Changing Karnali’s Face

Located in the difficult hilly terrain of western region, Karnali Province has been the economic backwater of the nation for centuries. Once a seat of vibrant civilisation and an icon of statecraft and valour under the Khas Empire, the Karnali zone is now home to the impoverished population that suffers from backwardness, ignorance, scarcity and superstitions. This sharply contrasts with its past glory when the Khas kingdom ruled over a vast territory, including a big swath of land of present India and Tibet. The present Nepali language flourished in the Khas Empire that was credited to have shielded Nepal from invading Mogul rulers in the 13th and 14th century. Back then the Indian states had fallen into the hands of Muslim rulers one after another but they were largely pushed back by the shrewd Khas rulers, according to historians. These historic anecdotes appear to be quite nostalgic these days given the unimaginable plight and disintegration of the powerful state. Despite having abundant natural wealth and scenic sites, the Karnali zone has lagged far behind other regions of the country. Under the new federal setup, the Karnali zone has also braced for development and prosperity. It bears the nomenclature of Province No 6. Sharing the rights and powers with the centre, provinces and local units, the Karnali Province seeks to make abject poverty and underdevelopment a history and usher in a new era of economic growth and progress.

Nonetheless, Karnali Province is unable to chart its destiny itself. It requires huge fiscal, material and political support from the centre. Against this backdrop, Chief Minister of the Karnali Province Mahendra Bahadur Shahi handed over the Cabinet decisions of the province to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli the other day in Mugu. PM Oli visited the province to attend the Rara Tourism Festival that kicked off on Saturday. He also addressed the nation from pristine Rara Lake on the occasion of New Year 2075 BS. The Karnali Province government that had held its Cabinet meeting in Rara demanded for the holistic development of the region. It called for devising a master plan for tourism development, establishing Karnali Tourism Authority, expanding and blacktopping the Nagma-Rara section road and opening three boarder points (Nakche Lagna, Marilla and Hilsa) adjoining China. The PM was positive about the overall development of Karnali and asked the provincial government to prepare a concrete paper for the same. He announced that the federal government would provide Rs 200 million to Dolpa district to get it connected with the national highway. As the largest district of the country, Dolpa has not yet been linked with the national road network. The district possesses valuable medicinal herbs such as panch aule and has panoramic snowy mountains. They need to be tapped to raise the living standards of the local people. PM Oli informed that the government was mulling to build integrated settlements by relocating the people to safer places. He also promised that each local level unit in the province would have a helipad to airlift the people during an emergency health situation. The PM’s commitment for the development of Dolpa is laudable. It is high time the provincial administration and the local people joined hands to push for speedy development by taking advantage of the political stability and magnanimity of the federal government so as to remove the negative tag of Karnali as the nation’s most backward and poorest region once and for all.

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