The CA 'Committee on Restructuring the State and Distribution of State Powers' has proposed fourteen provinces for Nepal. Eight provinces –Limbuwan, Kirant, Sherpa, Tamsaling, Newa, Tamuwan, Magrat and Jadan belong to ethnic identities of indigenous nationalities. In the context of Madhesh, two provinces- Mithila-Bhojpura-Koch Madesh and Lumbini-Awad- Tharuwan have been proposed. Remaining four provinces-Sunkoshi, Narayani, Karnali and Khaptad have been traced following
identities of hill caste people. The very committee had taken capability and identity as determinants of provinces. However, it ignored economic inter-cooperation and capability, feasible sate of infrastructural development, availability of natural resources and administrative proximity under capability. Another irony is that the committee had set up the provision of having more than one percent of population of the country to get provinces. Sherpa and Jadan provinces became exception to it.
Sherpas constitute of 36 percent of 89,000 populations spreading over an area of 5,000 square kilometers whereas Jadan Province, occupying an area of 15,000 square kilometers, owns 35 percent (Bhote-Lama) of 48,000 populations. Limbuwam Province owns 933,000 populations spreading over an area of 9,000 square kilometers along with 27 percent Limbus. Kirat Province covers an area of 8,000 square kilometers with 896,000 populations' with 34 percent of Kirats.Mithila-Bhojpura-Koch-Madesh Province occupies an area of 14,000 square kilometers with 6,940,000 populations covering 49 percent of Madeshis. There is plurality of Madeshis within the province. With 699,000 populations, Sunkosi Province covers an area of 5,000 square kilometers including 26 percent of Chhetris. Tamsaling Province holds an area of 10,000 square kilometers with 1,419,000 populations sharing 44 percent of Tamangs. Newa Province expands to an area of 1,000 square kilometers with 1,702,000 populations sharing 36 percent of Newars. With 1766,000 populations, Narayani Province expands to an area of 8,000 square kilometers sharing 27 percent of Brahmans.
Spread over an area of 12,000 square kilometers, Tamuwan Province owns 571,000 populations with 32 percent of Gurungs. Covering an area of 15,000 square kilometers, Magarat Province holds 2,012,000 populations constituting 34 percent of Magars. Lumbini-Awad-Tharuwan Province spreads over an area of 15,000 square kilometers with 3,765,000 populations comprising 26 percent of Tharus. Karnali Province, covering an area of 18,000 square kilometers, owns 987,000 populations with 42 percent of Chhetris. Occupying an area of 14,000 square kilometers, Kaptad owns 1,151,000 populations accounting for 54 percent of Chhetris. Karnali and Khaptad have become one culture dominant provinces accounting with presence of hill castes. All remaining provinces are multi-cultural with remarkable dwelling of hill castes and indigenous nationalities. However, they are dubbed as pro-ethnic. Such ethnic biased architecture of provinces will create hurdle to determine political status, pursue economic, social and cultural development' for people regardless of different ideologies,caste and ethnic backgrounds.
A provision of prime rights on executive offices of provinces and autonomous regions has been proposed to concerned ethnic groups for two consecutive terms whose name has been attached to provinces. Even the provision of 'Special Structures' – Autonomous Regions, Protected Regions and Special Regions, parallel to local governments with additional powers and resources are entirely ethnic centric. Some 23 dissenting opinions have been registered against the main proposal of concerned CA Committee regarding such impracticable federalization of Nepal. Of them, 12 opinions belonged to delimitation of boundary of provinces. It is clear that such federal anatomy far beyond the interdependency of demography and geography, possibility of socio-economic and infrastructural development, governance proximity to the doorstep of citizens and cultural co-existence will be sourceof ethnic conflicts and political divide.
Nepal is a multicultural country with more than 101 caste and ethnic groups, more than 10 religions and more than 92 languages. From eastern to western ecological belts of Nepal, most of ethnic and caste groups are dispersed, rather than concentrating within certain territories. The state of demography correlates to co-habitation of several caste and ethnic groups in the given territories across the country. Constitutionally, Nepal has internalized 'Nation' in light of cultural-pluralism. The article 3 of the Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2007, has legitimized that 'having multi-ethnic,multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural characteristics with common aspirations and being united by a bond of allegiance to national independence, integrity, national interest and prosperity of Nepal, all the Nepalese people collectively constitute the nation'.
In multi-cultural countries like ours, the extreme level of segmentation leads to a series of conflicts in the name of identities.Nigeria is a sound example of how ethnic federalism paves ground for political and social divide. Currently she has been fragmented into 36 states. In 1947, Pakistan seceded from India in the name of Muslim identity. Even after formation of the Muslim country, Bangladesh emerged from eastern Pakistan in 1971. Of late, Bangladesh is not out of identity politics. Its crisis is deepening and unfolding into one after another.
The stated objective of transformation of Nepali patrimonial state into federalization is to create multi-tiers of governance through constitutional division of power and resources to reverse pre-eminence of affluent class in social, political, administrative and economic structures of governance. In Nepal, the spatial exclusion is reflected through disparities in development levels owing to the remoteness andlocation-specific characteristics. Gender-based exclusion is manifested in poor development indicators for women and the caste/ethnicity-based exclusion of specific castes, communities, indigenous people and nationalities are leading to low level of development achievements. To make caste, ethnicity and geography issues less divisive, multi-cultural provinces neutral to caste and ethnic groups should be proposed in a range of five to seven paying due attention to capabilities as primary and culture, historical continuity and ethnicity, secondarily. Dalits, Janajatis, women,Madeshis, deprived regions and others have to have equitable shares in governance, civil administration, policy, army, commissions and constitutional bodies. Parallel structures to local governments should not be created. It is necessary to curb vertical and horizontal discriminations through institutionalization of equal distribution of resources to all people in a community and society, and redistribution of resources to end significant discrepancies between people.
(BK is a researcher at Nepal Center for Contemporary Studies, NCCS).