Still a long way
The final version of the constitution will be judged by whether it truly represents the vast majority of the Nepali people in all major respects
The five-member high-powered panel formed by the Constitutional-Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDCC) of the Constituent Assembly has crossed the deadline it had been given to prepare and submit its final report to CPDCC by incorporating the suggestions made by the general public on the contents of the first draft of the constitution. By 3:00 PM deadline on Saturday the special committee had to submit its final report to CPDCC, but the leaders could not reach a consensus, and the special committee was given until 4:00 PM yesterday to do the job. Again the consensus did not arrive.
However, the eight-member task force formed by the special committee has succeeded in bringing the total list of issues from 861 down to 222 which have again been put into 11 categories, and they are now focusing on this short list of issues, including the preamble, fundamental rights, secularism and citizenship.
On the provision of the draft constitution that makes Nepal a ‘secular state’, the eight-member task force has offered three options: the draft constitution’s secular state provision, replacing this provision with “Nepal shall be religiously free state’ or keeping silent on the matter of religion. There were also many suggestions that called for making Nepal a Hindu state. It recommended direct elections of the local bodies, including the post of ward chairman and insertion of the phrase ‘full press freedom’ as stipulated in the Interim Constitution. The task force has addressed several of Nepali Army’s concerns. It has recommended inclusion of Army Chief in the National Defence Council, something which the draft constitution has not provided for. The task force has also agreed to fulfill the Army’s demand to drop the draft constitution’s provisions that “The Nepali Army shall be committed to democracy” and that “The Nepali Army shall be inclusive”.
The general public enthusiastically offered their suggestions for improving the draft constitution. The prominent suggestions made by most or many people included direction elections for all posts, all the more so for the post of chief executive of the country. But the task force seems ‘to have done justice’ to this suggestion by recommending that the ward chairman should be directly elected. On top of this, CPN-UML and UCPN-Maoist had gone to the people seeking votes by pledging to work to bring in the direct election of chief executive. It is strange under what influences then they have easily dropped this stand. On the matter of religion, the main concern of the vast majority of the Nepalis is the alarmingly increasing religious conversions from indigenous religions to alien religion backed up by foreign power centres and with no shortage of funds to lure poor Nepalis. None of the alternative terms or phrases suggested by the task force will be able to address this concern. Only the prohibition on such conversions will assuage the sentiments of the Nepalis. The final version of the constitution will be judged by whether it truly represents the vast majority of the Nepali people in all major respects. The present consensus-seeking process should not be allowed to continue for an indefinitely long period to significantly alter the constitution promulgation schedule.
The government has formed the National Volunteering Programme (NVP) and has decided to launch District Reconstruction Network in 14 earthquake hit districts to provide volunteer services in emergencies. The government came up with this idea after the April 25 earthquake that not only devastated the physical infrastructures and private property but also left thousands of people dead or injured, leaving more than three percent of the total population of these hilly districts below the poverty line. Other youth organizations will also be roped in whenever needed.
According to the plan, around 20,000 youths will be pooled in as volunteers to provide emergency services to the local people in tandem with the government and development partners. Unavailability of youth volunteers having basic training and knowledge on rescue, relief and rehabilitation operations was felt urgently after the deadly quake that flattened the villages.