The delay in naming the provincial capital is keeping the people in a state of confusion and preventing the govt from investing in infrastructure
The new constitution has provided that the name and capital of a province shall be decided by the provincial assembly through a two-thirds majority of the members present. This should have been the simplest thing to do. Unfortunately, even more than a year of the three-tier elections, many of the provinces haven’t given themselves a name or picked their permanent capital. They are in a wait and see mood so as not to ruffle the feathers of the many stakeholders involved. So far, only three of the seven provinces have given themselves both a name and a capital. Province 4 has named itself Gandaki with Pokhara as its capital; Province 6 is Karnali with Surkhet as its capital; and Province 7 is Sudurpaschim with Godavari as its headquarters. The remaining four provinces have yet to name themselves while Province 1 has just adopted Biratnagar in the plains as its permanent capital.
Why naming a province or its capital should be such an issue is anyone’s guess. But they have, with the contending party or parties unable to come to terms with the decision taken by the provincial assembly, as in the case of Province 1’s new capital.
Things could take a nasty turn with locals of Dhankuta, the most eligible contender in the hills, halting transport on the north-south Koshi Highway for two hours daily. And this is to continue daily until their demand is met. Their argument is that Dhankuta has the desired physical infrastructure already because it was the headquarters of the Eastern Development Region during the old regime. It is also centrally located and is well connected by roads. Part of the confusion and discontent in the provinces stems from the fact that the caretaker government of the Nepali Congress party had picked the temporary capitals of the provinces at random, without so much as a thought to what this would entail once the elected government of the Communist Party of Nepal took office. So when trying to pick a new capital for a province, there is bound to be resentment from the residents of the temporary capital.
Every provincial assembly has formed a panel comprising its members to seek opinion from people of different walks of life to arrive at a provincial name and capital. Different names have been suggested for the provinces, and it is good that they do not smack of the ethnic temper, which seemed very plausible at the time of writing the constitution in 2015. In picking the capital, it must see to it that it is not swayed by lobbyists with ulterior motives. It has come to light that in some provinces, the land sharks have been actively pushing for the capital of their choice so as to make a killing overnight from a steep rise in land prices. The delay in naming the provinces and their capital, in particular, is keeping the people in a state of confusion and preventing the provincial government from investing in the required infrastructure, such as office buildings, roads and the like. It is also holding back a lot of development projects and activities.
Hence, everyone is a loser in this. The quicker the provinces get down to business, the sooner it will help them move forward and institutionalise federalism in the country.
Take informed consent
Officials of Aanbukhaireni Rural Municipality (ARM) has raised serious objection to Gandaki Province government’s latest decision to set up a fuel storage facility at Markichowk, Tanahun. ARM, which has already decided to build a stadium there, has alleged that the provincial government took the decision to this effect despite its repeated requests not to do so. ARM has already acquired 60 ropanies of land and has also allocated Rs 1.2 million for this fiscal to build it. It says the area is not suitable for building the facility due to the heavy settlement.
Provincial government spokesperson Ram Saran Basnet said a land selection committee had identified the place for building a 90,000-litre capacity storage facility with Chinese assistance. The provincial government should have taken informed consent of the local level prior to its decision. The provincial government cannot impose its unilateral decision on the local level as the latter is also an autonomous body, which can exercise its rights within its territory.
A detailed feasibility study must be carried out by a competent authority before any decision is taken to build a structure of this size that could pose a threat to the settlement.
A version of this article appears in print on May 09, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.