If all powers are concentrated in the hands of the CDOs appointed by the centre, what is the point in having a provincial government?
In what is seen as a snub to the federal government, the government of Province 2 has endorsed a bill on Provincial Administration that proposes to create an administrative structure with powers parallel to that of the chief district officer (CDO), as proposed in the Peace and Security Bill, which is under consideration in the Federal Parliament. This is likely to invite confrontation between the federal government and the province, which does not bode well for the functioning of federalism. The bill proposes to set up administration offices in all the eight districts of the central and eastern Tarai of province 2. They will be headed by the provincial Chief Administration Officer, who will enjoy the same powers given to the CDOs, to be appointed by the federal government. The new bill will now be registered in the Provincial Assembly for discussion and approval. With province 2 having taken the lead, the other provinces that are unhappy at having to play second fiddle to the federal government on all fronts could follow suit.
The endorsement of the new bill by the province 2 government is a grave challenge to the federal government. The bill proposes to give the provincial administration officers (PAO) the powers to maintain peace and security, issue prohibitory orders and clamp curfew, if necessary. The provincial bill also stipulates that the provincial police will have to follow the instructions of the PAOs. It will also allow the PAOs to monitor the offices under its jurisdiction, probe irregularities and corruption in the government offices and provide updates on peace and security to the provincial government. All these run parallel to the powers to be enjoyed by the CDOs. What’s more, the bill also proposes to give the provincial government the power to designate the CDOs as chief administrative officers.
Province 2 has shown its assertiveness in endorsing the new bill, and the federal government, instead of engaging in a confrontation, should show its readiness to devolve power to the provinces. When the people have elected a government they want, it should be vested with enough powers so that it can deliver the goods and services that it promised to the voters. One of the reasons why very few civil servants are opting to transfer to the provinces is because much of the power, facilities and opportunities are still concentrated at the centre, and the way controversial bills are being brought in the Federal Parliament, this scenario is unlikely to change in the near future. In the true spirit of federalism, the provinces must be strengthened in line with the powers given by the constitution. If all powers are to be concentrated in the hands of the CDOs appointed by the centre, what is the point in having a provincial government? If the central government is insistent on appointing CDOs to the provincial districts, then let them not be seen as a federal government
representative who is all out to usurp the provincial powers. The central government should convince the provinces that it has no intention of running a parallel federal government in the provinces through the CDOs it appoints. Correcting its mistakes now would save the federal government a lot of unnecessary trouble in the future.
As per the law, the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) must complete the reconstruction of private houses, public property and heritage sites damaged in the devastating earthquake in 2015 within the next one year. Its five-year tenure is going to expire next year. But the NRA has not been able to complete even half its task in the past four years.
With less than a year left, its Central Level Project Implementation Unit has now allocated Rs 300 million to reconstruct the heritage settlements in Lalitpur, Kathmandu, Gorkha, Dolakha and Nuwakot districts. It has also allocated budget for the study of heritage settlements and the structures of archaeological importance. The allocated budget will also be used to rebuild the archaeologically important satttals, stone water spouts, temples and ancient palaces. However, allocating budget, that too towards the end of its tenure, for rebuilding the damaged heritage sites is not going to help much. NRA should have come up with a detailed plan of action about their reconstruction much earlier. The way it is functioning, it is impossible for the NRA to rebuild all the selected sites within the deadline set by the law.
A version of this article appears in print on March 13, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.