Provincial ministers pile pressure for police adjustmentThey have met with leaders of the ruling coalition as well as prime minister after issuing a seven-point declaration in Janakpur earlier this month.
Tika R Pradhan
In a bid to press the federal government for a quick adjustment of the police force, besides managing issues related to civil servants, internal affairs ministers of all the provinces met all major party leaders of the ruling coalition partners earlier this week.
“All the leaders responded positively but I have the feelings that they could further delay and linger the adjustment,” said Bharat Prasad Sah, internal affairs minister of Madhes Province. “We will wait for a week and then start a struggle against the federal government. Madhes will take the lead.”
The ministers met Madhav Kumar Nepal, chairperson of the CPN (Unified Socialist); Upendra Yadav, chair of the Janata Samajbadi Party; and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, chair of the CPN (Maoist Centre), before calling on Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who is also the President of Nepali Congress.
They also held talks with senior Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel, who heads a political mechanism of the five-party coalition.
The ministers were scheduled to meet Home Minister Balkrishna Khand on Tuesday before returning to their respective provinces, but due to his illness they spoke to secretaries of the ministry.
“The secretaries of the Home Ministry have told us that they have made all necessary technical preparations for police adjustment and the work would start once there was a political decision,” said Sah. “But I don’t think these people would move ahead with the adjustment process anytime soon although they all told us they would.”
Asked what made him think so after meeting the leaders of the ruling coalition, Sah said the leaders are under pressure from anti-federalist forces within their own parties.
The meetings in Kathmandu followed their gathering in Janakpur on July 7 where they had issued a seven-point declaration.
They have also issued a mid-August ultimatum to the federal government to adjust the police force while demanding that district attorneys must be brought under the chief attorneys of the provincial governments. They have also called for bringing district administration offices and chief district officers under provincial governments.
“Poudel told us that he would also urge the ruling party leaders to fulfil our demands,” said Dowate Bishwakarma, internal affairs minister of Gandaki Province. “He said that without strengthening the provinces, federalism cannot be made stronger.”
The ministers have also warned the federal government that they would start recruiting police personnel on their own if the federal government didn’t heed their demands.
At the Janakpur meeting, the ministers had also come to a conclusion that keeping the security of the three districts of Kathmandu Valley under the federal government was against the constitution.
By amending the existing laws, the federal government has kept the security of the three districts of the Kathmandu Valley with itself which according to many leaders of the ruling coalition contradicts the constitution and therefore that needs amendment in the constitution as well.
With the federal government unnecessarily delaying the adjustment of police force, the provincial governments have not been able to take any decisions regarding the mobilisation of security personnel to maintain law and order in their respective provinces.
The Madhes government has already allocated a budget for its provincial police but with the delay in the adjustment process, it cannot implement the budget.
The leaders from the ruling coalition heading the provincial governments have been accusing their central leaders of acting against the spirit of federalism, just like the previous KP Sharma Oli government.
Leaders of the parties that are leading provincial governments are now complaining that the existing government of the five-party alliance–Nepali Congress, CPN (Maoist Centre), CPN (Unified Socialist), Janata Samajbadi Party, and Rastriya Janamorcha—have also been following in Oli’s footsteps.
Even a year after the formation of the current central government, there are no signs of moving the police adjustment process ahead.
Provincial internal affairs ministers are now planning to organise a pressure campaign. The ministers said they plan to submit memorandums to provincial chiefs if their demands for speedy adjustment of police force are not heeded.
“When we met the home minister after the new government was formed, Bal Krishna Khand had told us that the adjustment process would begin after the local polls. But nothing has happened as of now,” said Shalikram Jammarkattel, a minister for economic affairs and planning, who was internal affairs minister of the province earlier. “I don’t think the federal government will begin the process of adjustment before the upcoming polls.”
Federal and provincial elections are due later this year.
Amid concerns of provincial governments, experts on federalism say that the federal government is unwilling to hand over the constitutional powers to provinces.
“During the tenure of the KP Sharma Oli government, leaders had started a debate on limiting the role of the provincial police to the security of provincial officials while the federal government should look after the overall security of the provinces,” Jammarkattel said. “But the issue fizzled out after the Oli government fell. The mindset of our leaders has not changed yet.”
The Madhes Province was the first among the seven provinces to bring provincial laws related to provincial police despite controversy and criticism from the leaders who were leading the previous federal government led by Oli.
Most other provinces then followed suit. Madhes Province has been taking the lead in creating pressure on the federal government to provide their due rights guaranteed by the constitution.
This year also, according to Bharat Prasad Sah, the minister for internal affairs and law in the Madhes government, his government has included setting up provincial police in its annual policy and programme and also earmarked necessary budget, but they will not be able to set up the force in lack of police adjustment by the federal government.
Currently the Madhes provincial government is led by a coalition of the Janata Samajbadi Party, the Nepali Congress, the CPN (Maoist Centre) and the CPN (Unified Socialist).
“The budget has been allocated but it cannot be spent without the adjustment of the Nepal Police. So we made this move of allocating the budget for the provincial police to exert pressure on the federal government,” said Sah, the minister for internal affairs and law of the Madhes government. “We accused KP Sharma Oli of being anti-federalist, but now the existing coalition government is also not ready to follow the constitution.”
Schedule 6 of the constitution gives provincial governments clear authority to have their own police forces. But again, the federal government has shown no urgency to implement the federal police laws.
Article 133 of the constitution says that any law enacted by provincial governments will be void if it is inconsistent with any federal law.
Article 268(2) of the constitution states that each province will have its own police force. Clause 3 of the article says that matters relating to the operation, supervision and coordination of functions to be discharged by the Nepal Police and the provincial police shall be as provided for in the Federal law.
The Gandaki Provincial assembly had endorsed its provincial police bill in October 2020, paving the way for the provincial government to form its provincial police force.
Chief Attorney of the Madhes government Dipendra Jha said there has been no progress on police adjustment after the change in federal government.
Provincial governments say the adjustment of the Nepal Police could only begin after the formation of a new government after the federal and provincial polls.
“Since the government is preparing to announce the poll date soon and the festival season is also round the corner, I don’t think the adjustment process will begin anytime soon,” Jammarkattel told the Post. “The process may begin only after the formation of a new federal government and seven provincial governments.”