Nepal’s Constitution in the face of Covid-19

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Kathmandu. Five days after the 5th Constitution Day, a virtual panel discussion on “Nepal’s Constitution in the face of Covid-19” was held on Thursday. It was jointly organized by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI). Three speakers representing the three tiers of government discussed the government’s experience of the constitution and its implementation in the face of the global pandemic.

Mayor of Dhangadhi Sub-Metropolitan City of Sudur Paschim Province Nrip Bahadur Odd, expressed that the pandemic has caused an escalation of crisis, due to improper coordination between the levels of the government. He suggested the ruling party to limit the corruption and move beyond internal conflicts, urging them to focus on making public life easier by providing subsidies to the businesses, generate employment and reduce taxes. Odd additionally pointed towards other countries that had run smoothly without enforcing protracted lockdowns. He stressed that vulnerable groups, including returning Nepali migrants had suffered the brunt of the early lockdown.

Chief Attorney of Province 2 Dipendra Jha, claimed that in the wake of the virus, the provincial government had initially focused on formulating effective plans to improve the health infrastructure. However, the implementation efforts failed due to a lack of motivation on the part of the bureaucrats. Jha feared that the slow progress towards decentralization may destroy the essence of federalism as envisaged in the constitution. He suggested that the country needed to move beyond the old laws instituted during the Panchayat era that is still in effect today and seal the existent loopholes.

The National Assembly Member Dr. Bimala Rai Paudyal commented that the way towards decentralization is difficult and that the legislators have been continuously working on it. Paudyal also shared that local governments had proven themselves to be innovative because of their in-depth understanding of their respective areas. Therefore, the federal government in recognizing this should provide the rights of decision-making to the local governments itself. She further mentioned that the government of other countries began coping with the pandemic by revising and making their respective constitutions more holistic.

The moderator of the session was Editor-in-Chief of Kantipur Daily, Sudheer Sharma. He concluded the discussions by sharing the hope that while the session may not create instant groundbreaking results, it could provide a basis for concerned authorities to realize and act upon the significant issues that had been raised.

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