EDITORIAL: Utter ad-hocism

Prime minister’s growing temptation to make the rounds of provincial assemblies may set a bad precedent

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was in Hetauda on Monday to address Province 3 Provincial Assembly (PA). This was his second address to a provincial assembly since he assumed office in February. Earlier in April, PM Oli had addressed a special function of Province 5 Provincial Assembly in Lumbini. While addressing the Province 3 Provincial Assembly, PM Oli reiterated his development agenda, laid stress on good governance and called on PA members not to dispute over the name of the province and its headquarters. All in all, Oli pontificated on all general aspects – how the people’s representatives should act and how they should deal with the people who have put faith in them. That’s a given. What, however, is a cause for concern is prime minister’s growing temptation to address provincial assemblies.

The PM himself made it clear in Hetauda that “rights now have been distributed to all three levels”. After the elections last year, governments at provinces and local levels have already taken shape. Provincial assemblies in all seven provinces too have been carrying out their businesses. The whole idea of federalism is to move the rights and powers away from the centre to provinces and local levels. Then from where does the need for the prime minister to address provincial assemblies arise? Questions are being asked why the prime minister touched upon the matter of naming the province and its headquarters when there is a constitutional provision in place – Article 295 says the names of the provinces “shall be set by a two-thirds majority of the total number of members of the concerned province”. But even if we let all these pass, PM Oli’s address to the provincial assembly does give rise to some fundamental questions. The federal Parliament – the House of Representatives and National Assembly – is yet to enact its regulations. Provincial assemblies are also waiting for the federal Parliament to pass its regulations so that they can ensure uniformity and conformity. So the question arises: under which rules PM Oli is making rounds of provincial assemblies and how the provincial assemblies are inviting him.

Oli has emerged as the most powerful prime minister in the last two and a half decades and with the lofty promises he has made to the people, he has his plate full. If he wants to give a push to his development agenda, he has bigger platforms at his disposal to send the message across rather than appearing at provincial assemblies in person. Federalism, of course, is a new concept and the country will gradually learn to practise it. There is no need for the prime minister to nitpick about all the provincial assembly matters, as PA members will ultimately get the hang of the new system. The prime minister’s frequent visits to provincial assemblies can set a bad precedent. That said, it will be wrong to blame PM Oli alone. His advisers will do good if they give him prudent advice. It was also quite strange that Province 3 Pradesh Chief Anuradha Koirala was also present alongside PM Oli at the assembly. That was utter ad-hocism on the part of officials there. But ad-hocism seems to be ruling the roost at present, to say the least.

Get rid of structures 

The Chitwan National Park (CNP) which is home to one-horned rhinos, royal Bengal tigers and Asiatic elephants, is under threat as people have been encroaching upon its forest area. CNP officials are unable to remove the physical structures built on 2,898 hectares of CNP land over many years. Various social, religious, educational and private organisations have built structures on the edge of the CNP, a famous tourist destination for jungle safari, which occupies a total of 1,682 sq km of land.

If the trend of encroachments of the CNP land continues unabated its future will be at stake. The National Park and Wildlife Act has a provision to fine Rs 10,000 or two-year jail term or both if someone is found guilty of encroaching upon a national park. But the CNP officials have failed to remove those structures as the encroachers have got political patronage. Those illegal structures should not be allowed to stand there to save the park’s future and provide enough space for wildlife to roam around. The park officials believe that they can easily get rid of such structures if the government displays its willingness and cooperates with them.