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AIDIAPart2 : The Himalayas Forum; Nepal as a Federal State Lesson Learned from Indian Experience

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The last challenge was how to satisfy the demands of the Madhesis, plains people of the Eastern Terai who share a border and common familial and cultural bonds with Bihar. Whether they will be satisfied with the new amendments remains to be seen.

The amendment was hailed as a return to the parliamentary democracy of the original Constitution, and was to pave the ground for further change that would acknowledge Tamil aspirations. On January 9, , Mr. If passed, it will go a large part of the way towards reassuring the Tamil community that it will not be even more vulnerable after the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam LTTE.

Nepal as a federal state; lessons from Indian experience.

Constitution as a unifier Yet the governments of both countries have a magnificent opportunity today to unite their people around a national agenda. The soul of a constitution lies in its vision of the kind of society that the country will seek to build through its institutions. The powerful and inspiring debates that fed the drafting of the Indian Constitution united its people in a common endeavour, as the films, literature, music and other records of the time show.

That we are currently engaged in debates on how best to defend our Constitution testifies to the enduring strength of what was achieved in those years, despite the constitutional corrosion of subsequent decades.

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Sirisena appears to have seen the opportunity. That it has taken six long years to emerge is sobering but also underlines that it is not an opportunity that can be missed. By contrast, the Constitution-drafting process in Nepal has degenerated into hard bargaining instead of vision.

The Himalayas Forum: Nepal as a Federal State - Lesson from Indian Experience

The key issue remaining is demarcation of provincial borders — while the main political parties would prefer to use geographical and economic criteria for demarcation, the Madhesis and some of the Maoists prioritise ethnic and cultural criteria. The issue will now be dealt with by a Commission to decide provincial borders within three months, but politically the two sides appear to be inching towards agreement that the criteria can be combined. Indeed, the problem does not lie in internal demarcation since all citizens will have freedom of movement and residence; it lies in uneven administrative, growth and development capacity, the absence of which gives rise to chauvinism and conflict.

Vision and implementation Many of the stresses to our own Constitution stem from gaps in governance and weak imposition of the rule of law. In the past decade we have seen open flouting of the Constitution by those sworn to uphold it — for example, State-wise legislation that restricts the rights of Indians to buy property in the mountain States, or Members of Parliament asserting that religious laws stand above fundamental rights — and worse. As I write, Delhi is roiled by police attempts to slap sedition charges on a JNU student leader on what is now turning out to be fake evidence, while allowing extremist lawyers to physically attack protesters.

Rather than castigating the police for their clearly partisan behaviour and ensuring the charges against the JNU student are dropped, the Home Ministry has sought to justify them and the Lieutenant-Governor has remained silent. A Constitution is only as good as its implementation, goes the tag. However, it is more. A really good Constitution holds up the mirror to government and enables the public as well as leadership to identify shortfalls. Our Constitution was a post-war one, like the current Nepali and Sri Lankan drafts, and it was bound by similar imperatives of post-war reconstruction, reconciliation and unification.

This idea informed the formation of NPC in Nepal and also many other developing countries.

Why is India concerned about Nepal's new constitution?

With the replacement of NPC by a more administrative NITI Aayog in India after Modi came to power, a debate has ensued on the role and modality of the national planning commission, within the overall context of the post neoliberal reforms in India. Scholars in India have warned that with the change to NITI Aayog, planning and resource allocation authority will concentrate at the hands of hierarchal governmental mechanisms, further threatening the centralisation of power in India.

A similar change also happened in China, where an NPC-like entity called State Development Planning Commission was converted into National Development and Reform Commission, which does less statutory planning and more economic analysis and strategic visioning in China.

The creation of this new planning entity also reflects the changing role of the state in managing the economy, with expanding markets and increasing privatisation within the Chinese economy. The change we see in India and China at least confirms two things: first, the reformulated planning entities are not confined to the role of think tank as Mr Wagke has visions in Nepal , and second, they undertake even more strategic national planning works than their predecessors. Planning allows a country to proactively shape the desired future. To progress reasonably, countries need to organize four cascading layers of planning.

A fundamental reason why planning institution is needed is — planning agency can create a space for more rational and evidence informed debate and analysis than the usual government structure. However, these functions need to be seen as supportive to the political visions articulated by the democratically elected leaders.

Amidst concerns on economic viability of federal system and the fear of conflict on political power sharing between the states and the centre, the independent and expert led planning work done by the NPC type of agency is even more crucial in the federal system. This kind of expert group working under the leadership of elected leaders can help balance public benefit, long term considerations in decision making and avoid decisions being dictated by immediate political gains.

One important aspect of making planning body effective is to link it with the prime Minster, or chief minister or Mayor, depending on the level of governance. Emerging geopolitical dynamics also demands stronger planning system in Nepal. Given the geopolitically sensitive location and the strong nationalistic moves of India and China, small countries like Nepal cannot afford to weaken its national strategic planning institution.

The global policy regime — characterise by increasingly influential transnational actors — also demands strong planning space at the national level if Nepal wants to retain its own visions and priorities in development planning.

We, the people of South Asia - The Hindu

To avoid world financial technocrats driving the economy working directly with the finance ministry officials, NPC system has a role to play. Besides, a reformulated planning system can offer intellectually stimulating platform to translate political visions into practical actions. In conceiving a new planning system, there is a need for working from both national to local and from local to national, and forge creative dialogue interaction among the visions and practices at all the three levels.


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