The effectiveness of the Tole Bikash Sanstha largely depends on the level of consciousness of a given community

Social works and development activities can be carried out effectively, and the people can also take ownership of such initiatives provided the people are involved in an organised way. Local communities have been launching various social and development programmes since time immemorial. But such programmes are launched spontaneously by the youths and women without any clear guidelines and support from the government agencies. Women's groups, popularly known as Aama Samuha, in various districts had declared their communities to be 'liquor-free zones'. The Aama Samuha had also been authorised to fine a person for selling and consuming alcohol in the liquor-free areas. But they could not become sustainable due to lack of support from the elected bodies, and such initiatives fizzled out after some time. But the people's active participation in social works and small-scale development activities at the local levels can help transform the society and maintain law and order.

Considering the importance of community participation, the federal government recently issued the "Tole Bikash Sanstha" (Neighbourhood Development Organisation) Formation and Mobilisation Procedue-2021 with a view to ensuring maximum participation of citizens in the local development process. This procedure will ensure uniformity in the Tole Bikash Sanstha all over the country, and it will also assist the elected bodies in carrying out social works and development activities. This organisation, which will have a chairperson, vice-chairperson, treasurer, secretary and a minimum of three and a maximum of seven members as office bearers on the basis of consensus or majority, works as a supportive body to the ward office.

The Tile Bikash Sanstha works in an specific area in the economic, social and cultural development of the neighbourhood.

Its main functions, duties and power are to assist in maintaining law and order in the community; developing communal harmony, tolerance and sisterhood; formulating, implementing, supervising and monitoring development activities; managing traditional fairs and festivals; stopping public land from being encroached upon; and providing assistance in works such as disaster management, reconstruction and rehabilitation, and managing public parks, toilets and street lights, among others. The Tole Bikash Sanstha can also be highly useful in mobilising the local community in immunising the people from COVID-19 and similar nation-wide campaigns to be launched by the government. A six-member coordination committee, led by the ward chair,will monitor the activities of the organization for effectiveness.

The rural municipality or municipality may dissolve the working committee of the organisation if it is found to be involved in financial irregularities and corruption. But the main problem of the Tole Bikash Sanstha is it does not have any legal right to take any action against a person for committing a crime punishable by law. The effectiveness of such an organisation depends on the level of consciousness of a given community. Such an organisation can be instrumental in bringing about societal change if it is free from political influence.

Stop vandalism

Vandalism of offices and property, both public and private, has been commonplace since the advent of multi-party democracy in 1990 and reached its peak during the decade-long Maoist insurgency.

More often than not, it's the cadres of political parties who engage in wanton destruction of such property without having to fear arrest or pay compensation.

While the opposition forces are just looking for a lame excuse to spill into the streets, for the locals, the protests are an opportunity to vent out their frustrations at the authorities. So it was on Tuesday, when the locals and cadres of opposition parties picketed the Dewahi Gonahi Municipality office in Rautahat and then vandalised it upon learning that the rice purchased for distribution to the poor and Dalit during the COVID pandemic had been secretly disposed of after it rotted.

Given the indifference shown by the elected representatives towards the plight of the people, a demonstration might just be necessary to highlight an issue or haul them over the coals. But any issue can be sorted out through negotiation. The people must understand that public property of any kind is people's property, which is paid for by taxpayers' money.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 29 2021, of The Himalayan Times.