EDITORIAL: Towards federalism

The nation now has finally moved towards federalism after successfully overcoming legal and constitutional hurdles

With the swearing-in of provincial assembly members in all seven provinces, the process of electing Chief Ministers, Speakers and Deputy Speakers and forming provincial governments has already begun. The newly appointed governors administered the oath of office and secrecy to the provincial assembly members on Sunday, one and a half months after the last phase of parliamentary and provincial elections on December 7. It took such a long time to administer the oath of office and secrecy to the elected provincial assembly members because of the government’s delay in appointing the governors whose duty is to administer the oath of office and secrecy to the elected members among others. The Chief Minister of a province has to be appointed within 35 days of the announcement of the results of the provincial assembly elections. Similarly, the provincial Speaker and Deputy Speaker should also be elected within 15 days from the date of first meeting of the provincial assembly. After the swearing-in of the elected members, all political parties represented in all provinces are now busy in internal homework to choose candidates for the posts of Chief Minister, Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

As none of the major political parties has secured a clear majority in any of the provinces, they have to make an alliance among them to elect the major portfolios in the provinces. The governor shall appoint the leader of a parliamentary party as Chief Minister who can command a majority of the assembly. In case of no party having a clear majority in the House, the governor can appoint a member as Chief Minister who gets support from two or more parties. The Chief Minister has to seek vote of confidence within 30 days of his/her appointment. According to the constitutional provision, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of a provincial assembly must be from opposite sex and, both should be from different political parties. It is also required that the governor has to call the first assembly meeting within 20 days of the final results of the assembly.

The nation now has finally moved towards federalism after successfully overcoming legal and constitutional hurdles. All political parties, the Election Commission and the caretaker government deserve appreciation for concluding the first task of institutionalising the inclusive federal democracy. The road ahead is not so rosy though. All the provincial assemblies do not have secretariats which are essential to run the assembly meetings. The government must focus its attention on deployment of employees with expertise and experience in running the assembly secretariats. The government has estimated that up to 35 staffers, including a secretary, will be enough for the time being to operate a provincial assembly secretariat. It is the federal parliament secretariat which needs to train the staffers who will be hired from different backgrounds. Besides, the provincial assembly will also have to draft its rules and regulations to conduct the assembly meetings. The newly elected provincial members also need basic orientation on the functioning of assembly meetings. These are some of the areas where the federal parliament secretariat can offer its expertise to the provincial secretariats, elected assembly members and the governments.

Give children books

Students of five mountain districts — Manang, Mustang, Humla, Jumla and Dolpa — are unlikely to get textbooks before the new academic session this year as well. New session in these districts, where a total of 223,580 sets of textbooks are required, will start from February 13. Textbook shortage in remote districts is a perennial problem. To ensure that textbooks reach the hands of all students on time, the government has been asking private publications to print textbooks. This year also, private publishers were asked to print as many as 16,528,070 sets of textbooks of Grades I to V.

A private publisher argued that private companies were given only three months’ time to print the textbooks. The Curriculum Development Centre (CDC), a government body that develops curricula and textbooks, however, argued that private publishers were handed print-ready copies of textbooks required for the said five districts on January 10, thereby giving them ample time to complete the job. Arguments and counterarguments, however, will not solve the problem. The concerned authorities must find a way to ensure that students get textbooks on time.