Shaarada Municipality is the largest municipality of Salyan and is the district headquarters. That is why it was viewed with great importance in last year's local election. Nepali Congress's Prakash Bhandari won that election and is now serving as the mayor of the municipality. He has promised to focus on education, health and agriculture, continue good programmes of the past and introduce new schemes too. The Rising Nepal's Salyan correspondent Pratik Ichchhuk Sharma talked to him about how exactly he planned to do that. Excerpts:What are the opportunities and potentials you see in Shaarada Municipality?
We have many possibilities here. Our Khukuris and ginger are famous all over the country. We can use that to develop our economy. We also hold huge potential in agriculture, particularly in the cultivation of black pepper and oranges, and animal husbandry. Our limestone quarries can also contribute to our prosperity.
We are working to develop Khairawang Temple as a destination for religious tourists and Srinagar as an educational hub. We are also exploring the possibility of developing Srinagar as an industrial village to generate employment.
What are the main problems you have in Shaarada and how do you plan to solve them?
Lack of budget and employees are the main problems we have here which have prevented us from meeting all of people's expectations.
The municipality has been trying to implement programmes that promote employment and production. We are looking to expand the tax net to strengthen our finances and increase our ability to invest in development works.
How have you coordinated with the federal and provincial governments to develop the municipality?
After our election, we implemented a drinking water project worth Rs. 920 million. This is more than the development budget of the past five years combined. I have also relentlessly lobbied the federal and provincial governments for development. As a result, they have allocated a budget for various projects.
Nevertheless, despite the improving situation, we sometimes feel neglected by the federal and provincial governments compared to other local levels.
What do you plan to do in the remaining four years of your term?
I have made education and health my top priorities. In the next four years, I want to make community schools attractive to parents and students. We will continue providing door-to-door health services to senior citizens and people with disabilities. Efforts are underway to boost agricultural production, help them find good markets and establish the municipality as a tourist destination.
How have you sought to make development works and service delivery more efficient?
We want to ensure everyone has equal access to development. We also aim to make our service delivery faster and more effective.
What have you focused on in this fiscal year's budget and policies and programmes? How do you plan to implement them?
We have prioritised projects in education, health, agriculture, drinking water and infrastructure that will deliver long-term results, and we have mobilised relevant departments and divisions to implement them. We are also in regular contact with locals and stakeholders to coordinate various projects.
Can you get more specific?
We have begun work to brand our special Khukuris and ginger. We are also building infrastructure and working to conserve our culture and heritage to promote tourism.
What challenges did you face in your first year in office?
Anyone who works naturally encounters challenges. As I said before, a lack of budget is the main challenge. We also do not have the needed manpower. The municipality does not have a chief administrative officer and our wards do not have secretaries.
Furthermore, while focusing on large initiatives, we seem to have overlooked little projects that have a direct impact on people's lives. We will compensate for this in the coming days.
A lack of public awareness is also a problem. To solve this, we have conducted many awareness programmes.
How is the municipality with fiscal management?
We are working to bring our arrears down to zero. We have completely followed the Public Procurement Act. I can proudly say that I have succeeded in decreasing our arrears amount.