What is the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development doing as regards federalism?
We have been working as per the constitution. We have developed an action plan. As per the action plan, our ministry has already built a list to work on the priority basis. We have already published the list of plans to be concluded as per the routine. We have a working plan on how to go about this. For instance, as per the Article 295 (3), with regard to the demarcation of the provinces, Government of Nepal may form a Commission. According to the provision, the Government shall form a commission for determination of the numbers and borders of the Village Council, Municipal Council and special, protected, or autonomous regions to be formed pursuant to clauses (4) and (5) of Article 56. The numbers and borders of the Village Council, Municipal Council and special, protected, or autonomous regions shall be determined according to the criteria determined by Government.
What about constituting the various commissions?
We are in the process of constituting the commission to ascertain the number and boundary for village development committees, municipalities, special and autonomous territories. As per the constitutional provision, it is mandatory for the government to constitute the committee by March 14. The same clause also says that the commission shall delineate the boundary as par the criteria approved by the government. We are now in the process of preparing the criteria and discussing it at various levels.
Have you started discussions?
We have already held discussions with the political parties and local stakeholders on the issues in five districts of five regions. We have already discussed the issues with experts at the center. We are giving the first priority to constitute the commission.
What about the appointments in the commissions?
Along with this, we are also in the process to prepare for the appointment in some of inclusive commissions proposed by the new constitution. As there is no detail on the appointment and function of the commissions, we are drafting the law to address it. Ministry of Law and Justice has already approved our proposal and we have already informed this to Ministry of Finance. As soon as Ministry of Finance provides us clearance, we will start further work. As soon as we receive final approval, we will register the bill in Legislature-Parliament. As per the new constitution, there are six commissions related to our Ministry. These include, National Dalit Commission, Muslim Commission, Madheshi Commission, Indigenous and Nationalities Commission, National Inclusive Commission and Tharu Commission. The commission cannot be constituted without formulation of new act. Thus, we have already proceeded to bring new acts.
What other works is the Ministry taking up?
The new constitution also regards rights against untouchability and discrimination as fundamental rights; we are now preparing to send amendment of the Act Discrimination against Caste and Untouchability. Similarly, we are also working to amend Ingenious People and Nationalities Development Academy Act, Local Self Governance Act and Registration of Birth, Marrige and Death Related Act. In some cases, we need to replace the old acts.
What is the state of National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission?
The government will formulate the act on National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission. We are doing a study on that. But the Act will be drafted by Ministry of Finance and we will assist them. We also discuss the issue of readjustments of civil servants with Ministry of General Administration.
How about the legal state?
Similarly, our ministry needs to amend the few acts to make them compatible to the new constitution. The ministry has already initiated the process. As per the new constitution, our ministry needs to play a coordinative role in many works. We are also fulfilling that responsibility also.
Have you made any plan for the employees?
We are also collecting the list of the employees working at various local bodies. We need to adjust them following the demarcation of provinces. Along with law related issues, we are also working on managerial issues.
How about the restructuring of local bodies?
We have also developed terms of references for restructuring of the local bodies as per the constitution. According to the new constitution, there is the need to transform present VDCs and Municipalities as village and municipal government at local levels. There is also the provision to declare the village and municipality areas as special zones. Now we have 3157 VDCs and 217 municipalities. Our work is now to transform them into a new structure. We have to make studies on how many municipalities and VDCs need to be there including the size of population and geographical area.
How do you decide on all these issues?
As per the system in Annex 8 of the constitution, there is a list with the local government’s role and responsibility. Our commission will suggest us how we can restructure the local bodies as per the constitution. The ministry will provide the terms of reference to the commission on the issues of geography and population. We need more effective local bodies to deliver the services better than the current one. We are yet to discuss on these issues with political leaders and political parties. With suggestions from the political parties, we can decide the terms of reference. There is still the need to do homework.
What about the power of VDCs?
As per annex 8 of the new constitution, we have to decide what kinds of VDCs and Municipalities we require. We are focusing on this. The present constitution gives equal status to villages and municipalities. Under the previous arrangement, the VDCs were under the management of District Development Committee and Municipalities were separate entities. However, the present constitution has treated the VDCs and municipalities equally. The commission will recommend what need to be there to make local units more effective and efficient in delivering the services. Whether the bodies should have current level of non-gazette first and second class as secretary or they need beyond that. We cannot imagine the VDC’s structures like in the past as the new constitution provides local bodies the executive and legislative power. We have started debates on what kind of structure is required for such conditions.
Have you held workshops on this?
We have already held workshops in Biratnagar, Dhulikhel, Pokhara, Nepalgunj and Dhangadhi. We invited the representatives of political parties of particular districts, professors, journalists and intellectuals. We have collected their opinion on the process.
How are you working now?
We are developing extensive Working Plan for our ministry as well as other ministries. As per the new constitution, there is the need to delineate the seats for 165 members of Legislature Parliament. We are also developing modalities for the provinces. Similarly the ministry is also making plans as per the federal system. There is the need to restructure the ministries in the federal form.
How many ministries are involved in the process?
There is the need of a lot of works from different ministries. We need to set up elections delineation commission soon so that our federal structure can function. Soon we are going to summon a meeting of Federal Affairs Steering Committee under the chairmanship of deputy prime minister and Minister of Federal Affairs and Local Development.