Lalitpur unveils ‘people-centric and practical’ plans and policies for upcoming fiscal yearFrom pandemic relief to promoting agriculture to cutting down road repair expenses, Mayor Chiri Babu Maharjan has set down several plans that his Kathmandu counterpart could not with more resources and budget.
The Lalitpur Metropolitan City unveiled its plans and policies for the upcoming fiscal year 2020/21 last week, which observers described as more people-centric and practical than the ones annunced by Kathmandu Metropolitan City.
Lalitpur’s annual plans and policies include programmes to promote the farming sector, develop infrastructure and various social welfare schemes with regard to the coronavirus pandemic.
Presenting the plans and policies at the fifth municipal assembly, Lalitpur Mayor Chiri Babu Maharjan acknowledged that his office could not complete several tasks it had set out to accomplish in the last three years and vowed to work harder in the coming days.
He also committed to overcome the challenges presented by the pandemic.
“We have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Together, we will fight and win over this disease,” said Maharjan.
In view of the pandemic, Lalitpur city has announced a relief programme for the disabled and the needy. The programme will last until the pandemic is over.
The annual plans and policies have also proposed opening a psycho-social counselling and Covid-19 awareness centre in each ward of the city.
Cases of Covid-19 have been increasing across the country, with more than 13,000 cases confirmed as of Monday.
Compared to Kathmandu, Lalitpur has been playing a proactive role to combat Covid-19. Even before the government announced a nationwide lockdown on March 24, when Kathmandu Valley was reeling under the shortage of surgical masks, Lalitpur city had started manufacturing face masks which were made available to the citizens for just Rs 7 apiece.
The city office had also organised training to its citizens to prepare hand sanitisers.
“Kathmandu can do far better than Lalitpur, as it has more resources and budget at its disposal. But the leadership in Kathmandu seems to lack a clear vision compared to that of Lalitpur,” said Suman Maher Shrestha, an urban planner.
On Wednesday, Kathmandu Metropolitan City announced a budget of Rs 16.42 billion for the fiscal year 2020/21. The budget is four times more than that of Lalitpur, and most of the amount has been allocated for old projects.
Of the total 259 plans and polices unveiled by the Kathmandu Metropolitan City last week, almost all of them were repeats of the running fiscal year. Improving education system, food security programme, promoting youth entrepreneurship and constructing Buddha Park in Tinkune were all included in the last year’s plans and policies.
Kishor Thapa, former government secretary and urban planning experts, said it seemed like the budget of Kathmandu was announced without any study or planning.
“Lalitpur, to some extent, has taken a more innovative and practical approach while planning their budget. But Kathmandu, despite having a good technical team, has failed to do so. It shows that the city’s leadership lacks vision,” Thapa said.
Ishwor Man Dangol, spokesperson for Kathmandu Metropolitan City, conceded that most of the programmes are repeats of the running fiscal year. This, he said, was due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are focused on preventing the disease,” Dangol told the Post.
Deputy Mayor Hari Prbha Khadgi said that she was not consulted while preparing the plans and policies. Even the new plans announced by the city office for the upcoming fiscal year seem perfunctory. For example, Mayor Bidya Sundar Shakya has announced subsidies to the municipal workers if they buy bicycles. But the plan has not been received well, as the city has made no efforts whatsoever to develop bicycle lanes.
The only announcement welcomed was regarding special tax subsidies for hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and other business houses which were hard hit by nearly three months of the coronavirus lockdown. Still, there seems to be a confusion among the concerned business owners on how to claim tax relief.
To combat Covid-19, the Kathmandu city has allocated Rs 100 million, which will be used to run a proposed 50-bed community hospital and extend cooperation with other hospitals in the city. However, observers doubt the city will accomplish these projects, given the poor track record of the city and its leadership. The city has not even set up a single quarantine facility so far.
The city of Lalitpur has also included some old plans, such as installing smart lights, installation of public toilets, providing drinking water, managing drainage systems and extending cycle lanes, in its plans and policies, but it has also introduced several new programmes to promote enterprises and create employment, especially in the field of agriculture.
The city has announced agricultural subsidies for returnee migrants to engage them in farming. It has also introduced agriculture insurance for farmers.
The city has identified 10 of its wards as farming zones to promote agriculture. Around 14 percent of the population in Lalitpur are engaged in farming and the city plans to increase the number of farmers by introducing various subsidies and farming programmes and promoting new cash crops, like avocado, dragon fruit and kiwifruit.
The Lalitpur city office has also announced that it will not allow digging of asphalted roads for at least two years.
Mayor Maharjan has said that the city will asphalt the roads only after consulting with the Department of Road, Nepal Electricity Authority, Department of Water Supply and Sewerage Management. The decision is expected to control the expenses incurred in frequent road repair works.