EDITORIAL: Share power

The way the umbrella bill on the Nepal Police has been designed will weaken the provinces when it comes to maintaining law and order

The federal Home Ministry has registered a new bill at the Parliament Secretariat to govern the process of “operation, supervision and coordination” of the Nepal Police and Provincial Police. However, it has been opposed by the provincial governments, saying that the bill is all set to centralise the power and authority of the Nepal Police. The bill proposes that the police chiefs in all the provinces be deployed by the federal government and function under the direct control and command of Chief District Officers who will act as representatives of the central government. Promotion, transfer and deployment of police officials above the Deputy Superintendent of Police will be handled by the central government. Only police officials below the Inspector will be hired, transferred or deployed by the provincial governments. For the time being, the provincial police forces, according to the bill, will be created out of the Nepal Police personnel, who will be adjusted in all the provinces. Recruitment process (filling of vacancies, examination syllabus and criteria related to examination) of the provincial police shall be as determined by the federal Nepal Police Act.

If the bill is passed as it is, the Provincial Police will not have the right to launch a criminal investigation. It can, however, assist the federal police in criminal investigations; maintain peace and security; keep records of all crimes and protect the crime scene and assist the federal police in criminal investigation; carry out rescue and relief operation in times of disasters and emergency as well as engage in traffic management in the provinces. On the whole, the Provincial Police will act as a community police force. The Provincial Police force may procure arms and ammunition upon receiving approval from the Nepal Police. However, the provincial leaders, including Province 3 Minister of Internal Affairs and Law Shalikram Jamakattel, have opposed the bill. They have insisted that the Provincial Police should be under the direct control of the police chief appointed by the provincial governments.

It may be noted that Province 2 has already passed a bill to form the Provincial Police force. It passed the bill on October 24 last year before the federal Parliament could enact the umbrella bill on the Nepal Police. If the umbrella bill is passed without any changes, it will create conflict between the Centre and the provinces. While addressing the first ever Inter-Province Council meeting with the Chief Ministers of all the provinces on December 10, Prime Minister KP Oli had vowed to give more legal teeth to the provinces so that they could function independently. Delegating more power to the provinces on matters relating to maintaining peace and security was one of the major agenda of the council meeting. Federalism is an evolutionary process which needs continuous nurturing. The federal government, which has resources and institutional expertise, must assist the provinces to make them fully functional. The way the umbrella bill has been designed to govern the Nepal Police will not strengthen the provinces when it comes to maintaining law and order there. Federalism is a shared rule. It is, therefore, necessary that the Centre share its power with the provinces.

Reconstruction delay

It is apparent that the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA), headed by the Prime Minister, will not rebuild all of the monuments and houses damaged in the Gorkha Earthquake within the given five years. Three years have already elapsed, and reconstruction of some major landmarks like the Dharahara and Ranipokhari will extend beyond the available two years. And of the 811,000 beneficiaries, only about 347,000 have built their houses. This means, the rebuilding of shelters and monuments has been painfully slow. Legal hurdles and frequent change of the NRA’s Chief Executive Officer are partly responsible for its failure to gain the desired momentum.

While speed in the reconstruction process is greatly desirable, in the end, let it be a job well done. Reconstruction is not only about building houses and monuments, it’s also about helping people get on with their lives. Many unforeseen problems have surfaced during the reconstruction phase ranging from lack of livelihood programmes in the integrated settlements to drinking water shortages at other places. The NRA’s performance will also be judged by how it solves these problems to ease people’s lives.