Ganga Narayan Shrestha, the Minister for Internal Affairs and Law of Bagmati Province, is not only a politician but also an analyst and a writer. He has authored a dozen books spanning various genres. Recently, Upesh Maharjan, Consultant Editor at Gorkhapatra Corporation, along with journalist Nagendra Sapkota and videographers Manoj Ratna Shahi and Keshab Gurung talked to him focusing on the works and plans of the Bagmati Province Government. Excerpts:
What measures has the Provincial Government taken to promote prosperity, development, and good governance in the province?
Development encompasses the construction of physical infrastructure and overall improvements in economic indicators. Prosperity, on the other hand, involves not only significant infrastructure development but also the establishment of a just society that fosters human happiness. To achieve development and prosperity, we must prioritise coordinated production, distribution, ecological sustainability and people’s well-being.
Currently, the world recognises various development models, including capitalist, socialist, and communist ones. However, due to our electoral system, both the federal and provincial levels are governed by coalition governments. Although these governments consider all three development models as their guide, the pace of the development activities of the provincial government, which comprises parties from different political ideologies, has not matched its potential.
What are your insights on this matter?
The first basis of development and prosperity is a two-digit growth for two decades. For that, there must be a balance between the state, private sector and community investment. Each sector should establish clear investment policies, attract foreign investments and invest in key areas. Until foreign investments are ensured, the state should prioritise investments in education, social security, and healthcare infrastructure, while the private and community sectors invest in other sectors. We need profound structural reforms in our economy, we need surgery, cetamol alone cannot work. We should formulate policies focusing on utilising the skills of the youth who have returned home after working abroad as migrant workers, and the NRNs, because they can play a crucial role in achieving development and prosperity. Additionally, we must eradicate the cancer of corruption, which has spread from Singha Durbar to local levels.
Do you mean to head for a complete democracy?
There can be no alternative to democracy, instead prosperous democracy is the only viable option. Formal democracy should be replaced and proportional democracy should be built.
Also, participatory direct democracy is the current need. Otherwise, democracy cannot be as we think. The executive head should appoint experts as ministers, and the parliament's role should be centred on formulating effective legislation. At present, development is often driven by power rather than necessity and justification. This should be ended.
How is Bagmati province implementing federalism?
Federalism is not only a political system, it is also connected with economic development, good governance and prosperity. Federalism is needed because Nepal is a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual nation. Structural reforms are essential for development.
The Bagmati Province government has identified nine development priorities encompassing institutional development and empowerment of the province, agriculture infrastructure, social employment, tourism, social justice, industrial growth, private sector promotion, environmental protection and disaster management.
What efforts have been made for coordination and cooperation among the three levels—federal, province and local—of government?
Nepal's federalism is not a fully autonomous federalism. It is a federalism based on cooperation, coordination and coexistence among the three levels of government. All three levels share single and common rights as per the constitution, and we've outlined the tasks to be executed under these rights.
What challenges has the provincial government faced because of the delay in enacting laws by the federal government?
Delays in enacting laws have led to several difficulties. For instance, the Federal Parliament passed the Police Adjustment Act over a year ago, but it hasn't been included in the government's minimum common programme as promised. It was said that the act would be included in the government's minimum common programme by mid-September. So far, the necessary homework for the act has not been carried out.
Though the act was made by the Federal Parliament, it is not known why it has not been implemented. The constitution states that the province is responsible for maintaining peace in the province. Similarly, the Federal Civil Service Act and Education Act have not been formed yet. Many laws required to implement the constitution have not been made. It is necessary to change some laws according to the time, make new laws according to the constitution based on the needs, amend them and implement the laws that have been created. The federal government should think seriously about this.
Has the lack of offices required by the provincial government impeded your works?
The province is the added structure after the country adopted the federal system. Provinces alone cannot institutionalise themselves. They require laws from the federal government and support in implementing the provincial policies.
The situation is such that the local government feels that their rights are taken away by the provincial government when the latter becomes a bit stronger and the federal government feels the same when the provincial government exercises more power. Such thinking should be changed.
There is a need for leadership and thinking according to federalism for its effective implementation. The provincial government does not have enough manpower, infrastructure, budget and its own offices in the districts to implement its own decisions. As a result, many plans have been stalled.
What are your thoughts on the controversy surrounding the Chief Ministers’ residence which was recently inaugurated in Lalitpur?
Establishing a Chief Minister's liaison office in the capital is necessary, and there's no need for excessive concern over this matter.
How does the provincial government respond to the complaints of the Kathmandu Valley residents who feel disconnected from the Bagmati Province government?
It is a half-truth that the valley dwellers have not felt the presence of the provincial government. It is correct to say that the citizens of the valley have not been able to fully sense the presence of the provincial government.
The province's capital is located at one corner in Hetauda. Many problems would have been solved had the capital been in Banepa or Dhulikhel. But now all infrastructure have been built in Hetauda. Furthermore, the valley also serves as the federal government's capital, overshadowing the provincial government's presence.
In the valley, the province government lacks the authority to mobilise police, a crucial element in maintaining peace and security for the city dwellers. But, there is no such provision mentioned in the constitution. There may come a day when citizens here will raise a question about the existence of the provincial government.
In the valley, within Kathmandu and Lalitpur Metropolitan City, the infrastructural development to be carried out by the provincial government has not been completed as expected.
There is no structure to implement the budget allocated by the province. The local level should take ownership and implement the plans of the province. On the other hand, the local level had not been able to spend the allocated budget for the local level. This problem has arisen due to certain policy ambiguities.
How has the Nepal Samajwadi Party progressed in becoming a popular party?
We conducted a six-month organisation building and expansion campaign across 77 districts and 753 local levels from mid-July to mid-January. We've completed the process of expanding and strengthening our organisation at the provincial level, and we are now working on extending it to the municipal level.
What is the reason that Nepal Samajwadi Party did not come into the Socialist Front?
You should ask this to the leaders of the Socialist Front.
What is the status of the campaign to unify the Nepal Samajwadi Party and CPN (Maoist Centre)?
Our party remains open to various options for unification. We could unite the executive, form a united front, or merge the parties themselves. Of late, the CPN (Maoist Centre) and Nepal Samajwadi Party have formed a negotiation committee.
The negotiation committee have held discussions, and if certain conditions of the Nepal Samajwadi Party are met, unification could proceed upon a positive response from the CPN (Maoist Centre).
(Translated by Sushma Maharjan.)