Nepali Times
Constitution Supplement
What the geographers say '

Chandra Bahadur Shrestha:
State restructuring cannot happen if we don't keep the country's present party ideologies and ethnic identities in mind. That said, restructuring also cannot happen if we ignore the country's geography, resources and their distribution, and the economical interdependence between provinces. If we could make the existing five development regions the new provinces it will be easier to gauge the kind of resources available and integrate the regions properly.

For instance, the Karnali could be a separate province that receives development assistance from the centre and there could be 25 sub provinces in these proposed five provinces. The Eastern Province could have six sub-provinces, Central could have three, Western could have six, the Karnali three, mid-western three and far-western province four. If the country were to follow the proposed structure, the issues of ethnicities will be dealt proportionally in a federal system. Instead of treating the districts as administrative units, they need to be transformed into development units.

Soorya Lal Amatya: We cannot forget national sovereignty, integrity and unity. In a situation where we have to depend on foreigners to run the government, 13/14 provinces will be impossible for the country to handle. We have to be very careful of separatism while drawing the new map. Reconciliation, not division should be the basis of the federal republic. The five development regions should be turned to provinces and Kathmandu and the Karnali should be separate provinces. If one province has the resources, its neighbouring provinces cannot be deprived.

All the past plans of decentralisation were unsuccessful because they were never implemented and they remained in the centre. A federal state without implementation will also be a failure.

Bidya Bir Singh Kansakar:
The provinces should be from north to south as they should be able to use the trade route between China and India. The provinces will also get to take advantage of the agricultural and other resources of the Tarai, hills and the mountains. It is imperative to make resources the priority while drawing the new map because it is not possible to create provinces only on the basis of ethnicity and language. If there's a three tier division in centre, provinces and local level, only then is it possible to address the grievances of all groups.

Binod Prasad Shrestha
: Federal units should strengthen nationalism. It is much better to name the provinces according to geography, culture and religion, not according to ethnicity or language. The provinces should be made according to demography, language, historical background, cultural and geographical situation, natural resources, development infrastructure roads, electricity, irrigation and income source.

The districts already follow a system, and it would be better not to destroy that when forming a federal structure because the data available in the districts will be important in the future. Distribution of rights and responsibilities should be clear between the centre, provinces and local level. The centre should have the right to make foreign, monetary, security, military policies and also big development decisions. The provinces should be allowed to make decisions in consensus with the centre on education, health, irrigation, roads and security of the province.

Nanda Gopal Ranjitkar:
It is important to study the population, area and shape when creating provinces. The priority should be: geography, natural resources, population, ethnicity and religion. There should be eight provinces. We have to decide where the centre is. Geographically the area between Narayani in the south and Marsyangdi in the north could be the centre. If we consider the Marsyangdi River to cut the country into two parts, there can be four provinces in the east and another four in the west.

Ram Kumar Pande:
If we want to empower the provinces they have to be aligned north to south. Not only are the rivers connected from north to south but also trade and commerce. Therefore only those zones, which are not connected from north-south, should be touched. There is no majority of any of the ethnicities in this country. If you are to give importance to a handful of ethnicities while ignoring the rest, it will create more problems.

Upendra Lal Malla:
I got to work in the demarcation committee circa 1961. I had presented the draft of seven zones and 45 districts, but that was not endorsed. King Mahendra had already planned for 14 zones and 75 districts. But the 1961 proposal is still valid today. I had demarcated seven zones from north to south. King Mahendra's plans were politically motivated, which is why it was not successful. Economic feasibility, situation of availability of services, cultural identity, population should be the basis on which the provinces should be made.

Dhruba Simkhada

Guinea pigs of the constitution

We can't afford to make this country a laboratory


The preamble of the interim constitution says 'having determined the progressive restructure of the state in order to resolve the existing problems of the country based on class, caste, region and gender'.

Article 138, Clause A, says 'inclusive, democratic and progressive restructuring of the state shall be made to bring about an end of the discrimination based on class, caste, language, sex, culture, religion and region by eliminating the centralised and unitary form of the state.' The preamble has indentified the existing problems whereas the latter suggests the solution.

The state restructuring should have three features - inclusive, democratic and progressive. Going through the proposed drafts of restructuring, the parties have either defined these concepts in their own way or grossly ignored them. For instance, One Madhes Pradesh, Tamsaling, Magarat, Tharuhat can never be inclusive, democratic or progressive.

People also should know if the federal system is a panacea of all anomalies or just better than the centralised unitary system. Many people who are poor, uneducated and unemployed believe that the state restructuring on the basis of ethnicity and region would resolve all problems. What if the problems remain as it is or get worse? Who is going to take responsibility?

Today's Nepal is a combination of Himal, Pahad and Tarai. Therefore, people living here have social, cultural and economic relations. There are disparities but each region has its own potential strength in natural resources. However, the natural resources should be evenly distributed because this is the basis on which to run the states.
There are a number of points to be considered in state restructuring: what are the basis for restructuring the state and how to prioritise it, what should be the sharing of power between the centre and provinces, features of provinces including land area and how to name these provinces.

All castes and ethnicities have their unique cultures and tradition but no particular community has majorities in any particular areas. It would be wise to move ahead with co-option and consensus among all ethnicities in future. Naming a particular region after ethnicities would foster chauvinism, all communities should be given equal recognition and rights in the province.

We get to hear communal comments occasionally saying that a particular community does not belong to a particular place and should be sent to where it belongs. Few seem to have thought of the dangerous long term consequences of such talk. We can't afford to make this country a laboratory.

State restructuring shouldn't bring more confusion in the day-to-day lives of the people. It should factor in possible consequences to ethnic harmony. Creating provinces and sub-units will have a very long-term impact, we can't afford to get this wrong.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)