LOCAL LEVEL Asserting Rights

With adequate constitutional safeguards, local levels are demanding direct budget allocation from center

April 22, 2018, 4:23 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL.11, No.19, April 20, 2018 (Baishakh 07,2075) Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

With the center preparing the annual budget for province and local levels, the pressure is growing from the local levels that they be given the budget directly from the center rather than from the states.

The resistance of local bodies is understandable. At a time states are demanding more legislative power; local bodies are demanding the central subsidy directly to their account.

“As the constitution has clear provisions and defined rights on provinces, center and local levels, we don’t want interference from states in our affairs and autonomy,” said Norbu Syango Ghale of Naukunda Rural Municipality of Rasuwa Distict.  "It is the president and ward chair of rural municipality to decide what development is their priority and what is not.”

In a recent tour to six districts of No 1, 2 and 3 provinces, the statement given by local level leaders showed that they are more concerned about their rights and duties. They also expressed their stand to defend their constitutional autonomy.

Although Rural Municipalities are weaker in terms of resources than Municipalities, they declined the intervention by the states. “Like center and state, rural municipality has also constitutional rights. We will not tolerate any intervention from center and state. We want more power at the ward level,” said Netra Bahadur Khadka, ward chair of Jhapa Rural Municipality-1 of Jhapa district. “As constitution promises that Singh Durbar is in village, we want that power at the hand of the ward.”

With enormous constitutional rights divided among three bodies, center, state and local level, there will likely be more power struggle. “It is unacceptable for us ti see any intervention of state government. We are also the government,” Ghale.

From Jhapa to Rasuwa, the voices of elected local representatives are similar. They are demanding the materialization of exercise of real autonomy to three tires of government.

Elected leaders of local bodies are angry over recent high-handedness of state legislatures, which passed the bill giving high perks to states than the local levels. “We must be given equal salary as the member of provincial assembly,” demanded Raj Kumar Yadav, chairman of Jhapa Rural Municipality Ward 2. "I am an executive member of rural municipality, how can the state assembly put me, and members like me, below them?”

With over 3 billion rupees in annual budget, Chitwan Metropolitan City and Birgunj Metropolitan City have more resources than the provinces have. “I want to make our Metropolitan City financially self sufficient," said Renu Dahal, mayor of the city.

At a time when the role of sanctioning the budget to local levels is given to state, it will create more tussle in the future on the issue of resource sharing. Local levels are demanding direct access to grant distributed by center.

If center sanctions central subsidy and grant to local levels, state will have no control over the local levels. “We have to give up centralized mindset. We don’t want many centers above us. As we have tried living less than one center, how can we live under two centers, one in Kathmandu and other Hetauda,” said Ghale.

Although the functioning of three tires of governments is still in early stage, the early indications are very gloomy.

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