Lawmakers must take a proactive approach to discuss and pass crucial bills during the winter session of the House
The winter session of federal Parliament has finally commenced, after three months of its last prorogation on September 28. The government was facing criticism for failing to summon the House, largely because the delay was attributed to lack of preparation. The government had faced criticism also for introducing an ordinance on civil service adjustment. House sessions at regular intervals are an essential feature of parliamentary democracy, and the executive must be ready all the time to provide the lawmakers with business. But now since the winter session, also called the bill session, has started from Wednesday, the government now must be well-prepared to feed the House business and lawmakers should take a proactive approach to enact laws, including some crucial umbrella laws, a lack of which has severely hampered the functioning of provincial governments.
This session will see endorsement of as many as 174 bills, including Nepal Citizenship Bill, Nepal Health Education Bill and Civil Service Employee Adjustment Bill. An ordinance on civil service adjustment was introduced earlier this month. Now since the bill to this effect has already been registered at Parliament, this is expected to get through the House within the given time frame. As per rules, the government must bring a replacement bill within 60 days from the tabulation of the ordinance. But there have been no progress as such on some bills. The Nepal Health Education Bill has been at a sub-committee of the parliamentary Education and Health Committee, but members are yet to agree on some crucial provisions of the bill. It must be noted that it has been five months since Dr Govinda KC, whose initiative and a series of hunger strikes for the reforms in the medical education sector, and the government reached a nine-point deal and ended his 15th fast-unto-death. But it is not a good sign that the sub-committee is yet to arrive at an agreement, just as Dr KC is warning of another round of hunger strike — the 16th one. This must be sorted out soon. To ensure conformity with the constitution, of the 339 laws, only 194 have been amended as of now, so lawmakers need to work on a war footing to meet the constitutional deadline of March 5.
A central role of Parliament is legislation — making new laws and making changes to existing laws. That’s why its members are called lawmakers. It has been often seen, historically, that Nepali lawmakers are more focused on businesses other than lawmaking. There is a general tendency among parliamentarians to not participate regularly in House meetings and avoiding discussions on crucial issues. Debating important issues of the day and carrying out constructive discussions on crucial bills are quite important. Since this session has been dubbed the “bill session”, parliamentarians must take a proactive approach to discuss the bills and other important issues. Earlier in the past there were some instances of major lapses while enacting the laws, largely due to digression on the part of lawmakers. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle now should warm up for the winter session and participate in healthy and constructive debates, focusing on their primary job — lawmaking.
Education for girls
Saptari is one of the districts in Province 2 where girl enrolment at school is very low. The girls from poor, marginalised and Dalit community either do not go to school or dropout before they complete the secondary level education. According to government data, over 13,000 children, mostly girls, are still out of school in Saptari. Data also revealed the fact that around 50 per cent children do not go to school in the province, which is one of the lowest compared to other provinces.
In April, the government launched a nationwide enrolment drive across the country and almost all elected officials, including PM KP Oli, had taken guardianship of education for one or two children from the deprived communities. It is high time the leaders took stock of their much-hyped initiative. Some local levels in Tarai have, however, taken a very bold step to enrol girls at school by offering them a fixed monthly stipend up to Grade XII. This move has been found to be very effective in sending girls to school and their drop-out has also come down remarkably. All local levels in Saptari should also follow this practice.
A version of this article appears in print on December 28, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.