Provinces rise up against Kathmandu over denied powersBesides moving court, Madhesh issues 30-day ultimatum demanding speedy adjustment of police personnel.
Management of the provincial police and civil service falls under the explicit authority that the Constitution of Nepal grants to provincial governments. As per Schedule 6 of the statute, the provinces can have their own police force and civil servants.
The first five years of the provincial governments passed by without the police and civil services being set up. As the federal government continues to be indifferent even as the governments elected by the second provincial assemblies complete their one year, provincial leaders are starting to lose patience.
On Wednesday, the Madhesh government issued a 30-day ultimatum to the federal government to adjust the police force. Following pressure from different quarters, the federal parliament in August 2019 endorsed the Police Personnel Adjustment Bill and the bill to govern the operation, supervision and coordination of Nepal Police and provincial police forces.
However, the provinces haven’t yet been able to set up their own police forces owing to the reluctance of the federal government to adjust the police to the provincial level.
The Act authorises the federal government to assign a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Nepal Police to serve as the police chief of a province.
The federal government can transfer such police officers to other provinces or any departments of Nepal Police in consultation with the provincial government.
However, in the case of other police personnel adjusted to provincial police forces, the relevant provincial official can transfer such personnel to any police unit within the province.
Likewise, the law has given provincial officials a role in performance evaluation of the police personnel adjusted to a province.
Saroj Kumar Yadav, chief minister of the province, speaking at a press meet in Janakpur on Wednesday, said they had to issue the ultimatum as the federal government had long deceived them. He said Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had on different occasions reiterated commitments to police adjustment and to passing the Federal Civil Service Act but then failed to abide by his words.
A team of ministers led by Yadav is scheduled to submit an ultimatum letter to Dahal on Thursday morning.
“We will start a Kathmandu-centric protest if the process of police adjustment doesn’t start in 30 days. The protest will continue until our demands are met,” he said, while also asking for the civil service Act to be enacted without further delay.
In an attempt to press the federal government on police adjustment and to resolve issues related to civil servants, internal affairs ministers of all seven provinces had issued a seven-point demand to the federal parliament in July last year. The Madhes provincial government also presented a memorandum to the then Sher Bahadur Deuba government. The provincial chief minister and the ministers even staged sit-in protests in their offices, but again to little effect.
Ministers from Madhesh Province say provincial governments have not been able to work in a full-fledged manner without their own police force and civil service. “Neither the federal police force nor the federal bureaucracy heeds our concerns. The chief district officers enjoy more power than we do,” Mohammad Samim, minister for home affairs, communications and law at the province, told the Post. “The provinces have the constitutional authority to maintain law and order and run administration, but we cannot do that without having our own police and bureaucrats.”
Besides Schedule 6 of the Constitution, Article 268(2) also states that each province will have its own police force. Clause 3 of the Article says 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.
Samim said he has personally talked to the internal affairs ministers (who oversee security arrangements) from all the provinces and they are all on the same page on the demands.
“We will send all our ministers and 107 provincial assembly members led by the chief minister to Kathmandu to protest against the federal government if it continues to ignore us,” said Samim, who is a Nepali Congress leader.
The Congress is the largest party in the Dahal-led coalition government.
With the reluctance of the successive federal governments to devolve power to provinces, Madhesh has filed six writ petitions at the Supreme Court. Joining Madhesh Province, Bagmati Province on October 29 knocked the apex court’s door saying the federal government had overstepped its jurisdiction.
The Madhesh government has already been allocating a budget for provincial police starting last fiscal year, but due to the federal government’s delay in the adjustment process, the money remains unspent. Similarly, the Gandaki provincial assembly had passed a provincial police bill into law in October 2020, paving the way for the provincial government to set up its own police force. But the push has proved futile so far.
Home ministers from other provinces say they fully support the Madhesh Province’s initiative and will join the protest if necessary. “All the provinces are together on the issue. If the federal government continues to ignore us, we too will go to Kathmandu to protest,” Santosh Kumar Pandey, home minister from Lumbini Province, told the Post. “The [federal-level] conservative leaders are yet to fully embrace the spirit of federalism. We will not allow them into our province if they don’t address our demands.”