Inter-state council meeting: Taskforce to prepare report incorporating grievances of chief ministersA taskforce comprising federal ministers and chief ministers has been formed to draft a report on issues raised by the chief ministers during the meeting of inter-state council that kicked off in Kathmandu on Sunday.
While the first ever Inter-State Council meeting did not find solutions to the issues raised by the chief ministers, the two-day meeting did create positive vibes between Kathmandu and the provinces.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli appeared sympathetic to the concerns of the provinces, while federal government agencies assured them of addressing shortfall of employees as well as endorsing federal laws which will enable the provincial governments to draft their own provincial laws.
The two-day meeting concluded on Monday with the formation of a high-level committee to suggest measures to address the grievances of the provinces.
The five-member committee led by Home Minster Ram Bahadur Thapa has Federal Affairs Minister Lal Babu Pandit, Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada, Province 2 Chief Minister Lal Babu Raut and Province 5 Chief Minister Shankar Pokharel as its members. Chief Secretary Lok Darshan Regmi will work as member secretary of the committee. The committee has to submit its report to the prime minister on December 18. During the meetings held on Sunday and Monday, chief ministers of seven provinces complained about the Centre’s alleged apathy towards handing the authority and resources to the provinces in the spirit of federalism.
After the meeting, Province 2 Chief Minister Lal Babu Raut told the Post that the Home Minister-led committee would study all issues raised during the meeting and recommend measures to address them. “All provinces have the same issues regarding the rights to the provinces as envisioned in the constitution,” he said.
The Centre’s failure to prepare the necessary laws such as the Federal Police Act to pave the way for formation of province police, shortage of staff, delay in transferring projects and resources to the provinces, ‘unfair’ revenue sharing, the delay in forming National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission and delay in preparing standard from the Centre to establish Province Public Service Commission (PSC) were common issues of all the provinces. “As all these issues are connected with the implementation of federalism and service delivery to the people, the prime minister has been very positive to address them,” said Province 1 Chief Minister Sher Dhan Rai. “So, the Home Minister-led committee has been formed.”
During Monday’s meeting, Province 5 Chief Minister Shankar Pokharel, Karnali Province Chief Minister Mahendra Bahadur Shahi and Sudurpaschim Province Chief Minister Trilochan Bhatta spoke about the issues of their provinces. On Sunday, chief ministers of Province 1, 2, 3 and Gandaki Province had put up their issues.
According to the government officials participating in the meeting, all chief ministers had largely similar concerns with regard to the issues to be addressed by the Centre.
Responding to concerns raised by the chief ministers, Prime Minister Oli on Monday said that a few anti-democratic forces had been trying to defame the government and weaken federalism, according to the PM’s Personal Secretariat. “They should not be allowed any chance to do so,” the secretariat’s press statement said quoted PM Oli.
On provinces’ complaints over civil servants not being supportive towards provincial governments, Oli said the government employees are on the learning curve, and it is not true that they are not cooperating with the government to make federalism a success.
Province 2 Chief Attorney Dipendra Jha said the federal government’s positive approach towards provinces’ demands created a positive vibe. “If the Centre takes action in line with the commitment made during the meeting, it will open the door for implementing federalism,” he said.
He also blamed the bureaucracy for not taking ownership of the federal system. “When they are sent to provinces, they feel unease as they have been assigned to unknown place,” he said.
Officials at the Ministry of Federal Affairs assured that there would be more staff soon, saying that the ordinance on Staff Adjustment was issued on Sunday.
“The Federal Affairs Ministry told the chief ministers that the process of sending more staff to the provinces has begun and will complete soon in line with the ordinance,” said Laxman Mainali, secretary at the PMO.
According to him, the federal government has also assured the chief ministers that the laws which are contradictory to the constitution will be amended by March 5, 2019 as required by the constitutional provision.
Provincial governments have long been demanding introduction of Federal Police Act based on which a law should be formulated to form province police.
Blaming the Centre’s delay to introduce the Federal Police Act, Province 2 had recently introduced Province Police Act through the Provincial Assembly, drawing strong objection from the federal government.
During the meeting on Monday, chief ministers had sought that the District Administration Office should come under the provincial governments as they are responsible for maintaining law and order in their region as per the constitution.
They also called on the federal government to review allocation of resources to provinces and local governments. “We demanded that the sub-national government should be allocated 60 percent of the total resources generated by three tiers of government,” said Chief Minister Rai.