others, proportional inclusion in all state mechanisms, electoral constituencies to be delineated based on the distribution of population, citizenship and creation of Madhes and Tarai Pradeshes in the plain region. The other demands like withdrawal of the army from the plains, declaring martyrs to those killed during the agitation and providing compensation to the next of their kin and free treatment of the injured. The government has already addressed the concerns not related to the constitutional amendment.

The talks team formed by the three major parties have said most of their demands have already been addressed except the one related to boundaries of the federal units. The three-party talks team engaged with the agitating parties has proposed giving the matter of boundaries of the Pradeshes to the Federal Commission which will come up with its recommendation to be endorsed by the Parliament. But the talks team of the agitating parties has been insisting on settling the issue of Pradesh demarcation right now. As far as other two demands of proportional inclusion in all state mechanisms and delineation of electoral constituencies are concerned the government has already registered a Bill at the Parliament Secretariat as per the three-party agreement. While addressing the Constituent Assembly before voting on the new constitution, PM Suhsil Koirala had expressed readiness to address those issues through a constitutional amendment. The government has registered a Bill to make amendment to Articles 42, 84 and 286 of the new constitution ahead of the formation of a new government.

The amendments to these Articles are expected to address most of the concerns of the agitating parties who took to the streets boycotting the constitution-drafting process. Three-party talks team has, however, said no amendment is needed on the existing provision on citizenship issue, saying that the provision is in line with the letter and spirit of the Interim Constitution. The talks team has also clearly told the agitating parties that boundaries of the Pradeshes cannot be reviewed right away without receiving a report from the to-be-formed Federal Commission which will be inclusive. In this context, the agitating parties must give the three major parties the benefit of doubt and call off their agitation till the Federal Commission comes out with its report on the boundaries of the Pradeshes. Both the sides will be in a win-win situation if the agitating parties call off their agitation and the major parties make constitutional amendment to the three Articles.

Exciting findings

The revelation that over 200 new species were discovered in the Eastern Himalayas between 2009 and 2014 is something to cheer about. This region is considered one of the most fragile in the world. It is blessed with a rich biodiversity. However, much of it is endangered and many of them have become extinct. The WWF Living Himalayas Initiative reported the exciting findings in its latest report. What is encouraging is that on an average 34 new species have been discovered every year in the past six years. The discoveries include 133 plant species, 29 invertebrates, 26 fish, 10 amphibians, one reptile, one bird and even a mammal.

It behooves on all to preserve the ecosystem that is being disturbed. The threats include climate change, to be the most serious one, and population growth and depletion of forests. We also need to deal with the poaching and rampant wildlife trade taking place and also mining and development of hydro power.