Implementation Of The Constitution
It has been nine months since the Constitution was promulgated in Nepal on September 20, 2015. There was much dilly-dallying in promulgating the Constitution. The first Constituent Assembly (CA) formed for the purpose of drafting the Constitution could not accomplish its mission as the CA also doubled as the Legislature-Parliament, paying more attention to the parliamentary affairs than the drafting of the Constitution, and the political parties could not come to consensus on certain issues of the Constitution due to their intransigent stand. Their differences of opinion were so strong that the CA itself had to be dissolved. As a result, the second CA had to be formed. Even it could not accomplish its mission within the self-declared deadline.
The CA was on its wobbly path to drafting the Constitution when a powerful earthquake struck the country on April 25, 2015. The earthquake and its subsequent aftershocks startled the daylights out of the government and the political parties. They thought of seeking foreign aid from donor countries and agencies. But as the political parties were still divided over certain issues of the Constitution, they prudently decided to bury the hatchet and go ahead with the promulgation of the Constitution.
The earthquake played a major role in the promulgation of the Constitution. Had the disaster not occurred, the promulgation of the Constitution might have been greatly delayed as the contentious issues of the Constitution were raising their ugly heads with the political parties at loggerheads.
As soon as the Constitution was promulgated, a state of crisis cropped up with the Madhesi parties openly expressing their dissatisfaction with some contents of the Constitution followed by the inhuman trade blockade at the hands of India. The agitation and the blockade harassed the country for six months. At a time when the government had to work hard to implement the Constitution, the country had to cope with the Madhesi agitation and the Indian blockade. The six months from the promulgation of the Constitution could not be utilised for implementation of the constitutional provisions.
Now there is neither the Madhesi agitation nor the Indian blockade. Still, neither the government nor the opposition parties have shown any initiative in implementing the Constitution. They spend hours in making speeches that the constitution should be implemented. But when it comes to action, the progress is almost zero.
The political leaders, including the Prime Minister himself, have time and again said that the Constitution is the best in the world. It has incorporated several provisions ensuring the rights of women, indigenous people and marginalised communities. Despite this, the Madhesi parties are kicking against the Constitution, claiming that it has discriminated against such underprivileged groups. They are not satisfied with the demarcation of boundaries, either. In fact, the issue of boundary demarcation is one of the bones of contention. They want a separate Terai province or at most two provinces in the Terai belt.
The Madhesi parties have not thoroughly read the Constitution. They are making protests on the coattails of some other force. Those who are involved in the protests may not know why they are protesting and what provisions are there in the constitution for their rights. It is a dangerous trend to make protests without understanding the contents of the Constitution.
The government and the Madhesi parties are stuck in the backwaters of negotiations. Although the government has invited them for talks several times, they have not expressed their willingness to hold talks. If anything, they are demanding that their demands be fulfilled before sitting in talks with the government. If their demands have to be fulfilled as a sine qua non for the talks, no talks will have to be held at all. The purpose of the talks is to sort out what demands can be fulfilled and what not in a win-win situation. Moreover, they are demanding that the Constitution be rewritten. The government should not kowtow to such ludicrous demands of the Madhesi parties.
As it has already been late in implementing the Constitution, the government should take the initiative in implementing it. Other political parties should act as good bedfellows of the government in this direction. Just crying hoarse that the Constitution is the best in the world will not work until it is actually implemented.
In Nepal, implementation seems to be a hard nut to crack. Polices, plans and programmes are formulated on a regular basis. But when it comes to implementation, it hits one snag or the other. The Constitution promulgated after the multi-party democracy was reinstated in Nepal in the early 1990s was also eulogised as the best in the world. But did it contribute to uplifting the socio-economic conditions of the people? Looking good on paper does not make as much sense as taking action.
The government and the political parties have squandered a lot of time in making turgid speeches in praise of the Constitution. The effectiveness of the Constitution may be gauged according to the positive or negative impact it makes on the socio-economic conditions of the people. Nepal is still in developmental backwaters when other countries, which used to be at the same level as the country some decades ago, have made much progress.
In the past, the Rana oligarchy, the Panchayat dispensation and the monarchy were held accountable for underdevelopment in the country. All these are gone, but the country is still bogged down in the quagmire of underdevelopment. In the past, the political leaders tended to blame the monarchy for lack of development in the country. But now, they have nobody or nothing to lay their blame on.
So the time has come for the government and the political parties to prove that they can do something for the country by implementing the Constitution both in letter and spirit. They must know that their popularity chart is sliding day by day. To win back the confidence of the people in them, they should leave no stone unturned to put the Constitution into force without delay.