Better Order After Local Polls?

 

 

Shyam K.C.

         There are many areas in the urban Kathmandu that need immediate attention to bring a little more order and sanity. They include proper and adequate playing grounds for the young as well as the old, more open spaces where the people can freely breathe fresh air, the ever growing traffic chaos, and so many other things that need to be done and should have been done years ago. But they were not done because of political pressures and the tendency of some political leaders and government officials to make hay for themselves while the sun shines on them.

Hope of remedy

The old saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely cannot be more true than in the Nepalese context where lust for power (which is virtually synonymous with the hen that lays golden egg). In the guise of “transition phase”, the country’s rulers one after another allowed virtual lawlessness to prevail that resulted not merely in the chaos in the streets and roads of the Capital city but also it is said one can virtually get away with cold blooded murder (if one had the nexus to the power source). The local elections (if they are held in the midst of scepticism that prevails) might, hopefully, remedy some of the ills that have crept into the daily life of the denizens. This is because of the fact that the ward committees and even the head of the metropolitan administration are government officials whose appointment is ostensibly done by the central administration but actually by the political powers that occupy chairs.

        The local elections that are scheduled will almost certainly make the people elected local representative more responsible to the people. Moreover, the people have easy access to their representatives. This is necessary as there have been many cases of misuse of public property for the sake of catering to business, industrial and real estate interests. One glaring example is the overnight conversion of part of Tundhikhel into a bus park after the Kathmandu municipality authorities in obvious collusion with political leaders and real estate mafia decided to build an unnecessary towering structure at the old bus park which will only prove to be incongruent in an old city like Kathmandu.

The new structure might bring in some extra income for the Kathmandu municipality but should any local body think merely in terms of money? The same goes for another public property like Dharahara that was rented out on lease by the Kathmandu Municipality has now become a joke with the Dharahara turned into rubble because of the April 2015 earthquake. But the Kathmandu municipality has made no effort to cancel the deal and bring about better environment in the area. Is this because there are no local representatives in the municipality? These are but a very few of many instances that are prevalent in the capital city.

       And if this is the situation in the heart of the country- the capital – one can well imagine what the situation is like in the rest of the country, especially in urban areas. The coming local polls could to some extent help remedy the present tendencies among both political leaders and officials to properly weigh if money alone at the cost of the overall wellbeing of the common people is the driving force for various steps to be taken by local bodies. Open space and playgrounds as well as public parks are some of the prime requirements of the people. Thousands of children and young men and women need playgrounds and open space to while away at least of some of their free time in a healthy manner.  Yet any open space and public playground are the first priority of non-elected municipalities and local bodies to unethically and immorally – even if legally.

 It may not be out of place to mention here that in the past, even in an elected metropolitan Kathmandu, while a mayor of one political party in the city denied permission to construct Kathmandu Mall making the area for the people to play in, his successor from another party not only granted permission for the construction but also lease out Dharahara and the surrounding areas to a firm in which he allegedly had some stakes. Having learnt from the past, the voters this time, one hopes, is not swayed away by mere rhetoric and false promises.

        One of the main advantages of having local representatives in local elective bodies is that the people can have easy access to their representatives. Instead of talking to the ward secretaries who mostly are unaware of the local situation as many of them hail from outside, the local elected representatives will have a much better perspective of the whole area from where he or she is elected. The better understanding naturally leads to a better orderliness in the roads and streets if the local bodies go by common sense rather than by avarice. With all those concerned shrugging off their responsibilities, chaos prevails in roads, streets and in the construction of buildings. The present day local bodies okay tall buildings if the government agencies or established builders undertake to construct them but deny permission when private individuals want to build a tall house. In a democracy, laws and rules apply equally to government as they do to all citizens. So, why the discrimination?

Better deal

It must not be forgotten that Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur are very old cities and not like New York which is relatively a new city. While, tall buildings in New York may be suitable to the environment, very tall buildings in the three cities, especially in the heart of these cities, takes away the charm and beauty of these cities and render them as characterless any new cities. It would have been so much better if tall buildings were erected on the outskirts of the three cities rather in the heart of these ancient cities.  Moreover, while the Traffic Police may be responsible to some extent to the traffic problems, the road and street problems have further complicated the matter. So much so that meat vendors openly occupy streets to carry out the sale, something that is never done in a civilised society. The local polls held almost after 20 years, it is hoped, will bring a little more law and order in the urban and rural areas of the country. But this can only happen when the people demand better deal from the representatives they elect.

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