Federal government refuses to devolve authority to the provincesProvince 3 minister says Kathmandu has refused to share powers with the government in Hetauda.
In what comes as yet another attempt to refuse powers to sub-national governments, the federal government has not handed over the authority of licensing radio and cable television up to 1000 watts to the provinces.
Amending the existing Broadcasting Act through a revision to Some Nepal Acts, the federal government has already paved the way for the provinces to begin the works that fall under their jurisdictions.
Province 3 has already endorsed the Provincial Media Management Act-2075 and Provincial Media Management Regulation-2075 and has been urging the federal government to hand over the responsibilities.
After drafting necessary laws, the province has already established its office of the press registrar, which has been functional after the appointment of the press registrar on April 10.
The amended National Broadcasting Act-1993 states that the licence, renewal and regulation of the FM radio and cable-based television broadcasting of 100-1000 watts will be managed according to provincial laws. It also states that for the distribution of the frequencies of the FM radio, the provinces need to request the ministry (Federal Ministry of Communication and Information Technology).
With all the legal frameworks in place, Province 3 was preparing to issue and renew the licence of the radio and cable television setting up a service centre in Kathmandu. But the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology continued to renew the licences while the provincial authorities were claiming their powers. Sources at the Province 3 administration claimed that the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology has directed the Department of Information and Broadcasting not to hand over the licencing authority for now.
Internal Affairs and Law Minister Shalikram Jammarkattel of Province 3 alleges that the federal government is reluctant to devolve powers to the province just because it feels that their rights will be taken away.
“The constitution clearly gives 17 tasks for the provinces but the federal government has been denying our rights,” said Jammarkattel.
On the licensing of the radio and television, which falls under the provincial government, Jammarkattel said the federal Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Banskota has been saying that the journalists have pressed him not to devolve the licensing authority to Hetauda.
“We have told him that the provincial government will establish a service centre in Kathmandu for the same but they still have not handed over the authority,” Jammarkattel said.
This is not the only instance that the centre has refused to devolve power to the provincial governments.
Two months ago, during a security briefing at Province 3, Home Secretary Prem Rai had told the chief district officers from the province that they need not follow the provincial laws as they would be mobilised directly from the centre. But Rai’s direction was immediately challenged by Minister Jammarkattel. The minister had told the CDOs that they must follow the provincial laws if they were to stay at any district of province 3.
Asked why the works of the provinces were not assigned to them, Director General of the Department of Information and Broadcasting Krishna Murari Neupane said the department was not informed about it from the ministry even after its query about the issue.
The Province 3 press registrar’s office has been pressuring the ministry to hand over the authority as all the legal provisions to implement the tasks of licensing the radio and cable television were ready several months ago.
However, federal Minister for Communication Gokul Baskota said the federal government should continue its work until the provincial governments are ready for the same. “We have delivered all the necessary laws but I don’t know about all technical issues,” Baskota told the Post.
The onus lies on the federal authorities. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has time and again been saying that provincial and local governments were not separate entities but units under the federal government, which, according to constitutional experts, contradicts the constitution and the spirit of federalism.
“Nepal is one nation, one country and has one government—Nepal government. It has different subordinate agencies—seven provincial and 253 local governments,” Oli said on May 22 while inaugurating the laying of optical fibre in Dhading. He also warned the other tiers of government not to take “unnecessary steps”.
“The problem of the federal government’s reluctance to devolve power to the provinces lies in the mindset of the ruling leaders,” said Jammarkattel. “We are wondering where to complain now after our several requests to the prime minister failed.”
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